In the midst of the storm of the First World War, when she was only sixteen, a Russian soldier killed her because she resisted his advances. The war broke out in July 1914. In November, the Russian army cleared the Vistula River. On November 10 they captured Tarnow and on November 17, they captured Zabawa and Wal-Ruda. The situation was getting dangerous; there were threats of confiscations so the locales tried to hide their properties in the forest. They kept talking about the Russian soldiers who were raping young women. Everyone was afraid; the virgins were terrified.
On the first day after taking over the area, a soldier came to Kozka’s house but he left after having a meal. The next day (November 18), at about 9 a.m., another armed Russian soldier came to the house and asked after the Austrian army. He refused meal but instead, he told Karolina and her father to come with him, supposedly to the commanding officer. He led them towards the forest but when they reached the edge, the soldier told Karolina’s father to return home. The terribly shaken man turned back, leaving his helpless daughter at the mercy of the terrifying soldier. Two boys heading towards the village hid themselves behind the bushes. They saw Karolina struggling with an assailant and running towards the swamps that made the chase difficult for the soldier. He abandoned the chase when he saw that she had collapsed dead due to loss of blood. Her lifeless body was found on December 4. The wounds she sustained bore witness to the enormousity of her sufferings and showed the little girl’s heroic defense of her innocence and purity. A carefully prepared report described thoroughly the place of her martyrdom and claimed Karolina’s intact virginity.
On June 30 1986, in the presence of Pope John Paul II, the “decree of the martyrdom of the Servant of God, Karolina Kozka” was proclaimed. Her beatification took place on June 10, 1987, during the third pastoral visit of His Holiness to his native country, Poland. Since then the cult of the Blessed Karolina is spreading all over the world. Her relics were procured by numerous communities in USA, Kazakhstan, Peru, Chad, Congo and many churches in Poland as well. She is the patron saint of the Diocese of Rzeszów as well as many parishes. The Blessed Karolina is regarded by many people, parishioners and pilgrims as well, as the great example to people of the Third Millennium because of her courage, humility, purity and virginity.
Virginity has always been an important primordial concept that has been untainted for ages and there are several great stories and symbolics that are meant to stir up teenage and adolescent consciousness on why it is best to remain virgins for as long as possible. Wreath for instance, is a symbolic replica of the thickened, sleeve-like, redundant, fimbriated hymen and as such has been used for millennia to symbolize virginity in Slavic peoples, including indigenous inhabitants of the territory of Europe’s oldest civilization (5,000 BC), eastward from the later German-Slavic boundary named by the Germans in the 9th century AD ‘Limes Sorabicus’.
Furthermore, in many ancient African cultures, it is not only desirable, but a must that the bride be a virgin. I remember seeing the movie adaptation of the famous story about the fearless Iyalode of Ibadan – Efunsetan Aniwura – in which one of her slaves was raped. On her wedding night, the traditional white handkerchief wasn’t blood-stained suggesting that she wasn’t married as a virgin. Her parents were ashamed, the husband (a royal prince) was furious and she was banished from the city for allegedly leading a promiscuous lifestyle; though she was raped.
But that was then and everything has changed. Being a virgin is extensively no longer a big deal since many brides and grooms walking the aisles these days are already room, bed and sex mates several months, sometimes years, before even considering marriage. Even the churches and mosques now join non-virgins in holy matrimonies and Nikah ceremonies respectively suggesting that God might have revised the aspect of His laws that once frowned at defiling the bed before marriage. And for those who still choose to be virgins, it has been the toughest and most trying times.
In South Africa, Namibia, Swaziland, Kenya, Congo, Uganda, Nigeria and almost entirely across Africa, there is a widely spread myth that having sex with virgins, especially maidens, can cure HIV/AIDS. In many areas with high HIV/AIDS incidence, maidens now lose their virginities willingly before forcefully which could result in death since not everyone can be like the Blessed Karolina.
Even for those virgins that are not at risk of being raped by those seeking mythical cure for HIV/AIDS, the media is not making things easy for them. Sex now sells like “pure water”, pornography airs on some national TVs and How I Lost My Virginity has become a reality show. Medical history has also not provided respite.
In 1554, a continental physician named Johannes Lange published a letter (then the standard method of conveying medical information) in which he detailed the symptoms of a young woman named Anna. Of “marriageable age,” Anna was too ill to be courted by the numerous young men who were interested. Her father sought advice on her condition. He detailed Anna’s symptoms:
…the character of her face, which during the past year blossomed in rosy cheeks and red lips, has lately turned pale, as if bloodless; her sad heart trembles severely at any bodily movement, and the arteries of her temples pulsate with feeling; she has an attack of dyspnoea when dancing or climbing stairs; her stomach turns away from food, above all meat; her legs–especially near the ankles–swell with oedema at night
Dr. Lange diagnosed the young girl at once (by mail, apparently) as having “white fever,” also known as “love fever.” He pointed out that there was rarely an associated fever. Basically, all the symptoms are caused by constricted vessels in the womb, which prevented the menstrual blood from taking its proper course, causing it to flow back up into the heart, liver and diaphragm. The cure? Marry her off. Pronto. Thus began the Disease of Virgins.
