Forum: Sexuality in Middle-earth

Discussing: Virginity--powerful or emasculating?

Virginity--powerful or emasculating?

All right, so we've had several discussions about the fun of writing sex scenes, and I think everyone will agree that part of that fun is knowing that in some sense, you're transgressing the text. Sex is implicit in Tolkien much of the time (though not all of the time--witness Erendis and Aldarion, for one) and you're making it not only explicit, but the focus of a story. More than that, by treating the act of sex itself as independent of reproductive function, you're doing something Tolkien didn't do (or else didn't do in any obvious manner), at least insofar as I understand "Laws and Customs of the Eldar"--you're making sex something to be enjoyed in and of itself as a proper component of loving your partner without reference to childbearing.

However, in the rush to open up that sexual dimension of the texts, to sexualize characters who may not commonly be viewed as sexual beings (despite evidence of copious numbers of offspring), you get an interesting phenomenon: the assumption that all characters who do fall in love must have (had) sex with the object of their affections in order to have a real, mature, adult relationship. This is a perfectly valid position to take if it doesn't become coercive, and it represents, I think, a way of claiming the text for ourselves, because that is an ideal I think we all aspire to--to have a full, physical, spiritual, loving relationship with another person. But it does seem to make a couple of assumptions: 1) that sex is *the* paradigm case of adult relationships that are full and complete; 2) that there's nothing particularly valuable in remaining a virgin. Particularly when it comes to men (and there are so many of them in Tolkien's works), the assumption is that there is no way an adult male could reasonably remain a virgin until he married. There's something "unnatural" in the idea, it seems. Why?

What does the notion of virginity have to tell us, and does it have a place in Tolkien's works *other* than to provide for a nice economy of women who can assure their husbands that no bastards will show up to pollute the family tree and complicate politics? Is virginity always privative, immature, fearful? Is there a spiritual or personal dimension to abstaining from sexual relationships, even with one who you would marry (but haven't, yet), that could be brought out and developed positively? Symbolically? Why does there seem to be the need to *prove* that x does in fact love y to the point of bedding him/her? Is not the promise enough? Does it need proof beyond promise that x is y's?

What is there in a relationship that is close enough that one could say to the other "I love you as much as my wife/husband, but in a different manner?" Are there such relationships, or could there be, and what might they tell us? What might they do to other relationships around them? And if there is room in Tolkien's text for such relationships, then how do we deal with them or listen to them, so that it's not just we who "transgress" the text, but the text which "transgresses" our opinions and expectations about what constitutes a mature relationship between men and women?

 

 

Re: Virginity--powerful or emasculating?

I'm not sure I understood all the questions...

I am more than willing to take Tolkien's word for it that elves never have sex except as a generative act. He created them, after all - I'm sure they do precisely as he says.

Human nature being what it is, however, I'm unwilling to believe that no Men (am using this word gender-inclusively) in ME had sex other than as a generative act. We know that Men like to have sex. Given that hobbits seem to be some sort of subspecies of Men, and have a healthy appreciation for various other physical pleasures (food, drink etc), I would assume that hobbits like to have sex as well.

However, there are societal attitudes to take into account, ones that I think may be very difficult for any of us who have never known a time/society without effective birth control. I can imagine that hobbits, Rohirrim and Gondorians all have very different attitudes towards unwed mothers and extra- or pre-marital sex.

I think many people in our society (with effective birth control) see sex as a normal and healthy part of any relationship and sometimes as a precursor to love. I have certainly met with the attitude that not having much sex drive to speak of is unnatural and unhealthy. I can't really see that same attitude occurring in ME.

When I saw this post, I immediately tried to envision Aragorn and Boromir as having never had sex in their lives (no, I don't mean with each other) and failed. Our culture has an ingrained image that men aren't properly men unless they have a good deal of experience with women. I can't be sure whether ME cultures would have the same image or not, though I would at least go so far as to say that if Aragorn has had any sexual experience, none of it would have been with Arwen (prior to their marriage), and he would certainly not have gone seeking out any other women once he had plighted his troth to her.

That's enough rambling for now
Kate

 

 

Re: Virginity--powerful or emasculating?

For reasons I can't articulate I personally see Faramir and Aragorn as virgins prior to marriage, whilst I can't see Boromir in the same way... maybe this is some unconscious feeling that virgin men react more purely towards the Ring?

I do think that Tolkien intended, to some degree, the 'cult of the virgin' -- it seems especially clear with Eowyn, but if Aragorn is seen as a Messianic figure then it may well apply to him too.

Tavia

 

 

Re: Virginity--powerful or emasculating?

Incidentally, I'm not approaching these questions with the idea of figuring out what Tolkien would have thought. If we're trying to do that, just skip all this, 'cause I'm far more interested in figuring out what I think about this fascinating and unexpected question.

Is virginity always privative, immature, fearful?

Absolutely not. Like most things to do with sex, reasons for maintaining virginity are wildly varied, and as personal as the people making the decisions.

Is there a spiritual or personal dimension to abstaining from sexual relationships, even with one who you would marry (but haven't, yet), that could be brought out and developed positively? Symbolically?

Almost certainly. I'd never thought about it before, but if sex can be spiritual and transformative - which I believe it can - then surely abstaining from sex can be as well. Well, maybe not transforative as such, but I'm just back from jiu-jitsu and my verbal skills aren't all they might be. I think virginity and/or abstinence can be just as symbolically powerful as sex, is what I'm trying to say.

Why does there seem to be the need to *prove* that x does in fact love y to the point of bedding him/her? Is not the promise enough? Does it need proof beyond promise that x is y's?

For me, sex isn't a question of proof, it's a question of affection and desire. When I decided to have my characters have sex, it wasn't as a proof of love, but as a natural extention of their affection and attraction - they're grownups, and wanted each other physically and emotionally. Though indeed I can promise you that my OFC has had sex with people she didn't much want emotionally - she's a product of the modern world, after all. It is, however, not something she - or I - would recommend. But that's because that's how I see them.

Indeed, for "proof of love" I could more easily accept the opposite - that not having sex is greater proof of love. We're made to want each other, and to want someone and be willing not to have them physically is, I think, much greater proof of real affection than to act on those desires. Where's the proof in doing what you want to do anyway?

What is there in a relationship that is close enough that one could say to the other "I love you as much as my wife/husband, but in a different manner?" Are there such relationships, or could there be, and what might they tell us?

This question confuses me a little, I suppose because the answer seems so obvious to me - yes, of course there are relationships like that; they're called friendship. So, I'm thinking I may have misunderstood the question...?

And if there is room in Tolkien's text for such relationships, then how do we deal with them or listen to them, so that it's not just we who "transgress" the text, but the text which "transgresses" our opinions and expectations about what constitutes a mature relationship between men and women?

If you can clarify the question I think I misunderstood, I'd very much like to come back and address this one.

All about some transgressiveness,
Rachel

 

 

Re: Virginity--powerful or emasculating?

However, in the rush to open up that sexual dimension of the texts, to sexualize characters who may not commonly be viewed as sexual beings (despite evidence of copious numbers of offspring), you get an interesting phenomenon: the assumption that all characters who do fall in love must have (had) sex with the object of their affections in order to have a real, mature, adult relationship.

I see this as a cultural artifact - it's something that is a side effect of the fact that Western culture is currently at the "permissive" side of the "sexually permissive/repressive" continuum. However, it's still a rather reactionary permissiveness which is rather rebelliously insisting that a sexual relationship is the *only* type of adult relationship which is available - friendship is just a pale imitation. This, in turn, explains a lot of the culture of slash which has grown up around (particularly) the relationship between Frodo and Sam.

This is a perfectly valid position to take if it doesn't become coercive, and it represents, I think, a way of claiming the text for ourselves, because that is an ideal I think we all aspire to--to have a full, physical, spiritual, loving relationship with another person. But it does seem to make a couple of assumptions: 1) that sex is *the* paradigm case of adult relationships that are full and complete; 2) that there's nothing particularly valuable in remaining a virgin.

