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Plastic Surgery

Just The Tip: News from the World of Virginity and Beyond featuring vatican gynecology, wedding night tips, books for teens and Tennessee is the worst

Happy Hanukah to all those that celebrate! Here's are this week's top stories from the world of virginity, ladyparts and sex. For up to the minute news, follow our Facebook Page, where we post every day!

 

100-Year-Old Wedding Night Advice for Newlyweds

On one hand they're pretty clear about the hymen not being an indicator of virginity. On the other hand here's what they think is: 
"The one true and only test which any man should look for is modesty in demeanor before marriage, absence of both assumed ignorance and a disagreeable familiarity, and a pure and religious frame of mind. When these are present, he need not doubt that he has a faithful and chaste wife."

Tennessee school wins right to ban gays and women who’ve had sex: ‘This is who we are’

From the story, which I can't believe is not parody:
'The waiver allows the school to ban pregnant students, women who have had an abortion, single mothers, LGBT students and anyone else who does not fit their religious ideology.
“This is who we are as a Christian university,” O’Brien opined. “These are our religious principles. And in a changing world, we would like to reaffirm that this is who we are and who we intend to be.” '

Daniel Holtzclaw's Victims, In Their Own Words

Former Oklahoma City Police Department Officer Daniel Holtzclaw was found guilty of multiple counts of rape and sexual assault. These are the testimonies of his victims:
"According to prosecutors, Holtzclaw targeted these women because they had records and lived in a high-crime neighborhood. He allegedly chose them because they didn’t want any trouble and because they feared the police — because they likely wouldn’t report their assaults to the police. He was the police."

Twenty-three more books every teenager should read

Did you know this?
Every teenage in Sweden is being given a copy of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s We Should All Be Feminists? Here's a good and useful list of other great books for teens, with the bonus of shoutouts to our friends Rachel Hills and Scarleteen's Heather Corinna.

Is Technology Making Us Sluttier?

Well, probably not:
"In the same way that mid-century antibiotics and contraception helped kick off the sexual revolution, better HIV treatments (as well as Gardasil, more advanced contraception, and that old standby, the condom) might encourage more libertine behavior by making sex feel safer than it did during the panic of the 1990s—but granted, that doesn’t really make for the most compelling of Vanity Fair screeds."

He Called Her a Slut. He Got Fired

...And then a bunch of trolls blamed her for it.
"A culture of sexist tolerance undermines entire industries, let alone individual people’s daily lives. This tolerance continues because we’ve created cultures were targets of awful behavior are expected to just take it."

...and finally, you can't make this stuff up:

Catholic university overseen by the Church to host conference about the secrets of the female body

From the story:
"Topics covered at the landmark conference are said to include the lifting, tightening and bleaching of female genitals. Delegates will also discuss the amplification of the G-spot and the O-spot, a point behind the surface which experts claim is more sensitive to pleasure than the G-spot. The delegates will also be greeted to an audience with Pope Francis and a walk with in the Vatican gardens, the Times reported. They will then take part in a 'hands on course' which features operations on '14 live cases'."

Be a virginspotter! Send us stories for our weekly round up here, or tweet at us with our @virginitymovie handle. 

Ask Trixie: How can I make my future husband believe I'm a virgin?

I had sex about 3 years ago and it was only one time and I was 15 years old. I bled a lot and it hurt like 3 days. What will I do to make my future husband to believe I'm a virgin? Do I need to see a doctor to check if I need a surgery or can I just fake blood? I cant sleep at night because I'm scared just thinking about it all the time. –W.

Hi W. –

I’m so sorry you are going through this.

The first and most important thing to know is that no one can prove or show that someone has had intercourse or is not a virgin by any definition. A doctor can’t look at you and tell anything, and many women never bleed, even the first time they have intercourse. These are the facts, no matter what you have been taught. So if a future husband is looking for some kind of proof of virginity, it doesn’t exist. It would be very possible and common to have intercourse for the very first time and never bleed at all (This is how it happened for me, and I’m sure many of the women you know). For more detailed information, you can read my post about bleeding, virginity and hymen surgery here, but I'll discuss some of it here as well.

I will assume by your questions that you live within a culture that puts a high value on virginity for women. While many people claim this kind of thinking protects you and celebrates your purity, it really is a lot more aboutcontrolling your body and telling you what you can and can’t do with it. The idea that you have less value if you’ve had sex is false, unfair and dangerous, especially because I’m betting there isn’t the same requirement for the men. Our favorite sex ed website Scarleteen has received many letters from women in your situation, and also from men who demand ways to prove virginity, and Scarleteen wrote a really good post about virginity and women's bodies.

Finally, the RFSU (the Swedish Association for Sexuality Education) is combating myths about the hymen and virginity and created a PDF book you can download. It includes information about hymen 'reconstruction' which is the surgery you are referring to. Some women are so afraid of not bleeding, that they have this done even if they have never had sex. As RSFU writes, surgery rarely solves any problems, firstly because outcomes vary, and secondly because it helps to maintain a prejudiced view of women and their sexuality.