It wasn’t really new, of course. Hippocrates had written an entire treatise on the diseases of virgins, and Galen tended to agree with much of the corpus. But Hippocrates’ text was just then available to Western medicine, so the disease was sort of new to them. It didn’t take long for the disease to catch on. Young women who fell ill and became amenorrheic multiplied throughout Europe. Reports started flooding in. In many of these texts, the afflicted virgins were described as “green.” Yes, green. As in, jaundiced? Maybe. As in envious of their copulating sisters? Maybe.
In England, the green-ness became the defining factor. The disease was popularly termed “chlorosis” (Think chlorophyll. Green. Get it?). Bloodletting became a common method of treatment, if rapid marriage was out of the question.
The treatment is sex, right? But why does one virgin get chlorosis, when another is healthy? Diet of course. Also excessive vanity, flirtation, fashion sense. Reading trashy novels and watching lots of porns. Somewhere around the late 19th century, lab tests began to be useful. Some women were found to be anemic, and were treated with steel powder, and later iron.
The appearance of women in medicine in the early 20th century did not make chlorosis go away. After all, their medical education was essentially the same as the men. The idea wasn’t totally abandoned until World War I, when the loss of so many (a generation) of Europe’s young men threw women into new positions of responsibility and power. Menstrual and pubertal ideas shifted; menstruation was no longer viewed as a disease, but as basic physiology. With this shift, Virgin’s Disease, chlorosis, disappeared.
But in 2004, Associated Press reported that teens who pledge to remain virgins until marriage have the same rates of sexually transmitted diseases as those who don’t pledge abstinence, according to a study that examined the sex lives of 12,000 adolescents. The problem, the study found, is that those virginity “pledgers” are much less likely to use condoms.
“It’s difficult to simultaneously prepare for sex and say you’re not going to have sex,” said Peter Bearman, the chair of Columbia University’s Department of Sociology, who co-authored the study with Hannah Bruckner of Yale.
Unlike what many pro-sex activists claimed concerning the research, the message of the study is really simple: ’Just say no’ may work in the short term but doesn’t work in the long term.” Virgins should be informed and well prepared for sex before the right time finally comes. After the dusts settled over this, another research work caused extensive fear for elite virgins across the world.
In December 2007, Reuters reported that people who start having sex at a younger or older than average age appear to be at greater risk of developing sexual health problems later in life. The findings, according to researchers, cast some doubts on the benefits of abstinence-only sexual education that has been introduced in public schools across the world. This was true primarily of men, whose problems included difficulty maintaining an erection and reaching orgasm.
According to the American Journal of Public Health article, delaying sexual activity may “create health risks by impeding development of the emotional, cognitive, and interpersonal skills that are crucial to satisfactory sexual functioning and general well-being.” This is also true. But just like the former report, sexual education and self preparedness can keep virgins safe.
There is an uncontrollable avalanche of information on virgin health. Many sources are claiming to be authorities and are suggesting when, where and how to properly lose virginity. And to a large extent, their strategies aimed at stimulating fear and forcing virgins to have sex ASAP are working.
An unpublished research work reported that Nigeria cannot boast of a hundred thousand female virgin. It also said ninety per cent of Nigerian ladies lose their virginities before they are twenty years old. While for the boys, ninety three per cent will not graduate as virgins. For the very few that are still virgin, the cold lonely moments are becoming worsened by conflicting news that present new health threats for women with hymen.
But a deeper study of the ills associated with temporary celibacy reveals that the so-called risks are nothing compared to the dangers of early exposure to sex. According to Dr Halat’s graph of promiscuity, only virgins are free from contracting any of the charades of sexually transmitted infections. Since their reproductive systems aren’t excessively and prematurely stimulated, they still have a higher fertility record and can become more sexually active when they decide to start having sex. There are so many ways to tackle low libido, but some curious kids might be reading this.
God or nature has made the body capable of looking after itself without medical interference, most of the time. An intact hymen is the innate (natural) immunity that is meant to keep germs, bacteria and “other things” away from entering the vagina and uterus, which can lead to infections and infertility. Though it is seen as a sign of purity, it is also a protection against future nightmares.
Demystifying the mythical Virgin’s Disease is clearly one of the biggest success stories of modern, science-based reproductive medicine. We can now wipe out an entire array of diseases without lifting a finger, but by sexual chastisement. Are we good, or what?
Image source: African Lady