Again, it's a cultural artifact. We've got a culture which puts an unduly high emphasis on sex and sexuality (to the extent that girls as young as 3 or 4 are being offered highly sexualised clothing to wear), particularly female sexuality. In many ways, the devaluation of virginity is part of the feminist reaction against the patriarchy, an expression of women taking control of their own sexuality and sensuality, rather than being dominated by patriarchal mores which see her maidenhead as property. Again, it's a reactionary stage - I would posit that once women are certain that they are unlikely to be claimed as property once again, once the reproductive dimension of a relationship becomes irrelevant, there will be less of an insistence on sexual experience as a part of just about any relationship.

Particularly when it comes to men (and there are so many of them in Tolkien's works), the assumption is that there is no way an adult male could reasonably remain a virgin until he married. There's something "unnatural" in the idea, it seems. Why?

You know what I'm going to say - cultural artifact. And it's actually a reflection of the culture we live in. The double standard has been in place for as long as patriarchal culture has been in existence - women's reproductive activity has to be curtailed, and must remain sacred in marriage. Meanwhile, masculine reproductive activity is expected to be unrestrained - "sowing his wild oats" was the common term for a young man's period of shagging anything that stayed still long enough (or even went past slowly), and the aim was that the men would "scatter their seed widely". It's very hard to do this if you're virgin at marriage. Having sex (with a woman, of course) was a sign of manhood. It's a bit of cultural debris - men who don't have sex with women are regarded differently to men who do. Think of priests, of homosexual men - celibacy is "unmanly", and masculine virginity is somewhat taboo over about the age of 15 or so.

Meg (sorry, Uni is having a bad effect on me).

 

 

Re: Virginity--powerful or emasculating?

So now that it's clearly labelled "Cultural Artifact"--which is the impression I get as well--what do we do about it? Can you/should you reclaim virginity? How would you go about writing a fic that does the inverse of what is usually done--namely, to make M-e mundane by sexualizing the charcters through sexual activity? Can you "mundanely" write a character's virginity as powerful, as interesting, as the/a main turning point of the plot and not have it degenerate into painful moralising (I think you British spellers are getting to me... can't figure out if that should be an s or a z and am too tired to care right now)? How would you do it in a manner that shed light on Middle-earth?

Re: transgressing. This does have to do with what Meg is saying and what I was trying to convey--the mores of M-e are not necessarily our own in all respects, though they cannot be totally dissociated from them. To the extent that I see claims made that *of course* these characters would have had (must have had) sex pre-maritally, extra-maritally, or that that must be the mundane reality of M-e, I find myself wondering if that assumption is necessarily valid, or simply a part of our own background getting tangled up in the text without having been thought about. I'm willing to accept that most of the time, that's a legitimate move to make, and reflective of human reality. But virginity is not some sort of aberration, even in men. It's a choice, just as becoming sexually active is a choice. If there's a case to be made that some of the characters, and particularly the male characters, might retain their virginity until marriage and see nothing particularly unmasculine about that, that is a different viewpoint from the one I usually see when it comes to fics exploring sexuality.

I include my own fics in this, btw--I haven't done anything that really looks at reasons not to have sex. But I would like to say that with "From the Other River Bank" and "Father and Sons" the one thing that some reviewers found really odd was the sense they got that neither Faramir nor Boromir had ever had sex before. I admittedly caved a bit and tossed in a throw-away reference in F&S about the Sixth Circle's gardens, but that was late in the game and had no further part in the story. It was also probably the single most unconvincing line in that story.

Also, at least when I was going to confirmation class, the Catholic Church's position was still that sex is a legitimate part of marriage but that its purpose is precisely to have children. As I understand it, this is why birth control is on the Pope's list of no-nos--to refuse to allow nature to take its course according to the divine scheme is to commit a sin, i.e., sex is for having kids, not for enjoying yourselves plain and simple. So while Elves may naturally have sex solely for the purposes of generation, it's not the case that humans are exempt from this ideal, even in the mundane reality we all inhabit. Not according to a philosophy Tolkien would've been intimately familiar with.

 

 

Re: Virginity--powerful or emasculating?

Fascinating discussion you've started, Dwim.

Is virginity always privative, immature, fearful?
Regarding our modern society, I've come to believe that virginity is virtually the last "closet" in post-sexual revolution society. This is not to belittle other traditionally closeted groups but the stigma associated with unwed parenthood, homo-, bi-, transexuality, co-habiting, etc has diminished over the past few decades or is diminishing rapidly.

OTOH, virginity has become more stigmatized. Ask people what they think of a 17 year old virgin and most will say "good move." About a 22 year old, they'll say, "really? what are you waiting for?" A 30 year old, they say, "you must have had some kind horrible experience. are you in therapy?". The only 40 year old (and up) virgins are typically assumed to be repressed or liers. The cool virgins don't need to broadcast it or they've just shut up because they are tired of being labeled as losers/liers. This last group is usually assumed to be sexually active simply because "ALL normal, well-adjusted people are."

Regarding ME humans (forgive me I've only read LotR, the Hobbit and 1/2 of the Sil), I definitely see Aragorn as a virgin and it is a powerful thing. It shows the strength and fidelity of his love for Arwen and his respect for Elrond. Prior to meeting Arwen at 20, I'm guessing he had little opportunity for sex since he lived among elves or was training to be a ranger. Book-Boromir I hadn't really thought about so I would assume virgin but I'll admit that Sean Bean is too hot for movie-Boromir to be one. Book-Faramir: virgin; movie-Faramir: I'll wait until I see RotK.

Regarding Hobbits, I'm inclined to think they were not shagging much pre-maritally. I will be the first to say hobbits are not childish but they are in ways childlike. Yes, RL children are sensual and sexual beings but they don't usually feel the same degree of yearning or frustration that adults do for sex. RL children do delight in food and leisure and companionship as much or more than adults do so I don't go with the argument that Hobbit indulgence in such comforts means that they must have been very sexually active also.

On a slight tangent, in the animal kingdom there are a great many species which apparently do not mate except for procreation yet there are extremely strong bonds within the community (aside from immediate family).

I think one of the things I liked about LotR is that sex is not explicitly a complicating factor. Would the story or characters really be improved if Aragorn did pursue Eowyn; the Fellowship competed for the affections of one member (M or F); or Faramir was a bastard child competing for Daddy Denethor's affection?

 

 

Re: Virginity--powerful or emasculating?

What is there in a relationship that is close enough that one could say to the other "I love you as much as my wife/husband, but in a different manner?" Are there such relationships, or could there be, and what might they tell us? What might they do to other relationships around them? And if there is room in Tolkien's text for such relationships, then how do we deal with them or listen to them, so that it's not just we who "transgress" the text, but the text which "transgresses" our opinions and expectations about what constitutes a mature relationship between men and women?

This is an excellent observation, one that I've been dancing around in my story, because I do believe that there can be, and are, very close, loving relationships between those of the opposite sex which do not always lead to a physical consumation, yet remain nearly as strong a bond as that of marriage.

In the same manner I believe there can be close, loving relationships between those of the same sex that don't require a sexual response. Tolkien understood this very well. As a man of his times, where it was not unusual for a man to have one friend to whom he could bare his heart and soul, he wrote several such relationships in LotR, Frodo and Sam as the most obvious example.

As to how such relationships impact those around them, I think that some would be open to misinterpretation just as they are today, and that can lead to a variety of situations.

Just my opinion (and the plot demon I'm wrestling with!)

~Nessime

 

 

Re: Virginity--powerful or emasculating?

I've been thinking recently about sexuality in Elves, so this message addresses that. I've read LACE and tried to keep my thinking consistent with what Tolkien says and yet understand enough about the motives behind it to make it convincing to myself.

RiikiTikiTavi once said that Tolkien's Elves think like good Catholics. So I started with that. Sex belongs only in marriage and is associated with reproduction. Tolkien seems to suggest that Elves actually live by this ideal that memories of my Catholic girlhood tell me was often honored more in the breach. He also seems to suggest that such behavior is hard wired into Elves rather than a cultural product, although it seems to me that even hard-wired inclinations can be reinforced or weakened by culture. The suggestion that the link between sex and marriage is hard-wired is reinforced if Elves must will their pregnancies because then fear of pregnancy is not a reason to abstain from sex for them, as it has been for most of human history.