This may not always be possible, but if there is a female relative or a doctor you can speak to, you can share with them the information I've linked to above and talk through your concerns. It helps to have someone nearby who is there to listen and help.

Got a question about virginity, sex, relationships, feminism or filmmaking?  Ask Trixie here

A Hymen by any other name – in Swedish, English and Arabic – is definitely sweet.

From time to time we republish our favorite posts. This originally ran in December 2009.

The RFSU (the Swedish Association for Sexuality Education) is my new favorite sexual health organization! They distribute a booklet for the express purpose of dispelling myths surrounding the hymen and virginity. And they've coined a new name to better understand this somewhat notorious part of the female anatomy: Vaginal Corona (slidkrans* in Swedish):

In Swedish, the hymen used to be called mödomshinna, which translates literally as “virginity membrane.” In fact, there is no brittle membrane, but rather multiple folds of mucous membrane.

The vaginal corona is a permanent part of a woman’s body throughout her life. It doesn’t disappear after she first has sexual intercourse, and most women don’t bleed the first time,” said Åsa Regnér, RFSU secretary general.

Here's their unapologetic take on the meaning of virginity:

Virginity is a vague concept based on perceptions and myths, chiefly concerning female sexuality, that RFSU would not wish to endorse. For one thing, virginity is often associated with a heteronormative view of sex restricted to penetrative intercourse between man and woman...

For another, in many languages and cultures, virgin is synonymous with innocence, the opposite of which is guilt. There is no guilt involved in having sex, and no need to feel guilty about it.

The book gives examples of different vaginal coronas as well as a diagram of the vulva, and hopes to dispel the myth that all women bleed the first time they have intercourse. Here's what they have to say about hymen reconstruction (a procedure even non-sexually active women have to ensure they bleed):

Surgery on the vaginal corona rarely solves any problems, firstly because outcomes vary, and secondly because it helps to maintain patriarchal structures and a prejudiced view of women and their sexuality...it is not possible to sew a membrane in place, to recreate something that never existed. Doctors say it’s like “stitching butter” because the tissue is soft and elastic.

The book addresses vaginal intercourse and pleasure:

For a woman to enjoy vaginal intercourse – regardless of how many times she has done it and what is being inserted in her vagina – she needs to be aroused and lubricated (wet). If she is tense and has difficulties to relax, it may hurt more. It doesn’t matter whether it’s her first, second or tenth time.

And sexual assault:

Although you can’t tell from looking at a vaginal corona whether it has been penetrated, if you’ve been the victim of a sexual assault it’s possible to find traces of your attacker. It’s therefore critical to seek medical care as soon as possible after the incident, and not to wash yourself. The injuries that doctors record and the samples they take can be used as evidence in court. Equally important is the need to talk to someone and get counselling and support to help you deal with what has happened.

The booklet, which you can download here, is written in a very friendly and accessible tone – an impressive translation job from Swedish. The best news is that not only have they translated the booklet into English, by popular demand it's also available in Arabic and Sorani (a Kurdish language spoken in Iran and Iraq). All of our hymenology posts are here.

*Anyone know the literal definition of that? Their new term for the hymen in Arabic is تاج{اكليل}المهبل، and in Sorani, the term is ئهڵقهی زێ

[Hymen Week] Check out my story 'Regenerating Hymens and Bloody Sheets' over at Adios Barbie

Cable has Shark Week, we have Hymen Week (no dentata jokes, please)! All this week we're reposting some of our favorite hymen-related stories from the truly alarming to the very ridiculous. Share your biggest hymen and virginity myths here!

Ever wondered how an 'artificial hymen' really works? Wondering if your hymen could actually seal over during a dry spell? Well, wonder no more. I'm very excited about a post I just did for Adios Barbie called "Regenerating Hymens and Bloody Sheets: What’s Really Going On Down There?" Here's a couple of paragraphs:

For example, friends often tell me they didn’t bleed the first time they had intercourse because gymnastics or horseback riding broke their hymens. In fact, the bonk of a balance beam tends to get absorbed quite well by the vulva. Heather Corinna of Scarleteen points out that it’s more likely that, in the past, the threat of a broken hymen was used to discourage women from doing just these kinds physical activities.

As for me, during a long sexual dry spell, I’ve joked that my hymen must be growing back. Guess what? This can actually happen. In “Virgin: The Untouched History,” author Hanne Blank tells the story of a Taiwanese woman who had no less than three hymenotomies to unseal a relentlessly regenerating hymen. Even a sex ed film from 1947 tells us the hymen has nothing do with virginity, so why have the myths persisted?

To read the rest of it, go to Adios Barbie, a fabulous site dedicated to inspiring a body and self-loving world, and leave some comments. There's a bonus video on The Hymen Marketplace as well!

