> Personally, I could never see the big thing about virginity, male or femalre,
> but then as all, I'm a product of my time. Wouldn't it be great to be able to
> really be objective?
To stick in a possibly objective view, virginity was a big deal in that it
was a manifestation of the purity of the body which folks who decided to
follow a life dedicated to their particular god were attempting to attain.
From the early church's viewpoint, the body and the temporal world are bad
things. By renouncing the body and the world, the individual can come
closer to God, though only through His grace can one attain final
salvation. You can find this theology in everything from Augustine to
Francis of Assisi and Catherine of Siena. One of the chief features of
renouncing the body would have been the abstinance of sexual activity.
The highest form of abstinance would have been virginity. Throw in that
Jesus was supposed to have been a virgin (divine example) and you have the
reason for why virginity was so important.
Why is this sort of thing of interest to scholars nowdays? It is because
that, for the most part, until recent times most scholars shied away from
anything having to do with sex/gender, so there's a very large amount of
scholarship that is needed to be done to increase our understanding of
what social relations were like, and how people thought in times past.
Maybe some of the folks on the list who went to college in the 60's and
70's can talk to this, but it seems that the earlier scholars held
to their own sexual mores/concepts of gender roles and that it was not
until the sexual revolution hit academia that professors actually began to
explore some of these issues.
For the obcelt to this, it is very important to keep in mind who the
early Celtic scholars were, and how they thought. I will
guarantee you that an interpretation of the "Tain" by Thomas Kinsella
is very different than an interpretation by Lady Gregory.