Then I added that the Elves seem to think like stereotypes say women used to think: they associated sex with love and could not decouple the two. So it occurred to me that if the link between sex and love or marriage is hard-wired into Elves, then maybe they feel sexual desire in proportion to the depth of their love or attachment. The desire for intercourse would arise at the same time as desire to be permanently bonded. Before that, young people might be "in like," so to speak, and might feel a correspondingly weakened sexual desire, expressed in the kind of necking that I remember vividly. A Catholic girlhood is (or at least used to be) all about foreplay with no follow through.

The association of sex with reproduction is a separate issue, I think. I'm not sure that Tolkien says that sex is only for reproduction. That sounds pretty joyless. He says that bodily union is a great joy to Elves. But he also says that sexual desire weakens once the couple have had all the children they intend to have. To me, this fits with the immortality of Elves. If you are going to live for thousands of years, there might be other things you want to do. I see that as analogous to being absorbed in establishing my career at one time, and then feeling that I had done all I could there and having ambition wane.

Finally a comment that is about Men rather than Elves: in an analogy that will be incomprehensible if you never watched the old "Babylon 5" series, I recall the character of Marcus, who was a virgin and a Ranger. He never appeared emasculated because he was such a strong warrior. I think that battle skills create a sense of masculine power for many Tolkien humans too.


 

 

Re: Virginity--powerful or emasculating?

While this is not from Tolkien, I thought I might throw in a perspective from another era. This was in some notes I'd copied when researching human reproduction (for a variety of reasons) and these two commentaries caught my attention. If I can retrace my notes I get back to you with the source.

'The popularity of the comic "cautionary tales" warning old geezers not to marry trophy wives because they'll never be able to keep up with them should attest to the fact that in Chaucer's day the notion that women either were or ought to be free of sexual desire would have been considered a joke in itself.'

[snippage]

'(There was a medical school of the time that believed that without an orgasm, a woman was not likely to conceive and warned husbands that if they didn't take care of their wives' pleasure too and not just their own, they might not get an heir.)'

~Nessime

 

 

Re: Virginity--powerful or emasculating?

tavia wrote:

For reasons I can't articulate I personally see Faramir and Aragorn as virgins prior to marriage, whilst I can't see Boromir in the same way... maybe this is some unconscious feeling that virgin men react more purely towards the Ring?

I do think that Tolkien intended, to some degree, the 'cult of the virgin' -- it seems especially clear with Eowyn, but if Aragorn is seen as a Messianic figure then it may well apply to him too.


katakanadian wrote:

Regarding ME humans (forgive me I've only read LotR, the Hobbit and 1/2 of the Sil), I definitely see Aragorn as a virgin and it is a powerful thing. It shows the strength and fidelity of his love for Arwen and his respect for Elrond. Prior to meeting Arwen at 20, I'm guessing he had little opportunity for sex since he lived among elves or was training to be a ranger. Book-Boromir I hadn't really thought about so I would assume virgin but I'll admit that Sean Bean is too hot for movie-Boromir to be one. Book-Faramir: virgin; movie-Faramir: I'll wait until I see RotK.

I think I can get into a mindset where I see Aragorn’s virginity as a powerful thing too – celibacy seen as not just a matter of abstinence, but a redirection of the most potent source of energy into another kind of service.

Elrond’s conditions also set up a period of trial and testing. Aragorn has to prove he is worthy of Arwen by self-discipline. This eventually enables him to withstand the temptation of the Ring – the ultimate in instant gratification of desire. I guess it also proves that he is worthy to be King as well – that he won’t abuse his power by using it to serve himself rather than his people.

How this could be convincingly worked into a fic I’m not sure but it gives food for thought.

Andria

 

 

Re: Virginity--powerful or emasculating?

I think I can get into a mindset where I see Aragorn’s virginity as a powerful thing too – celibacy seen as not just a matter of abstinence, but a redirection of the most potent source of energy into another kind of service.

Elrond’s conditions also set up a period of trial and testing. Aragorn has to prove he is worthy of Arwen by self-discipline. This eventually enables him to withstand the temptation of the Ring – the ultimate in instant gratification of desire. I guess it also proves that he is worthy to be King as well – that he won’t abuse his power by using it to serve himself rather than his people.

How this could be convincingly worked into a fic I’m not sure but it gives food for thought.


I think it's got a lot of resonances with the "messianic" nature of his Kingship, as well. (Side note: "Messiah" in Hebrew apparently just means "anointed one" - ie one who is officially marked and recognised as a king, not some sort of divine saviour). In this I'm using the term in its popular sense, as meaning a king whose coming was divinely foretold, a king who is a saviour of some sense for his people, rather than in the strictly accurate sense above. In this case, there's a very real sense that Aragorn has, for all intents and purposes, put his life "on hold" for the period between his engagement to Arwen, and his accession to the Kingdom of Gondor and Arnor. He does not marry, does not beget an heir, doesn't do a lot of things that other Dúnedain of his age and rank would be doing - it's a risky gamble, in a lot of ways. He is literally risking the entire lot on the one throw of the dice: that *he* will be the one foretold to be the Elessar.

[MEG beats off the "What if Aragorn *wasn't* the chosen one" plotbunny with a large stick... bugger off you 'orrible hanimal!]

In that sense, yes, the notion of Aragorn's virginity to an advanced age (near 90) is a powerful mythic and metaphoric factor. I'd also argue that this same factor (the mythic and metaphoric resonances) would be a strong justification for the virginity of Frodo (certainly of the bookverse Frodo, probably of the movieverse Frodo as well). Frodo, in many ways, is one who experiences the tempering of a profound encounter with evil. In a lot of ways, he doesn't *need* the corruptions of the flesh - he's got this lovely little ring hanging around his neck supplying every single temptation known to hobbitkind in the one package.

Which is, of course, another one in the eye for the Frodo/Sam 'shippers. Mind you, the notion of Aragorn being effectively a "consecrated virgin" until his marriage drops my favourite slash pairing on its head too... *sigh*.

It's too early in the morning for these sorts of thoughts.

 

 

Re: Virginity--powerful or emasculating?

In that sense, yes, the notion of Aragorn's virginity to an advanced age (near 90) is a powerful mythic and metaphoric factor. I'd also argue that this same factor (the mythic and metaphoric resonances) would be a strong justification for the virginity of Frodo (certainly of the bookverse Frodo, probably of the movieverse Frodo as well).

This resonates with the arthurian myths perfectly. "My strength is as the strength of ten because my heart is pure" is the classic for Galahad.

Frodo could be seen as the perfect ringbearer because he is an 'innocent.' I would see Aragorn OTOH, as not an innocent, but as one who knowingly chose that path, with his virginity as an issue of mythic power. As said above, it is a metaphor for his self discipline and years of self-denial for a higher cause.

Powerful nuzgûls breeding in this thread. I can see an interesting conversation between Boromir and Aragorn on this issue, where Boromir has the attitude more common to modern man, and Aragorn the more mythic and 'elven' conception of things. (Picks up broom to drive off nuzgûl, but the beast simply licks its fangs and grins. Oy.)

Lyllyn

 

 

Re: Virginity--powerful or emasculating?

Powerful nuzgûls breeding in this thread. I can see an interesting conversation between Boromir and Aragorn on this issue, where Boromir has the attitude more common to modern man, and Aragorn the more mythic and 'elven' conception of things. (Picks up broom to drive off nuzgûl, but the beast simply licks its fangs and grins. Oy.)

Folks, can we scoop 'em up and drop 'em off in the holding tank for the hutch? I mean, why should we be the only ones with the fang marks, when we can share them with the rest of the population at large? After all, there's some people out there who haven't been bitten even once yet... maybe one of the ones spawning from this thread might be the one to afflict them.

It's a pleasant thought...

Meg (hey, it's my job to be this evil)


 

 

Re: Virginity--powerful or emasculating?

Meg wrote:

In this case, there's a very real sense that Aragorn has, for all intents and purposes, put his life "on hold" for the period between his engagement to Arwen, and his accession to the Kingdom of Gondor and Arnor. He does not marry, does not beget an heir, doesn't do a lot of things that other Dúnedain of his age and rank would be doing - it's a risky gamble, in a lot of ways. He is literally risking the entire lot on the one throw of the dice: that *he* will be the one foretold to be the Elessar.

[MEG beats off the "What if Aragorn *wasn't* the chosen one" plotbunny with a large stick... bugger off you 'orrible hanimal!]