[Hymen Week] A Hymen by any other name – in Swedish, English and Arabic – is definitely sweet.

Cable has Shark Week, we have Hymen Week! All this week we're reposting some of our favorite hymen-related stories from the truly alarming to the very ridiculous. Share your biggest hymen and virginity myths here! This post originally ran in 2010.

The RFSU (the Swedish Association for Sexuality Education) is my new favorite sexual health organization! They distribute a booklet for the express purpose of dispelling myths surrounding the hymen and virginity. And they've coined a new name to better understand this somewhat notorious part of the female anatomy: Vaginal Corona (slidkrans* in Swedish):

In Swedish, the hymen used to be called mödomshinna, which translates literally as “virginity membrane.” In fact, there is no brittle membrane, but rather multiple folds of mucous membrane.

The vaginal corona is a permanent part of a woman’s body throughout her life. It doesn’t disappear after she first has sexual intercourse, and most women don’t bleed the first time,” said Åsa Regnér, RFSU secretary general.

Here's their unapologetic take on the meaning of virginity:

Virginity is a vague concept based on perceptions and myths, chiefly concerning female sexuality, that RFSU would not wish to endorse. For one thing, virginity is often associated with a heteronormative view of sex restricted to penetrative intercourse between man and woman...

For another, in many languages and cultures, virgin is synonymous with innocence, the opposite of which is guilt. There is no guilt involved in having sex, and no need to feel guilty about it.

The book gives examples of different vaginal coronas as well as a diagram of the vulva, and hopes to dispel the myth that all women bleed the first time they have intercourse. Here's what they have to say about hymen reconstruction (a procedure even non-sexually active women have to ensure they bleed):

Surgery on the vaginal corona rarely solves any problems, firstly because outcomes vary, and secondly because it helps to maintain patriarchal structures and a prejudiced view of women and their sexuality...it is not possible to sew a membrane in place, to recreate something that never existed. Doctors say it’s like “stitching butter” because the tissue is soft and elastic.

The book addresses vaginal intercourse and pleasure:

For a woman to enjoy vaginal intercourse – regardless of how many times she has done it and what is being inserted in her vagina – she needs to be aroused and lubricated (wet). If she is tense and has difficulties to relax, it may hurt more. It doesn’t matter whether it’s her first, second or tenth time.

And sexual assault:

Although you can’t tell from looking at a vaginal corona whether it has been penetrated, if you’ve been the victim of a sexual assault it’s possible to find traces of your attacker. It’s therefore critical to seek medical care as soon as possible after the incident, and not to wash yourself. The injuries that doctors record and the samples they take can be used as evidence in court. Equally important is the need to talk to someone and get counselling and support to help you deal with what has happened.

The booklet, which you can download here, is written in a very friendly and accessible tone – an impressive translation job from Swedish. The best news is that not only have they translated the booklet into English, by popular demand it's also available in Arabic and Sorani (a Kurdish language spoken in Iran and Iraq). All of our hymenology posts are here.

*Anyone know the literal definition of that? Their new term for the hymen in Arabic is تاج{اكليل}المهبل، and in Sorani, the term is ئهڵقهی زێ

Some advice for first-timers, with man-parts and without

First from Em & Lo, a 34-year-old woman asks about making her first intercourse less painful:

There were times with one ex when I thought I was ready, but it would start to hurt, I’d get scared and then wouldn’t go through with it. I was wondering if I should see gynecologist and have my hymen broken ahead of time to save me from some discomfort. Everything I’ve read has said first intercourse sex is never “magical.” Could this help?
Suggestions from a gynecologist are here.

Then, from Jezebel, some first-time advice for ladies and their special ladies:

A while back, Social Minefield tackled the issue of losing your virginity. But as many readers pointed out, not all deflowerings involve a dick — herewith, some tips for your first time with a lady.
Tips from Autostraddle and others are here.

The Vulva Train meets the Slot Machine

The subject of vulvas has come up several times on this blog, from furniture to transportation to promoting more diverse and realistic images of female ladyparts. So we're really pleased to introduce you to our guest blogger Rachel Liebert–whose organization has also appeared on this blog–to keep the conversation going:

The International Vulva Knitting Circle started late in 2008 as an activist project inspired by the New View’s WTF-ing against the growing industry of “female genital cosmetic surgeries”. That is, girls and women being encouraged to have their vulvas surgically altered so that they “look prettier” and “feel better”. But who, we asked, says that they are not pretty or fabulous-feeling in the first place?! In response we decided to wield the knitting needle and create a whole heap of diverse and unique lady-bits (above) that would speak back to the increasing ways that corporations try to narrowly define what our bodies and sexualities “should be”.

We put the word out and badabing-badaboom we now have over 150 different vulvas made by people across six countries, and over 500 members all up. People either craft their vulvas on their own or host circles with their friends. Either way all crafts are welcome and we consciously deter the use of patterns (yes yes diversity) so long as people include the labia majora, the labia minora, and of course the all-important clitoris.

