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Putting 'virginity testing' in quotation marks where it belongs

Today, the New York Times ran a story about the women pushing back against Egyptian patriarchy, while being forced into the back seat by the very groups they fought for. The story featured Samira Ibrahim (above), a young woman who has bravely come forward to talk about the sexual assaults (initially described as virginity tests) committed by Egyptian military against many arrested female protesters.

I really want to thank the New York Times for putting the term 'virginity testing' in quotation marks where it belongs. For too long, media coverage has given these kinds of examinations legitimacy, as if anything about a woman's sexual history can be determined by the state of her hymen. We used to make women sit on onions to see if it could be smelled on her breath. That was a 'virginity test' once as well–and about as accurate.

Once we abolish the idea that anyone can be tested for 'virginity,' the next step will be to abolish the stigma or judgement attached to a woman's sexual history. The purpose behind the 'tests' performed in Egypt was to shame these women and guarantee their ruin if they ever came forward about it. We should all admire women like Samira for their bravery.

This photograph by Ed Ou for The New York Times accompanied the story