Ooo now Meg, that is a very depressing sort of plotbunny!

Andria

P.S I've just made a related comment on Dwim's stories forum

A

 

 

Re: Virginity--powerful or emasculating?

Regarding our modern society, I've come to believe that virginity is virtually the last "closet" in post-sexual revolution society. This is not to belittle other traditionally closeted groups but the stigma associated with unwed parenthood, homo-, bi-, transexuality, co-habiting, etc has diminished over the past few decades or is diminishing rapidly. OTOH, virginity has become more stigmatized.

This IS a great discussion, but in a way, I think the fact that we're even having this discussion highlights what Katakanadian said, above. Virginity in anyone above the age of 25 is dreadfully stigmatized, and yet it is not as rare as one might think. I have a couple of friends who remained in that state well into their twenties...they were comfortable enough with me to be open about it, but I knew that I was one of very few people that they had been able to confide in. Reactions they received from others ranged from a condescending "Well, good for YOU!" to highly offensive exclamations such as, "What's the MATTER with you?!" Neither one of these people was highly religious, unattractive or burdened by neuroses...it was just that the right opportunity with the right person had never presented itself. It's a shame that in our supposedly sexually enlightened culture, a lack of sexual activity has become taboo. I can recall reading a Letter to the Editor in response to a Time Magazine article on sexual orientation, in which the writer said, "The only sexual aberration that exists is celibacy." Now THERE is someone with hangups, IMHO.

I'll confess that I certainly enjoy fanfics that deal with sexual issues in LoTR...whether slash or straight. I even appreciate the occasional PWP, if it's done well. But when it comes to Tolkien's original texts, I have mixed feelings about searching for the presence or even the implication of sexuality. Katakanadian also said "I think one of the things I liked about LotR is that sex is not explicitly a complicating factor," and I agree with that. For me, the characters of LoTR have a singularity, a purity, if you will, of purpose that is not conflicted by sexual desire. Coming from this era where virginity, and its companion, celibacy, are considered so scandalous, I find it refreshing to see characters motivated by duty, honor, nobility and yes, love, but in a non-sexual sense. Some modern critics complain about the "lack of sexuality" in Tolkien's work. Like Katakanadian, I'm hard-pressed to understand how the introduction of sex (in the modern sense) into Tolkien's work would have made for a more powerful story. I often suspect that these critics are operating from their personal belief that sex is the basic driving force behind all that we do. Personally, I like to believe that there is a little more to us than that.

I say "in the modern sense" because I think there is sexuality in Tolkien's work, but it is not necessarily what we are used to. There's no "boinking under the mallorn trees," to quote a friend of mine, but there is a deep vein of sensuality that is a cousin to sexuality. I'm thinking of Frodo and Sam's very tactile and emotional relationship as an example. I don't think they were romantically involved at all (outside of fanfic, of course!) but there is that element of physical affection between them that, in its way, is a companion to sex, and yet is not. It is higher than mere sexual desire in a sense, and I think is part of the reason why so many readers have found this relationship so moving and memorable over the years.

Bringing this back to the core subject of virginity, I do believe that virginity (or at least abstinence, since I'm not completely convinced of Aragorn's virginity) was important to Tolkien, and not because he was an uptight Catholic. I think that Tolkien viewed virginity as being a key element in the characters of those whose lives are meant to follow a unique calling---such as Aragorn and Frodo. I think the very idea that virginity is "privative, immature or fearful" would have been completely foreign to Tolkien, for he would have seen this state as part of their particular "doom," no more dispensable from the fabric of their lives than their destinies as King or Ring-bearer.






 

 

Re: Virginity--powerful or emasculating?

This IS a great discussion, but in a way, I think the fact that we're even having this discussion highlights what Katakanadian said, above. Virginity in anyone above the age of 25 is dreadfully stigmatized, and yet it is not as rare as one might think. ... It's a shame that in our supposedly sexually enlightened culture, a lack of sexual activity has become taboo. I can recall reading a Letter to the Editor in response to a Time Magazine article on sexual orientation, in which the writer said, "The only sexual aberration that exists is celibacy." Now THERE is someone with hangups, IMHO.

I agree that it's a shame that in modern Western culture virginity and celibacy are downgraded, especially amongst men.

Bringing this back to the core subject of virginity, I do believe that virginity (or at least abstinence, since I'm not completely convinced of Aragorn's virginity) was important to Tolkien, and not because he was an uptight Catholic. I think that Tolkien viewed virginity as being a key element in the characters of those whose lives are meant to follow a unique calling---such as Aragorn and Frodo. I think the very idea that virginity is "privative, immature or fearful" would have been completely foreign to Tolkien, for he would have seen this state as part of their particular "doom," no more dispensable from the fabric of their lives than their destinies as King or Ring-bearer.

I agree with this statement 100% wrt Aragorn, who chose at an age that seems to have been the beginning of his manhood to renounce the flesh, wander in the wilderness, and seek the spiritual rewards associated with the kingship.

I'm not so sure about Frodo. He chooses to take on the Quest at the Council of Elrond. I don't recall his precise age, but he's certainly adult at that time.

Tavia

 

 

Re: Virginity--powerful or emasculating?

I'll buy the idea that Aragorn has put large parts of his life, including sex, on hold in pursuit of other goals, and that his virginity can be seen as a mythic and metaphoric factor, though I'm not clear on whether there's a connection there.

But I get the uneasy feeling that we're coming around to the old notion of sex and sexuality as a corruption. I'm very uncomfortable with that, personally - which in no way speaks to the questin of WWTHD ("what would Tolkien have done"), nor is meant to do so.

Why does sex make one not an innocent? How could Frodo, who has seen (if not dealt) death and carries the doom of the world around his neck, really be considered an innocent just because he's never had sex? To say nothing of Aragorn, who is clearly no innocent, regardless of his virginity or lack thereof. Maybe we need to define innocence.

And what is corrupting about sex? Our society spends a lot of time telling us it is, but what is corruptive about the physical expression of love? Anything can be corrupted, but why are so many so quick to see sex as inherently corruptive?

Sincerely puzzled,
Rachel

 

 

Re: Virginity--powerful or emasculating?

Why does sex make one not an innocent?

It may just be a case of Christian (Garden of Eden) and Arthurian myths, which I think Tolkien bought into.

And what is corrupting about sex?

I think the answer to this may depend on the context, eg married/equivalent or not, procreative or not, expression of love or not.

Tavia

 

 

Re: Virginity--powerful or emasculating?

Bringing this back to the core subject of virginity, I do believe that virginity (or at least abstinence, since I'm not completely convinced of Aragorn's virginity) was important to Tolkien, and not because he was an uptight Catholic. I think that Tolkien viewed virginity as being a key element in the characters of those whose lives are meant to follow a unique calling---such as Aragorn and Frodo. I think the very idea that virginity is "privative, immature or fearful" would have been completely foreign to Tolkien, for he would have seen this state as part of their particular "doom," no more dispensable from the fabric of their lives than their destinies as King or Ring-bearer.

Well, this is where I bring out my cultural studies background and long-standing interest in history and mythology, and raise the point that in a number of mythologies, there has been the meme of making a sacrifice in order to gain access to a particular social or mystical status. For example, most gods renowned for their wisdom are known to have sacrificed something to gain it - Wotan hung head down from the tree of knowledge for nine days, and sacrificed an eye for the knowledge, Athena remained a virgin goddess etc etc etc. So in the context of Aragorn, it can be said that celibacy is the sacrifice he makes in order to be worthy. It can also be said that Boromir probably doesn't feel the need to make the sacrifice, as his job was pretty much ordained from birth - nothing special needed to obtain it.

(And here is the problem with starting these things at work... I had a train of thought, but it seems to have steamed off in a different direction... bugger. More when I can think about it a bit more.)

 

 

Re: Virginity--powerful or emasculating?

And what is corrupting about sex? Our society spends a lot of time telling us it is, but what is corruptive about the physical expression of love? Anything can be corrupted, but why are so many so quick to see sex as inherently corruptive?

I don't think the idea is that sex is inherently corruptive, but that it is, in this case, inherently, worldly for want of a better word.

Engaging in a physical relationship with another, whether within the boundaries of marriage or not, is a thing of this world, a thing of the self, and both Aragorn and Frodo have been called upon to act beyond themselves, their own desires, and the things of this world.