Last year we had our first public exhibition in Brooklyn, NY, at an activist event called Vulvagraphics, which pulled together a collection of artists’ works that celebrated female genital diversity. Since then we’ve been planning for the knitted wee ladies to go a-travelling so that the collection can be used to support other local events. And it seems our first stop is going to be this September in Las Vegas when the vulva surgeons are hosting their annual conference. The Vulva Train meets the Slot Machine. (Okay so admittedly it’s not my classiest of puns, but really, how could I resist?).

Our inside scoop tells us that the first surgeon meeting of this kind was disturbingly heavy on the profit-motive and low on the respect for our lovely vajayjays. So this time, we want to be there. We are working with the New View to host a counter-conference that will be happening up the road from the downtown doctors. Framing the Vulva will bring together an international group of genital scholars, artists, and activists, to critically examine the rise in cosmetic vulva surgeries.
The day will be followed by an evening celebration at the Erotic Heritage Museum, which will include a Petals photography showing and film-screening, as well as an exhibition from little ol’ us. We will also be carrying out a WANTED sticker and poster campaign leading up to the event to draw public attention to the surgeons’ meeting and promote female genital diversity.

While still relatively small in number (although fast increasing), for us these surgeries are especially significant as they offer a window to several important things to do with the regulation of female sexuality. Like how we are constantly told how to have sex, how to look, how to feel. Or that that we are inundated with conservative sex education and medicalized messages about our selves and each other. Or of course that Those Angry Feminists are all man-hating and sex-deprived and (ew OMG) hairy.

All of which are embraced by the promoters of female genital cosmetic surgeries to convince us ladies that we, or our husbands (because we all know every good woman has one of these), need them. And thus to make these businesses some sadly-not-so-hard-earned clams.

So, if you can, come to our VulVegas event to confront the ways that corporations are getting their business all up in our’s. And if you can’t, feel free to pull out those crafty tools and contribute to our collection for the exhibition. All vulvas welcome, always.

Rachel Liebert is originally from New Zealand but currently living in NYC doing her PhD at the Graduate Center, CUNY. She has been involved in various forms of activism to challenge the corporate co-optation of our psyches/bodies/sexualities over the past five years, including The International Vulva Knitting Circle and New View Campaign.

IN NYC August 18th: Body Typed: Three films by Jesse Epstein

I'm really excited to finally see the screening of "BODY TYPED short films on perfection," which will include a discussion featuring Sundance award-winning filmmaker Jesse Epstein. It's brought to you by Paradigm Shift which has fabulous programs all year round.

Body Typed is a series of short films that use humor to raise serious concerns about the marketplace of commercial illusion and unrealizable standards of physical perfection:

Wet Dreams and False Images: When Dee-Dee the barber learns about the art of photo-retouching, he may never look at his “wall of beauty” the same way again. Short Subject Jury Award, 2004 Sundance Film Festival

The Guarantee: A dancer’s hilarious story about his prominent nose and the effect if has on his career. Best Short Film, 2007 Newport International Film Festival

34×25x36: A look at mannequins, religion, and perfection. SXSW, Full Frame, True/False, National PBS Broadcast on POV

More info on the films and Jesse is here.

Here are the event details:

Wednesday, August 18th at 6:30 pm
The Tank- 354 West 45th Street (between 8th & 9th Ave.)

Subway: A,C,E to 42nd Street/Times Square

Cost: $12 students/ pre-paid, $15 at door
http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/117245

Or check out the
Facebook invite.

A consumer reports on artificial hymens: Beware the tell-tale smell

We've written about the mail-order artificial hymen and the death threats its use has inspired in Egypt here and here. Now, thanks to a link from Stacy, one of our Facebook Fans, we have a story direct from the Global Times of China of a first-person encounter with the device:

The ads for artificial hymens caught Ms Xie's attention outside a Chongqing sex store. She lowered her head, put on sun glasses, went inside and purchased a box of "Virtuous Girl Red" hymens for her big day: her first physical union with her husband-to-be.

The 100-yuan ($14 US) hymen kit contained a small dark-red semitransparent plastic insert. Xie tore off its cover, inserted it and waited 20 minutes until it "melted", and then carefully climbed into bed where her husband-to-be was waiting, with a voice running through her head saying, "remember to act like you are in pain."

After a few ups and downs, moans and groans, they relaxed, turned on the light and excitedly spotted a liquid that looks like blood on the bed sheet. He smiled and held her tightly in his arms. She felt like she was standing at the door of heaven until his question drew her quickly back to earth.

"Honey, what is that smell?"

It turned out that the "user friendly guidelines" written on the Virtuous Girl package neglected to mention a significant drawback: the "blood" smells.

They broke up eventually. Too much pressure

Xie, 27, from Chongqing and who had had one previous partner prior to her "second virginity," told the Global Times that the reason she faked her virginity was because of pressure from her ex-boyfriend's family.

