(tw: rape) When Castro states that the women he kidnapped were not virgins before he raped them, he is implying that their status is somehow lessened because of this. He’s trying to say that because these women had previously engaged in sexual relationships (god forbid!) their value isn’t as important as women who are virgins. This has been taught to him in our culture that links the worth of women to the state of their hymen (never mind the fact that virginity is a social construct, not an actual thing). This purity movement is incredibly damaging. Not only does it teach women that their entire value is wrapped up in their virginity, but it also sets up a power imbalance between men and women. When schools promote abstinence only education and teach that women should remain pure until their wedding night, it creates world in which women’s bodies are primarily used for men’s pleasure and entertainment. And when this happens, men feel a sense of entitlement to said woman’s body. They feel as if they own it, as if women’s’ bodies belong to them. This idea gives them permission to treat these bodies however they want, without having to be responsible for consequences, as Castro shows with his words. Beyond this however, there’s the very real sense that only virgins can be raped. And sadly, these types of views still exist. In 2008, Tennessee Senator Douglas Henry said “Rape, ladies and gentlemen, is not today what rape was. Rape, when I was learning these things, was the violation of a chaste woman, against her will, by some party not her spouse.” When Ariel Castro states that his victims aren’t virgins, he’s only quoting years and years of a culture and society that believe that women who aren’t virgins can’t be raped; that women who have had sex prior to marriage are somehow less whole than those who wait and therefore deserving of any violence that is inflicted upon them.
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