The idea of celibacy for members of religious orders has become considered something of an unnatural aberration, and I will admit that, especially in the Catholic church, it has certainly built up an encrustation of perverse "morality." But we forget that the original concept of celibacy for those in the religious life was so that they could turn those energies to service...to the service of a community, to the service of God, rather than to the service of themselves and their partner.

For an in-depth and very moving essay on celibacy, I recommend Kathleen Norris' chapter on "Celibate Passion," found in her book The Cloister Walk. It has a lot of interesting things to say, but I think this applies well to our discussion:

"...this is the purpose of celibacy, not to attain some impossibly cerebral goal mistakenly conceived as "holiness" but to make oneself available to others, body and soul. Celibacy, simply put, is a form of ministry."

I agree that it's inappropriate to describe Frodo (or anyone!) as an "innocent" because they're a virgin or celibate. Rather, his innocence comes from the lack of worldliness that is inherent in attachment to ones own desires, in attachment to another person, even in attachment to children that might result from those unions. Frodo sacrificed these attachments; he was willing to make himself available, "body and soul."

Aragorn is a bit of a different situation, because he has not been called upon to give up a sexual life, merely to put it on hold for a while. He, too, is acting out his own ministry by remaining not only true to Arwen, but true to the other goals he must accomplish, goals that, we must assume, would have been thwarted by his developing an attachment to another, even if only briefly.

And this might be somewhat off topic, but, while I agree that there is nothing corrupting about the "physical expression of love," that is true as long as it is, in fact, love, and not a mere sexual itch-scratching. I do believe that there is something spiritually corrupting about loveless sex, and if enough of it is practiced, there can certainly be something physically corrupting about it, as well.

 

 

Re: Virginity--powerful or emasculating?

Oselle, your articulate post makes me very, very happy. What insightful and well thought out remarks. I agree with everything you said (except the part where you think your last thoughts might be off-topic - I think they're very much on-topic), and I can neither add to nor dispute any of it, which stinks, because I'd love to keep you talking on this.

Well, writing. You know what I mean.

Of course, now I have a desire to go write about this stuff, and I've already got two stories and a vignette I'm working on.

How do these darned things multiply so fast?

 

 

Re: Virginity--powerful or emasculating?

tavia wrote:

I agree with this statement 100% wrt Aragorn, who chose at an age that seems to have been the beginning of his manhood to renounce the flesh, wander in the wilderness, and seek the spiritual rewards associated with the kingship.

I'm not so sure about Frodo. He chooses to take on the Quest at the Council of Elrond. I don't recall his precise age, but he's certainly adult at that time.


Oselle wrote:

I agree that it's inappropriate to describe Frodo (or anyone!) as an "innocent" because they're a virgin or celibate. Rather, his innocence comes from the lack of worldliness that is inherent in attachment to ones own desires, in attachment to another person, even in attachment to children that might result from those unions. Frodo sacrificed these attachments; he was willing to make himself available, "body and soul."

Good post Oselle. But I think I share Tavia's reservations about Frodo sacrificing the usual worldly attachments in the period before the beginning of the Quest – afterwards obviously he has sacrificed them.

In that earlier time Frodo has no idea that he is going to do anything other than lead the life of a normal hobbit gentleman – possibly slightly eccentric in the manner of his Uncle – but he is certainly not in conscious preparation for a quest to save the world. His normal expectation would seem to be to marry and have a large number of children. But yet, as you say, his life does appear to be on hold in some way. I feel this must have something to do with the fact that he is the keeper of the Ring, even though he does not use it. Although he leads an enjoyable life and has many friends he is not able to develop what should be the closest and most creative relationship – that position is usurped by the Ring. That this acts in the favour of the Light in the end - that Frodo is able to be completely available - I guess would be an example of Morgoth's discord being used against him.

 

 

Re: Virginity--powerful or emasculating?

Good post Oselle. But I think I share Tavia's reservations about Frodo sacrificing the usual worldly attachments in the period before the beginning of the Quest – afterwards obviously he has sacrificed them.

I definitely agree with you about this; I don't think that Frodo consciously made those sacrifices before that moment when he stood up and claimed the Quest. However, I think that Tolkien's world relies heavily upon the idea of destiny, and it was just never part of Frodo's destiny for him to be a husband and a father.

Actually, I think Frodo's celibacy (in the dictionary sense, meaning "unmarried") is more significant than his supposed virginity. It's unclear whether Frodo (or any other characters) actually were virgins or not, and to a certain extent, I think it's irrelevant. What IS important is that Frodo lived a life apart, whether by fate or by choice (or by choice as directed by fate ). Frodo was just meant to be the Ring-bearer, and that would not change if he'd enjoyed a roll in the hay with some Shire-lass (or lad!) in his youth...but it certainly would have been affected by a wife and a smial full of hobbitlings!

Many people speculate that the Ring had some effect on Frodo, and presumably on Bilbo, that kept them single. I find it intriguing that, in the earliest drafts of LoTR, Frodo was actually Bilbo's son (by some never-introduced Mrs. Baggins). I wonder if Tolkien abandoned this story-line because he too, believed that the Ring would have had a pernicious effect on forming close attachments, or because he was so enamored with his eccentric little bachelor hobbits...or because he just wasn't interested in cooking up a "Mrs. Baggins!"


 

 

Re: Virginity--powerful or emasculating?

I find it interesting that most of the discussion so far has speculated about only two characters -- Aragorn and Frodo. They are two of the three characters most often spoke of in spiritual terms -- the discussion has already used the term "messianic", and I suspect that has a lot to do with why their virginity is considered relevant.

The third character most often spoken of in this fashion is Gandalf. However, he has the aspect of an old man, and old people are perceived as being no longer sexual. It doesn't matter what he may or may not have done in the past..

For the other characters, their status is a side issue. We don't know whether Gimli is a virgin, or has a harem at home. It might have fed into his decision to join the quest or not, but once committed, his actions on the quest would have been the same. Perhaps some mileage could come out of assuming that Pippin is a virgin, given his youth, playing into a coming of age or loss of innocence theme, but again it would not have changed his actions on the quest. Unlike Frodo and Aragorn, divine providence does not play so large a part in their deeds, and so the question of their spritual worthiness is less interesting.

The idea of Aragorn as a virgin could be couched in terms that would make it powerful and interesting to our permissive sensibilities. First of all, it is not a rejection of sex, but a deferring of it until a specific goal has been reached. He is giving up a short-term pleasure for a long-term big payoff. Second, it begins at a plausible age. He first met Arwen at age 20. It is not too weird that someone raised in a sexually conservative society, and one that may not have had too many suitable partners available, would still be a virgin at 20. Then he met Arwen, who is definitely considered worth waiting for. One could easily make the case that Aragorn is in control of himself and his desires, is goal-oriented, and can stick to a plan.

Frodo's virginity, on the other hand, is often couched in terms of his innocence, otherworldliness, and apartness. It is very hard to treat this in a way that is not emasculating, and most attemts turn him into an icon of a saint. That mistake is not unique to fanfiction -- you will recall the passage in book 4 where Sam is surprised at the amount of steel Frodo exhibits:

"Sam looked at his master with approval, but also with surprise: there was a look in his face and a tone in his voice that he had not known before. It had always been a notion of his that the kindness of dear Mr. Frodo was of such a high degree that it must imply a fair measure of blindness. "

Even pre-movie fanfic often wrote Frodo as childlike or inexperienced. Post-movie, given Elijah Wood's youth, this is an even easier mistake to make. We must remember that Frodo was _fifty_ _years_ _old_. That's middle-aged, even for a Hobbit. Frodo has been an _adult_ for as long as Elijah Wood has been _alive_. He's well off and passable handsome. He deals perfectly well with strangers at Bree, so he's not pathologically shy. At this point, if he's still a virgin, it's by his own choice, and that is almost certainly just as much a conscious, moral choice as Aragorn's.

 

 

Re: Virginity--powerful or emasculating?

Yes, I'm no big fan of virginal!Frodo stories because it's never particularly clear to me that the author has quite thought through why, beyond wanting to write a first-time PWP.