"I wanted to tell him the truth before our wedding because I thought he is open enough to accept me, " Xie said. "But one day I overheard the conversation between him and his mother, asking if he was my first man."

"Then I realized if virginity means so much to his family, then I have to do something," she added.

The worse was yet to come. The artificial virginal hymen ruined her would-be marriage, left her heartbroken and with pain whenever she urinated. After consulting doctors, Xie found she had contracted vaginitis as a result of the failed cover-up operation.

"I don't regret using a fake hymen, but I don't recommend others use one," Xie said after 800 yuan in medical bills hadn't rid her of vaginitis after eight months.

I don't know how many times we've written this, but I'll say it again: Hymens are no indication of anyone's sexual status, and expecting women to be 'pure' with no expectations for men is a nasty and dangerous double-standard. The trend seems to be lessening with the younger generations, but still...

The sellers of artificial hymens are doing a big business all over the world, including in the US. In China, you can get them in shops, online or through ads in public toilets. In a country where the average age of 'first contact,' as they call it, is 22, the older generation's expectations of female virginity are still going strong. Another reason the global practice of hymen reconstruction is booming there. And don't get me started on China Shrink Cream.

As for their toxicity, consumers are advised to go with the higher-priced Japanese brands costing up to 500 yuan ($70 US)for a 2-hymen (!?) box to avoid infections - and that tell-tale smell.

Stitch a Hymen, Save a LifeThe absurd necessity of hymen reconstruction

The BBC recently did a program on young Arab women who undergo hymen reconstruction surgery to ensure they bleed (and therefore appear to be virgins) on their wedding nights. The clinic in this report is in Paris, but the surgery is done all over the world including the US. And it is by no means a purely Muslim practice although the Islamic world does an excellent job of drawing the world's attention to its special brand of misogyny. I've written about hymen reconstruction before, and every time another story comes up, I get upset all over again. Here's what one young Lebanese women quoted in the story says about the fallout of her first sexual relationship:

"I was scared my family would find out especially since they didn't approve of my relationship," she says. "I was terrified they might kill me." After seven years in the relationship, her lover's family wanted him to marry someone else. Nada attempted suicide. "I got a bottle of Panadol and a bottle of household chemicals," she says. "I drank them and said, 'That's it'." Nada is now 40, and found out about surgical hymen restoration just six years ago. She married and had two children. Her wedding night was a stressful ordeal. "I didn't sleep that night. I was crying," she says. "I was very scared but he didn't suspect anything."

I guess that counts as a happy ending in this messed-up world, if you have access to a doctor who will perform the surgery and a couple of thousand dollars to spare.

The doctors have sometimes come under fire, accused of profiting off this sexism, but as I've written before, they're also the ones dealing with all those people dragging their daughters or future wives into their offices demanding virginity tests. These doctors know there's no such thing, and usually pronounce in favor of the women anyway, as they've been doing for centuries.

Hymens come in different shapes and sizes, and not every woman bleeds the first time she had intercourse, so the whole bloody sheet ritual says absolutely nothing about whether a woman is a virgin, has previously been penetrated by a penis, or any other fact about her, except how sensitive her vaginal tissue happens to be on that day.

Henia Dakkak, a gynecologist and technical advisor to the UNFPA told me that when she had her own practice, women would often come to see her for 'the stitch' as she called it. Whether they had been sexually active or not, they wanted her to put a stitch in their vaginal opening to guarantee they would bleed when it was torn open by penile penetration.

The RFSU (the Swedish Association for Sexuality Education) distributes a great booklet designed to dispel myths surrounding the hymen and virginity. They take issue with the whole concept of hymen reconstruction (they refer to the hymen as the corona, a term gaining in popularity among sex educators):

Surgery on the vaginal corona rarely solves any problems, firstly because outcomes vary, and secondly because it helps to maintain patriarchal structures and a prejudiced view of women and their sexuality...it is not possible to sew a membrane in place, to recreate something that never existed. Doctors say it’s like “stitching butter” because the tissue is soft and elastic.

In an NPR report, Egyptian author Amy Mowafi talks astutely about her own issues with re-virginization. She's referring to an artificial virginity device, but it can easily apply to surgery as well:

"The problem with a device like this is it makes it too easy for the woman to play by the rules of society instead of standing up and saying, 'No, you need to understand that I am a good person. And it should not all come down to this issue of a hymen...'

"As an Arab — an independent Arab woman — you can break as many glass ceilings as you like. But you can never break your hymen."

Arab writer and social commentator, Sana Al Khayat tells the BBC it's about control:

"If she's a virgin, she doesn't have any way of comparing [her husband to other men]. If she's been with other men, then she has experience. Having experience makes women stronger."

Like I said up top, this is not about Muslims or Arabs. You don't have to go halfway around the world, to another culture and religion, to see that dynamic in action.

