I’m back in the Congo after an unusually pleasant flight. For once, the stewardess didn’t give me a funny look when I used the hot towel to dampen the soles of my feet. The other passengers in first class, who were diplomats and ministers, knew better than to complain about my creative use of the toiletries. An aluminium tube 30,000 feet above sea level is the wrong place for an argument with a gorilla.
What really made the time fly was the book I was reading, a translation of De Secretis Mulierum, an ancient guidebook on the human female. It was written by Albertus “Catweazle” Magnus, a medieval theologian with unusually progressive views about women for his time, only advocating their torture in extreme cases of witchcraft or hen-pecking. The main thrust of his argument was that women should be shunned, especially when menstruating, when they emitted “evil humours” capable of killing a goat at ten paces.
The chapter of the book I found most fascinating describes a foolproof test for female virginity, no doubt perfected after months of clinical trials. According to Doctor Magnus, a woman whose purity is in doubt should be forced to sniff a lettuce. If her flesh has been corrupted by man (or some other agent of defilement), she will then pass water. It was state-of-the-art science in its day, although one has to pity the innocent maids who gave false positives because they’d drunk a flagon of prune juice before inhaling the salad fumes.
The only modern equivalent of this virginity test I’ve heard of is the one proposed by Vladimir Rakovsky, a Russian psychologist who runs a charm school in Moscow. According to Rakovsky, you can find out everything you need to know about a woman by watching her eat a carrot. If she blushes and nibbles, she’s a virgin; if she chews like a horse, she’s a fishwife; if she sucks before biting, she’s slept with every member of the village council. He didn’t say what kind of woman would refuse to eat the carrot. A lesbian or a prick-teaser, perhaps? In all honesty, the test sounds as if was devised by someone who spent his youth peeping at hefty farm girls during their lunch break.
Fortunately, we now live in an enlightened age when no man of substance cares whether the woman he courts is a virgin. Take Charlie Sheen, for example. I bet he never even bothered to ask Bree Olson whether she was a virgin before inviting her to join the harem in his kingsize bed. Miss Olson, for her part, has not given any indication of feeling ashamed that Charlie was not her first lover. Indeed, her self-esteem was so undiminished that she callously dumped him by text message.
Good for both of them, is what I say. Charlie deserves credit for believing that a woman with a past is still worthy of his cocaine-snorting lechery. And Bree deserves credit for not clinging to Charlie out of fear that no other man could afford her. I like it when famous humans set a good example for their fans.
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