Because of this I'm struggling in my own story (which will have alternate endings, one where Frodo does marry) with quite how much experience he may or may not have had. I really hate to fall into the same old trap, but on the other hand, I don't think that Frodo would have had too much experience with women. It's not reputable or respectable for young upper class hobbits to be, well, sleeping around outside of marriage, so he would be unlikely to have any experience with girls of his own station. At the same time, it's sort of unethical for him to be tumbling the help, as it were, and I don't think he's really the unethical type. Never mind if "everybody else" does it, Frodo would likely have the moral fibre not to. Besides, he wouldn't want to be entangled with or obliged to an illegitimate child, which could well result from a sexual encounter, and he wouldn't want to run the risk of some irate father demanding that he marry his daughter now that he had ruined her.

will stop now before I start babbling about stuff that by rights might belong in the slash thread...

Kate

 

 

Re: Virginity--powerful or emasculating?

"It's not reputable or respectable for young upper class hobbits to be, well, sleeping around outside of marriage, so he would be unlikely to have any experience with girls of his own station. At the same time, it's sort of unethical for him to be tumbling the help, as it were, and I don't think he's really the unethical type."

When you say these things are not reputable or ethical, do you mean you have explicitly decided this is true in your story, or are you believing that the Shire must be like that because traditional societies are supposed to be like that? In either case, you may have more wriggle room than you think. Frodo's not perfect -- he's allowed to step over the line, or to make mistakes in judgement. And so are the young ladies around him. There's also quite a bit you can do while still technically remaining a virgin.

 

 

Re: Virginity--powerful or emasculating?

well, I'm sure he had a few mistakes in judgment, especially in his younger days, but my personal theory about Frodo Baggins is that he might have done rather more experimenting with other boys than with girls. Yes, of course, there's absolutely nothing to support this in the text, but it is a theory which is pleasing to me ;P

 

 

Re: Virginity--powerful or emasculating?

WARNING: graphic dicussion ahead.

There's also quite a bit you can do while still technically remaining a virgin.

This brings up another interesting question. Just what constitutes losing one's virginity? The typical off-the-cuff answer might be penile penetration of or by someone else. Does that mean lesbians are perpetual virgins? If we say that, of course a woman who has had lesbian relationships (only) is not a virgin, then should we not say that anyone who has engaged in oral sex and digital penetration is not a virgin. Certainly all of these activities are sexually intimate.

Would Aragorn's (apparent) virginity be as powerful if we knew that he was doing 'everything but' with Arwen?

 

 

Re: Virginity--powerful or emasculating?

I suppose I'm coming into this conversation waaaay too late for my opinion to be worth something here, but I'll throw it out for those of you still bothering.

Why does sex make one not an innocent?

This is probably Christian taboo, and it has to do with the language of our times as well. Children are described as 'innocent'; they haven't been introduced to the adult world and its concerns yet. Sexuality and sexual acts, as a part of the experience of growing up and reaching adulthood, are seen as part of the process of 'losing one's innocence'.

And what is corrupting about sex?

I don't see why you think our society thinks of sex as corruptive. To be sexually active is a praised thing. Everyone's doing it. Why aren't you? What is seen as corruptive, I think, is the possible repercussions - pregnancy, STDs, etc. Having inconsequential sex, however, is something to be proud of.

My opinion on the matter of sex as a corruptive element, however, is that sex in its proper place (e.g., marriage, IMO) is a beautiful, wonderful thing that should be encouraged as an expression of love. Elsewhere, I think it is harmful.

* * *

First I would like to say that I speak as an 18-year-old virgin who intends to lose her virginity to her [virgin] husband, should she ever be married.

Dwim asked some great questions at the top of this discussion, but I don't remember all of them. ~_____~ Er ... I think Meg made an excellent point; we tend to look at Tolkien's world and its attitude towards virginity through the distorted glass of the times - that is, there is no kind of adult relationship (esp. between men and women) that does not involve some sort of sexual tension. But Tolkien wrote LotR mostly as an older man during the 50's and early 60's; free love? Not really. That, along with his Catholic background, means he probably highly valued virginity as an aspect of pre-marriage. (This is, of course, speculation; and it should be noted that the matter of sexual acts outside of procreation is, truly, never dealt with in LotR, and as such much cannot be drawn from the text. Nor is sexuality in general much of an issue.)

That being said, I believe there is a powerful statement to be made by abstinence before marriage. I think sex is made more beautiful by love strong enough to promote a marriage. I also believe that sexual relationships create a spiritual tie, although most people do not believe the same. You're uniting yourself in the most intimate way with another person. How can you expect that to not have a deep and profound affect upon you?

Whether or not characters in Tolkien's world feel the same is something else entirely. Aragorn loves and hopes to marry a half-Elf, so to the best of my understanding, the usual Elvish laws/customs follow; that is, the moment Aragorn enters into a sexual relationship with Arwen, they will be considered married (as I understand it). Additionally, he has a lot of other things to worry about, not the least of which is obtaining the kingship that will give him rite of passage to his bride, so I don't think that sex is at the top of his priority list. However, I'm surprised no one has considered that before Aragorn was 20, he'd never even seen Arwen. What was his opinion on sexuality, then? Personally, I suspect it was Elvish (he was raised in Imladris), but possibly not?

Frodo's sexuality - or rather, the lack thereof - is something I am hesitant to comment on, because his existence as a bachelor and thereafter his 'deification' as the Ringbearer rather prevents my understanding of it. The feeling I get, though, is that Frodo never really intended to marry, just as Bilbo didn't seem to. This may be an indication of homosexuality (there's a great article on that subject here on HA), but on the other hand, it may not be; if Frodo never intended to marry, and thus had no reason to 'save himself' for his wife (should Hobbits feel that way about sex), would he be sexually active as he pleased? Would female Hobbits rebuff him because they aren't married and that's taboo? We just don't know enough about Hobbit customs, methinks.

On the matter of the other Hobbits, however, it is clear that Sam has a burgeoning relationship with Rose when he walks off with Mr. Frodo on their year-long trip to Mount Doom. Has he 'done it' with her? His shyness suggests to me that no, he has not, but perhaps that is also a cultural taboo. And Merry and Pippin ... argh. I don't know. They're in their mid-tweens, which means they're teenagers. I would certainly be interested in a story about their sexual experience pre-LotR; are they too young to know about such things? I don't know enough about Hobbits to be sure.

Boromir and Faramir. Er ... who knows? I've never felt comfortable commenting on Boromir's sex life. He could certainly be abstaining; he could also be quite active. I don't think there are any indicators either way in LotR. Cultural taboo says to me he isn't, and perhaps he's dragged along Faramir to meet a few nice, shy girls. But again I look through the distorted glass of the 21st century.

Here's one that no one's mentioned: Legolas! The target of a thousand thousand fangirls, and in the beds of half their stories. Now we know he's an Elf, so he's probably treating sexual acts the way Elves do - they're an indication of marriage, so one does not cross that line until they are married. But how much experience does he have with women, in that case? How far is 'too far'?

Which brings me to a question about Glorfindel. Why is he painted as a 'playa' in fanfiction? Is it possible to be one in the Elvish world? Sorry; that's just something that popped into my head just now.

So anyway, that's my myriad of questions/speculations about virginity.

~~Vikki

 

 

Re: Virginity--powerful or emasculating?

Here's one that no one's mentioned: Legolas! The target of a thousand thousand fangirls, and in the beds of half their stories. Now we know he's an Elf, so he's probably treating sexual acts the way Elves do - they're an indication of marriage, so one does not cross that line until they are married. But how much experience does he have with women, in that case? How far is 'too far'?

Which brings me to a question about Glorfindel. Why is he painted as a 'playa' in fanfiction? Is it possible to be one in the Elvish world? Sorry; that's just something that popped into my head just now.
---
My feeling on elves (having read the article "everything Tolkien said about elf sex) is that pretty much anything that we in our culture might consider tasteless if done in public is not done by elves at all before their marriage, and is afterwards done only between two married elves.

We know absolutely nothing about Legolas. I suspect that Tolkien meant Legolas to be unmarried because, when you look at the other Hobbit/Rings era characters, only bachelors can have Adventures. OTOH, nothing says Legolas doesn't have a wife waiting for him in Mirkwook, nor does anything say that Legolas had a wife, but now she's gone over the sea.