Artist Regina José Galindo's video Himenoplastia (Hymenoplasty) and the trafficking of virgin girls

Regina José Galindo, a Guatemalan artist, performer and poet has a show at Exit Art in New York through Nov. 21st. I wasn't that familiar with her work until I read an article about her in The Brooklyn Rail:

Regina José Galindo’s practice is the embodiment of Akira Kurosawa’s dictum, “To be an artist means never to avert one’s eyes,” and she challenges the viewer to do the same, even as she’s carving the word “perra” (“bitch”) into the flesh of her thigh.

I first encountered Galindo’s work in the Arsenale section of the 2005 Venice Biennale—three performance videos and a large gray cube where she hid during the first five days of the exhibition and whipped herself 256 times for the number of women systematically murdered in Guatemala so far that year. The three videos, “Skin,” “Who can erase the traces?” and the notorious “Himenoplastia,” are part of the current exhibition at Exit Art—Galindo’s first solo in New York.

Much of her work deals with political violence, especially against women–and it's not pretty. In one of her most graphic works, titled Himenoplastia (Hymenoplasty) she videotapes her own (botched) hymen reconstruction surgery. There's a still of her video here.

This is a common procedure sought out by women prior to their wedding nights. It's also performed on girls in sex trafficking rings to feed the demand for 'virgins,' real or otherwise. Galindo talks about it in an interview with BOMB Magazine. Here are some excerpts:

One day in April I was reading the newspaper, and I saw an article about reconstructing the hymen. Then I saw a classified ad purporting to restore virginity. I went to the advertised place, which was a bit seedy, and interviewed the doctor.

...I showed him my work, and we broached the idea of filming the process. He agreed to do it for a certain amount of money.

I went to the clinic several times to observe the women who were patients there. I spoke with the doctor several times too, and he told me the stories of many of his patients. The majority of the patients want to regain their intactness for their wedding. They do it to gain a certain social status. In other cases, children and adolescent victims of sex trafficking are operated on so that they will fetch a better price. It is preferable to buy a virgin girl not only because of her virginity but also because it is considered better protection against STDs.

The operation was quick. Half an hour. Painful. Chaotic.

We left, feeling happy that it was over. In Belia’s car, I began to feel a warm liquid between my legs, flowing more and more with every passing second. We drove back to her house and I put on a sort of diaper, but nothing could stop the flow. Then we went to my gynecologist’s clinic—my doctor there had been seeing me for years, and had asked to examine me after the operation—and from there to the hospital.

Everything happened so fast. They dressed me in a gown, laid me on a bed, stuck an anesthetic in my arm, and as I was fading into sleep I could hear the nurses talking among themselves, feeling sorry for me as they had for the many other girls who had been admitted to the hospital bleeding from a botched medical procedure, be it an abortion or a hymenoplasty.

I'm reluctantly going to see this show, although just contemplating it disturbs me. I'll let you know what I think once I've seen it.

Also in New York, but ending this weekend, is "Journey," a multi-artist installation that depicts the experience of being a sex trafficking victim. More info here.

The Artificial Hymen discussion continues...

"As an Arab — an independent Arab woman — you can break as many glass ceilings as you like. But you can never break your hymen."
Amy Mowafi, author of a popular column and now best-selling book, "Fe-mail: The Trials and Tribulations of Being a Good Egyptian Girl"

The Egyptian virginity story sure has legs! It's been two weeks since I first heard about the controversy over something called the Artificial Hymen, and the stories are still coming.

In an NPR report, Egyptian author Amy Mowafi talks astutely about her own issues with virginity devices:

"The problem with a device like this is it makes it too easy for the woman to play by the rules of society instead of standing up and saying, 'No, you need to understand that I am a good person. And it should not all come down to this issue of a hymen.' "

Interestingly, the NPR story prompted some commenters to write that they were offended by the story, seeing it as pornographic and inappropriate. While any story about sex can certainly be titillating, the way much of the world treats women and their sexuality is worth serious discussion.

The control, testing and enforcement of virginity are something enacted upon women by men seeking to control women's lives. At worst, it is brutal and often lethal. At the very least (as it is in the USA) it is shaming, manipulative and often creates a public health hazard due to the lack of accurate sex education.

And it is by no means a purely Muslim practice although the Islamic world does an excellent job of drawing the world's attention to its special brand of misogyny.

The conversation continues.Here's the full NPR report on All Things Considered. The embeded audio is below:

Egypt wants death penalty for users of Artifical Hymen

[Correction: Tracy Clark-Flory reports, in her excellent Salon article, that the price of the Artificial Hymen has gone up to $30]
From a BBC News report:
A leading Egyptian scholar has demanded that people caught importing a female virginity-faking device into the country should face the death penalty.
Abdul Mouti Bayoumi said supplying the item was akin to spreading vice in society, a crime punishable by death in Islamic Sharia law. The device is said to release liquid imitating blood, allowing a female to feign virginity on her wedding night. The contraption is seen as a cheap and simple alternative to hymen repair surgery, which is carried out in secret by some clinics in the Middle East.
Professor Bayoumi, a scholar at the prestigious al-Azhar University, said it undermined the moral deterrent of fornication, which he described as a crime and one of the cardinal sins in Islam.
We're not sure, but we think he's referring to the Artificial Virginity Hymen, which he must have read about on our blog some time ago. The copy on the ad for the product says:

When your lover penetrate, it will ooze out a liquid that look like blood not too much but just the right amount. Add in a few moans and groans, you will pass through undetectable.

