The World’s Oldest Fantasy: Selling Virginity on Mexico City Streets

Friday, January 6, 2017: 11:10 AM
Mile High Ballroom 1B (Colorado Convention Center)
Nicole von Germeten, Oregon State University
Fantasies about female virginity permeate Spanish American social behavior, at least in terms of the rhetoric of the honor code, which mandated that men protect the maiden status of their female relatives. In the spiritual world, of course the Virgin Mary offered colonial subjects their most revered mediator. But how did the virginity fantasy play out in daily life? Social historians have found a great deal of evidence, in both Spain and New Spain, that in practice, individuals did not fetishize virginity as much as intellectual, juridical, and clerical sources did. Sources relating to the prosecution of early nineteenth-century women who ran urban brothels suggest that virginity represented a useful con in their entrepreneurial arsenal. Women who manipulated male virginity fantasies carried out a tradition dating back at least three centuries: the ploy of “selling” a virgin numerous times. In the surviving cases, contrary to our fantasy of Spanish American male desires, Mexican men looking to purchase a sexual experience shied away from and rejected young women marketed as virgins. To them, the virgin state represented a heavy financial burden, not a sexually arousing enticement to spend money. This paper explores the misunderstandings of the fantasy and fetish of female virginity as represented in criminal investigations from the final decades of the Spanish Viceroyalties.