I have never, ever seen Glorfindel portrayed as a playa, but maybe I'm just staying away from the right kinds of fics. Other than Figwit (with whom I paired Glorfindel for one of my stories simply because it pleased my sense of the ridiculous) I have only ever seen Glor paired with Elrond. I wouldn't quite go so far as to say I'm a G/E shipper, but it's the only Glorfindel pairing in the 3d/4th age that makes even half sense to me.

 

 

Re: Virginity--powerful or emasculating?

I don't see why you think our society thinks of sex as corruptive. To be sexually active is a praised thing. Everyone's doing it. Why aren't you? What is seen as corruptive, I think, is the possible repercussions - pregnancy, STDs, etc. Having inconsequential sex, however, is something to be proud of.

Yes and no. To be sexually active is both praised and condemned. "Slut" is still not a compliment. The movie Fatal Attraction is still something of a cultural icon in which the woman who will have sex with a married man is portrayed as not just sexually free, but as a psychotic murderer - while the husband is just sort of a hapless victim of her rampant sexuality. When Madonna's "Justify My Love" video was released, it was banned from MTV while they continued to play heavy metal videos with scantily clad women doing all sorts of suggestive and/or submissive things - I recall one in which slightly bestial and sexually ravenous lovelies were herded into a cage by the band members, the implication clearly being that sexually aggressive women are danger that needs to be contained. I maintain that the reason Madonna's video was considered beyond the pale was not because of the sexual innuendo, but because the person in charge of her sexuality was she herself. And then there are the plethora of slasher movies in which the ones who get killed are the ones who are sexually active.

I think our society definitely sees sex as a corruptive thing, even at the same time that it desires that corruption. Indeed, I believe that if sex were not regarded as corruptive, it wouldn't be nearly as attractive as a way to sell consumer goods, nor would sexual activities between consenting adults continue to be illegal in many, many places, nor would sex education in the schools continue to be so divisive, nor would condom advertisements still be seen as somewhat outre and mostly shown late at night or on MTV. And I'm not a bit sure prostitution would continue to be illegal if sex were not seen as a corruptive, wrong thing (whether it should is another question).

So yes, our society sees sex as corruptive. It's just as attracted to that corruption as it is condemning of it.

Cheers!
-Rachel

 

 

Re: Virginity--powerful or emasculating?

Which brings me to a question about Glorfindel. Why is he painted as a 'playa' in fanfiction? Is it possible to be one in the Elvish world? Sorry; that's just something that popped into my head just now.

I have raised this same question in a private discussion. It was linked with a larger discussion about fanon, and there are, of course, standard fanon sexual directions: Legolas gets raped, Elrond has real relationships, Haldir (prior to the release of TTT) is a sexual predator, and so forth. Obviously there is something that is triggering this.

For Glorfindel, I think it is the description of him as 'full of joy' that is part of the trigger; people may translate that to playful, and then to sexually playful. It is also easy to envision him as a heroic figure, but one who may be impulsive from the description of the encounter with Balrog.

I think about his character a lot as I am still writing a Second Age Glorfindel story. I welcome (here or in my forum, or any appropriate forum) thoughts on his character.

Lyllyn

 

 

Re: Virginity--powerful or emasculating?

FOr some weird reason also, I see Aragorn AND Arwen both as virgins. I think I'm one of those teenage authors who thinks Legolas getting raped is sick. After all, don't elves only have sex when they want to have children?? I don't think Aragorn would've lost his virginity before he got married: either Elrond or Arwen would kill him. If that is true, then virginity is in no way emasculating.

As for Gimli and the dwarves, Tolkien does mention that dwarves were absrobed in their craft, so not many of them married. I think that makes Gimli a virgin too.

Hobbits?? I have no idea really. Maybe Frodo had a fling here and there. But Pippin and Merry sound too young/immature to be having sex....... Sam on the other hand probably never ever had sex before he got married. I think Farmer Cotton would've also had his head if he ever walked in on Sam and Rose..........

As for Boromir, Faramir, Eowyn, Eomer and the other characters, it depends.

There have been "Grima rapes Eowyn" stories. Did Grima ever go that far with Eowyn, even if just in the books?? Can that sort of explain why Eowyn seems cold at first with Faramir?

Faramir doesn't seem to be the sort of man who'd go on a random sexual escapade (if he had time to). Maybe Boromir and Eomer were those sorts of guys. I've seen a story on ffnet (written by Siberia), where Faramir spent a night with a prostitute, but he didn't sleep with her.

So what do you think of the question on Eowyn's virginity? Anybody want to write a story on the wedding night and Eowyn has got the worst case of cold feet......

(for a teenager, I can be a sicko)

Niliwen.

 

 

Re: Virginity--powerful or emasculating?

So what do you think of the question on Eowyn's virginity?
I certainly never doubted her virginity. Aside from the usual assumption Tolkien as a Catholic wouldn't approve, I just always felt there was too much pride there for her to go in for casual dalliances and there probably weren't so many eligible males around of equal position.

Anybody want to write a story on the wedding night and Eowyn has got the worst case of cold feet......
I'm sure it's already been done a few times though perhaps not here at HASA. You can alway check my little attempt at her brother Eomer's wedding night here . Let's just say they wish cold feet were the only problem. It's actually only PG-13 right now so it's safe for innocent (and sicko) teenagers to read.

 

 

Re: Virginity--powerful or emasculating?

Anybody want to write a story on the wedding night and Eowyn has got the worst case of cold feet......

You could always drop this one off in the Nuzgûl hutch...

Lyllyn

 

 

Re: Virginity--powerful or emasculating?

I think I can get into a mindset where I see Aragorn’s virginity as a powerful thing too – celibacy seen as not just a matter of abstinence, but a redirection of the most potent source of energy into another kind of service.

Aragorn, the warrior-monk. That works for me. I find it very difficult to reconcile this Aragorn with the Post-war Aragorn, however. How does he do it? How does he react to hot food and feather beds and constant access to sex?

An observation I'd like to make is this. Abstinence is tremendously hard, at least the complete, monkish phenomenon that we're discussing. It takes years of self-discipline. Can we assume that a young man (hormonally charged, I assume, with, let's not forget, the virile 'sinews of the Kings of Men') successfully eschewed all temptation to - for just ONE time - close his eyes and imagine it was Arwen in his arms?

 

 

Re: Virginity--powerful or emasculating?

Can we assume that a young man (hormonally charged, I assume, with, let's not forget, the virile 'sinews of the Kings of Men') successfully eschewed all temptation to - for just ONE time - close his eyes and imagine it was Arwen in his arms?

That's actually the typical assumption that people make, assuming they sexualize Aragorn at all. I don't dispute that this could happen--I've tried writing Aragorn's 'deflowering' pre-Arwen for my own curiosity, and many many others have written him as sexually active.

The point of this thread is to try and look at the flip side, which most people consider 'unreal.' Surely you can't write a mundane (as opposed to mythic) account of Aragorn's life and have him remain a virgin until his wedding day. Mundanity=sexual activity, not men who abstain til marriage. Right? That's the assumption I'd like to see challenged meaningfully in a fic. So far, no one's done it yet, which to me says that that's a challenge just waiting for someone to adopt. It could be any character, really, not just Aragorn--if you look at the Culture and Sexuality nuzgûl in the Hutch, you'll see that the idea is to look at virginity in general and see if it cannot be meaningfully written in some way.

 

 

Re: Virginity--powerful or emasculating?

So, I am jumping in on a discussion that had me pondering the topic and thinking about my opinion on it, for, and that is no lie, three months.

First, I would love to describe my opinion on the way it is perceived by me and treated by modern society, before formulating an opinion on the way virginity is perceived in M-e and the question of certain characters' virginity:

I am a 19-year old teenager who strongly believes in the concept of "if there is no attraction beyond the physical level, sex is pointless". Needless to say, I am still a virgin. And I do not feel guilty about it at all!

But what I find a sad fact of modern society, though we call ourselves "liberal", the society is not at all liberal. There are many unspoken no-nos (such as homosexuality, transsexuality and chosen abstinence from sex). If somebody says, for example, that he or she is still a virgin, people tend to raise their eyebrows nowadays. I say: if it makes them happy, let them!