So if you're caught using one of these rather icky devices, you should be put to death by the state. And if you don't bleed on your wedding night, you should be put to death by your family. Given that bleeding has nothing whatsoever to do with whether or not you've had intercourse before, and many virgins don't bleed the first time, it's not surprising that women go to great lengths to assure blood on the sheet.

It's why so many women (even actual non-intercourse-having-virgins!) go to those clinics to get a stitch or two put into their hymen. Why isn't this guy ranting about the clinics and the doctors who perform the surgery? Are they the secret lobby group, pissed off they're losing business to a product you can get for $30 plus shipping?
I doubt it. They actually perform a very valuable humanitarian service 'certifying' virginity even though they know full well it can't be done (as several have told me in interviews). Maybe when it's 'legal' for women to be sexually active, they won't have to go to any crazy lengths to prove something that's unprovable.

"There are no real virgins in Tehran"

Great essay in DoubleX about Iranian sexuality by author Janet Afary, a professor of religion and women's studies and the author of the book Sexual Politics in Modern Iran. Here she talks about the shifting attitudes towards sexuality among young people:

Today dating is even more common despite continued parental objections and state prohibitions. In an Iranian feminist publication, I saw an interview with an assistant principal in one of the lower middle class schools of south Tehran. The principal said that while young girls of her own generation skipped school to go to parks and cinemas with boys, her students go to their boyfriends’ houses or their own houses. And yes, they sometimes have sex.

In some cases, fathers assist sons, and mothers quietly help daughters. When a veiled mother was brought into the principal’s office and told about her daughter’s secret dating, she confessed that to protect her daughter from her father’s wrath and the morality police on the streets, “on occasion I tell her to bring her friend home with her and I go into the kitchen giving them some privacy.”

Much like the stories I've heard from Turkish women, the importance of virginity is waning, although not the importance of maintaining the illusion of virginity:

Among the more cosmopolitan middle classes, virginity is no longer crucial. Greater access to cars has meant greater privacy, allowing more women to become sexually active before marriage. Many women from the more pious middle classes have premarital sex and then a hymen repair operation before getting married. The popularity of the operation has resulted in numerous jokes that in Tehran, there are “no real virgins.”...

...In Tehran and the big cities, young people might obtain a simple certificate of temporary marriage to avoid the morality police when they go to the Caspian Sea resort for summer vacation. They then annul the vow when they get home.

There are problems, however, not unlike in the US. Here and there, the double standard reigns supreme:

Although premarital sex is becoming more common among urban youth, the young men feel little responsibility or obligation toward the young women they sleep with. Few use contraceptives, and the burden of avoiding pregnancy falls mostly on the women. Young women also have no legal protection from sexual molestation and rape, unless they admit to the authorities that they engaged in premarital sex, in which case the woman’s punishment is harsher than that of the male perpetrator.

Unlike the situation here in the US, the Iranian government actually sponsors sex education classes:

Couples attended required state-sponsored sex education classes before marriage; many young urban and rural women first learned about female orgasm in these classes. These two major changes—greater literacy and sex education—altered the institution of marriage and attitudes about sexuality.


Afary includes a link to a strange little video from a condom factory in Iran. Scoot forward to the 4-minute mark to see fascinating footage of one of these mixed-sex classes. If you can't see it above, click this link.

The Giant Vulva Taxi:A different kind of female cycle


First there was the Vulva Couch, and then Vulva Street Theater Protest Gear. Now, there's the Giant Vulva Bicycle Taxi, created by Finnish artist Mimosa Pale. The photo above has its delicate details obscured, but you can see the totally NSFW version here.

Ms. Pale created it as a protest of our phallo-centric world, although when it comes to vulvas, I kinda prefer Judy Chicago. I wonder what The Manhattan Center for Vaginal Surgery would make of it all?

The tip is from the anonymous Mr. My-Other-Pedicab-is-a-Penis, who I suspect loves the vulva bike because it so neatly pairs two of his favorite hobbies.

Update: It seems I inadvertently stole that last thought from a comment posted on the original vulva taxi blog. But that doesn't make it untrue.

Better yet, get a new boyfriend

Time Online reports on a recent organized protest against cosmetic vaginal surgery in New York City. Not sure about the giant vulva costumes, but I really love the ideas behind the protest. Their target, The Manhattan Center for Vaginal Surgery, does some hymenoplasty as well, although they say they get relatively few requests for it.

The soaring popularity of these procedures has a lot to do with the promotion of unrealistic beauty ideals for women, in this case from our old friend porn. Doctors say one of the most common reasons women get vaginal surgery is an unhappy partner who wants something that looks more like the gals in his downloads.

Excerpt below is from the Time story:

Appalled at the popularity of so-called designer vaginas, a grass-roots organization called the New View Campaign staged its first-ever protest on Monday outside New York City's Manhattan Center for Vaginal Surgery.

Two dozen women — ranging in age from teenagers to, ahem, sexagenarians — handed out index cards and held up orange poster boards with the message "No Two Alike," while two members of the group donned giant cloth vulva costumes.

New View, which was created in 2000 in response to the introduction of Viagra, is trying to fight what it calls "the medicalization of sex," the idea that there is a physical right and wrong when it comes to all things sexual.

Says the group's leader Leonore Tiefer, a sexologist and psychologist at New York University: "Promoting a very narrow definition of what women's genitals ought to look like — even for those women who don't want surgery, it harms them."

And this from Real Beauty News:

In 2007 The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) issued a press release to warn that vaginal cosmetic surgery procedures "are not medically indicated, nor is there documentation of their safety and effectiveness." ACOG called it deceptive for doctors to give the impression that the vaginal rejuvenation procedures are accepted and routine surgical practices. Potential complications include "infection, altered sensation, dyspareunia (pain), adhesions, and scarring."

Disease of the Week: Sexual Hyperactivity


From TV Guide:

Private Practice's Dell (Chris Lowell) – TV's cutest midwife – will give some TLC to a sexually hyperactive woman who comes into the clinic seeking a hymenoplasty.

Says Chris (seated on floor among the disturbingly telegenic cast, above): "I personally think someone doing that is out of their friggin' mind. It goes against nature. It happens only once in life - let it happen once. If I'm going to sleep with someone who's a virgin, let her be a virgin, not someone who's become a virgin."

Thanks to pop-culture diva Pat Jerido for sending us this! I hate this show and yet I just keep on watching. Oh, and sorry, this episode aired last week...

Does a Hysterical Paroxysm come with that Vag treatment?


Not only are our ladyparts in need of tightening and trimming, they're also apparently out of shape. This, according to a story in the NY Times today about a new spa:

At the spa, the signature treatment will be a $150 gynecological exam — in which a client contracts her pelvic muscles around Dr. Romanzi’s fingers — to determine by feel whether muscle tone is weak, moderate or strong...

Clients could also use an in-office electrostimulation machine to improve pelvic muscle tone or buy a device for home use. Dr. Romanzi said that such treatments are intended to improve bladder control; she said pelvic training may also lead to more intense orgasms...

I don't know about you, but I don't want anything with the word 'electro' anywhere near my special place. But this does put me in mind of the delightful 19th-century treatment for female hysteria, wherein a doctor would use 'pelvic massage' to bring his patient to 'hysterical paroxysm" (which is Victorian for orgasm). The tiring nature of administering this treatment led to the invention of the vibrator and the rest, as they say, is history.

Thanks to Cynthia for telling me about the Times story and totally depressing me.

Don't hate the doctor, hate the patriarchy

Ellen Goodman's column linking hymen restoration surgery abroad to Abstinence-Only activities here in the US is another reminder that compelling women to remain virgins until marriage isn't just a Muslim issue. But her anger at the doctors performing the surgery seems a little misplaced:

All in all, the flip side of purity lectures is the conviction that sex -- and the girls who have it -- is dirty. On either side of the Atlantic, doctors in the "like a virgin" business are not only accomplices of private deceptions, they are accomplices to those who keep the reins of sexuality out of women's own hands.

Yes, many doctors profit off sexism at $2,000+ per hymen. But they're also the ones dealing with all those people dragging their daughters or future wives into their offices demanding a virginity test. These doctors know there's no such thing, and more often than not, pronounce in favor of the women anyway. In fact, doctors have been protecting women at risk for many centuries, about as long as idiot relatives have been demanding a non-existent "proof" of purity.

The letter the NY Times won't let you see!

OK, so it's just a letter to the editor I wrote in response the the hymenoplasty story they did. They didn't run it, but thanks to the magic of the internet, I can just post it here:

Re: "In Europe, Debate Over Islam and Virginity"

Although this story focuses on French doctors, the procedure is done all over the world, even here in the good old liberal USA. It's not done exclusively by Muslim women either, as the Times story suggests, but also by women from Latin-American countries. Quite often, women who have never even had sexual intercourse get stitches put in - just to make sure they bleed on their wedding night (since many women don't bleed their first time).

The whole issue of testing and restoration is completely maddening and mind-boggling, particularly because the hymen – an elastic and ever-changing little membrane that wasn't even 'discovered' until 1544 – is in no way a reliable indicator of virginity. And yet, we have placed profound and enduring moral value on its condition.

Take that, Letters to the Editor.