Now looking at M-e, I must again agree with Meg who pointed out that we always look at this "secondary world" through the lens of our own times. Even I do that, because sometimes I just cannot accept Tolkien's vision as my own in *every* aspect.

However, I do not agree with the other view, either: for me, the characters are no simple sex machines. Sadly those ideas stem too often from the slash part of the community, where my origins and home do lie, also. (BTW, I do regret that, sometimes).

I think, that virginity is a high value in M-e which is held in reverence by all creatures who have something resembling morals (I don't know about Orcs, though..) But if there is mutual attraction involved, I don't think anybody would have serious objections (yes, not even the gossiping hobbits in "The green dragon" ) about a girl having sex with a boy she loves at that time.

The matter is complicated by the fact that in LOTR we only look at the ruling part of each society, where proper marriages and the considerations of rank and politics often overrule emotional arguments.

In the case of the Elves, I hold LACE as a doubtful document, because it is a work that describes an ideal state for Tolkien.

I tend to stay close to the work by saying that for me the elvish fea is more important than the hroa in the union, since Elves seem to be more in control of their bodies than humans. So it is for my Elves first and foremost the heeding of their fea that makes them bond. In a heterosexual relationship, children are part of that bond, in homosexual ones that's not the case.

Since I do, however also believe in the need to be able to explore sexuality at least once without the pressures of bonding, I simply adopt the "Choosing Ceremony" from Soledad, altering it slightly to fit my purposes...

Dwarves are a strange race for me still, and I have not formed an opnion on them yet.

Hobbits are child-like and for me, their sexual awareness starts at about 25 or so. In all other respects, they are a bit more prudent than teenagers nowadays and they are also fiercely romantic.

Men are just as we are, even if the Dunedain of both North and South are, due to the weight of their blood and their long lives, are bit more considerate about the choosing of lovers.

Most of the characters in LOTR are virgins for me (save for the CC in the Elven cases). There are three people I would like to have a closer look at: Aragorn, Boromir (stop grinning, Dwim ) and Eowyn, before closing this rather over-long post:

Eowyn goes first: I think that she a virgin and rather protective of her virtue, since that is a thing, Grima coud have tried to steal from her and that would have deprived Eowyn of the only thing, that is considered important about a woman in a ruling house which is faced by the danger of vanishing: the ability to carry on the line throgh her children.

In Boromir's case I am not sure: on the one hand, he is a soldier who cared for little besides war and weapons (as per Tolkien), on the other hand there is also the case of his pride in the house of Hurin and he surelly considered it an important duty to "carry on" the honour of his family by having an heir.... (Excuse me for a second, please *stands up, grabs slash muse by the hair and locks her into a cupboard*)

In Aragorn's case I don't know either: one the one hand, he most certainly had no sex after he met Arwen (*screeches from the slash muse can be heard* Liar!) on the other hand there is that tantalizing period of three years before he met her... And I cannot envision them as akwardly fumbling around on their wedding night. *nurses the new Nuzgul bite*

That's all from me now and I am sorry for having written so much rubbish...

~Maka who frees the slash muse, before she can destroy the cupboard

 

 

Re: Virginity--powerful or emasculating?

So, I am jumping in on a discussion that had me pondering the topic and thinking about my opinion on it, for, and that is no lie, three months.

Join the club, Maku, I 'm still trying to wrestle a fic into shape for this one. Damned nuzgul!


The matter is complicated by the fact that in LOTR we only look at the ruling part of each society, where proper marriages and the considerations of rank and politics often overrule emotional arguments.
In the case of the Elves, I hold LACE as a doubtful document, because it is a work that describes an ideal state for Tolkien.



I pursued a similar thought, that LACE is idealized. When Tolkien talks about Strange Fates for those who don't marry young, what does he mean? Could it be that the unnamed author of LACE in the legendarium is being decorous and mealy mouthed? Is a strange fate a euphemistic politeness?
You wouldn't want to adopt my Strange Fates nuzgul, would you? See how cute it is...

In Aragorn's case I don't know either: one the one hand, he most certainly had no sex after he met Arwen (*screeches from the slash muse can be heard* Liar!) on the other hand there is that tantalizing period of three years before he met her... And I cannot envision them as akwardly fumbling around on their wedding night. *nurses the new Nuzgul bite*

Ever since Dwim sicced this one on us, I have been struggling with it. How to portray Aragorn as a powerful commander who chooses to be a virgin. I've got some odd bits done, but it's an uphill battle. Nice to have company!

(Excuse me for a second, please *stands up, grabs slash muse by the hair and locks her into a cupboard*)

Oh, and don't hurt the nice muse too much. Slash may be unTolkien-like, but it is fun

Lyllyn

 

 

Re: Virginity--powerful or emasculating?

So, I am jumping in on a discussion that had me pondering the topic and thinking about my opinion on it, for, and that is no lie, three months.

Join the club, Maku, I 'm still trying to wrestle a fic into shape for this one. Damned nuzgul!


They are awful, aren't they? I, too, have been wrestling with this topic, and am now about to somehow incorporate it into a longer story I'm writing, but the character is one who most people don't write about, so I don't know whether or not your average reader is honestly going to *care* about whether or not he (in this case, Thengel, Théoden's father) is a virgin when he marries.

It does so much come down to the culture lens, as Meg was saying back in March. Then again, we can no more read Tolkien without our own societal filters than we can write without them. The cultures of Middle-earth (except for Orcs and Ents, I suppose) are male and female and have some kind of intimate relations as we do to procreate. Everything else that goes along with it is up for grabs, I think, depending on how close to canon one wishes to write or how liberally one wants to veer from canon. But it is relevant, because Middle-earth was written with the same kinds of dualities as our world- I only point this out because I have recently read "The Left Hand of Darkness" by Ursula Le Guin, and on the world in which the protagonist is visiting, they are, in fact, gender neutral except for a few days out of the month.

Now I'm off topic. Sorry. Back to deal with wedding night jitters, if I can just get him to not be so darned careful. I mean the man is 35 already...

As another quick aside, another topic that has come up for me from this post are the very traits of masculinity and femininity. In this new story, I have Thengel wrestling with the fact that he wants to cut his hair (yes, I'm making all of this up, it's fanfiction after all!) so that he looks more like his fellow Rangers of Gondor, but that in Rohan, men's hair and virility is tied up much more closely than their kindred to the South. I love making up culture...

 

 

Re: Virginity--powerful or emasculating?

In this new story, I have Thengel wrestling with the fact that he wants to cut his hair (yes, I'm making all of this up, it's fanfiction after all!) so that he looks more like his fellow Rangers of Gondor, but that in Rohan, men's hair and virility is tied up much more closely than their kindred to the South. I love making up culture...

Hmm, hair as a sign for masculinity... Interesting thought that. What I also wondered about was, if there was some kind of female intuination rite after their first bleeding. Could it be tied up with, say, exclusively female subcultures like the shieldmaidens in Rohan or the Yavannallindi (see Peoples of Middle-earth "Of Lembas" for all the canonical information) among the Eldar? Ow! Damn! I got bitten again!
~Maka

 

 

Re: Virginity--powerful or emasculating?

Could it be tied up with, say, exclusively female subcultures like the shieldmaidens in Rohan or the Yavannallindi (see Peoples of Middle-earth "Of Lembas" for all the canonical information) among the Eldar? Ow! Damn! I got bitten again!

Dratted creatures...
Yes, in my version of Rohan, anyway (which is AU in that it did have a re-vitalized, albeit small, shieldmaiden subculture and Eowyn has friends) I think that a rite with a woman's first menstruation would definitely be in order.

Go forth and write!!

As for the men with long hair and strength- just think of Samson and Delilah. I hadn't thought of that until just now; I was thinking more culturally (Rohan= more Viking-ish, Gondor= more Roman), but with a culture that so reveres horses, with (I would assume) much pride and attention to their manes and tails, long thick hair would be considered a sign of virility. It's enough for me to work into a plotline, anyway.

 

 

In Forums

Discussion Info

Intended for: General Audience

This forum is open to all HASA members. It is read-only for the general public.

Membership on HASA is free and it takes only a few minutes to join. If you would like to participate, please click here.

If you are already a member, please log in to participate.

« Back to Sexuality in Middle-earth

Stories linked to the forum