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Re-Virginization

Ever considered a one-night stand to get it over with, virginity-wise? "Keeping It Casual" explores the possibilities

"Keep It Casual" is part of a series of short narrative films by Michael Sasso called Swipe Click Bang which looks at people who use hookup apps like Tinder, and the one-night stands that follow. We were especially intrigued by 'Keep It Casual' because it explores a scenario that several of our V-Card Diaries contributors have contemplated or actually done: Setting up a one night stand to 'get it over-with' sex-wise.

I asked the Michael and his co-producer Michael Vitale what interested them about this scenario and how it influenced their approach. Vitale, who wrote the script had this to say:

"I've always been fascinated with the weight we as a culture put on losing one's virginity, so when we came up with the series Swipe Click Bang, I knew we had a good opportunity to explore it here. I also knew I wanted the person losing their virginity to be a woman.

As far as television and film is concerned, we're very used to the male virgin archetype: the bumbling nerd who can't get out of his own way, too awkward for anyone to find him sexy until someone does, and then, upon doing the deed, he's freed of an unsavory virgin label.

The female virgin is much more interesting. For one, we don't really see them in film outside Christian stereotypes or high school melodramas, but beyond that, there's also, fair or not, a mystery surrounding them, at least from a male perspective.

With Keep it Casual, we wanted to play with that mystery, which is why we chose to never explain Rachel's reasoning for not having had sex before using a dating app to do so. We also purposely cast someone attractive (Elisabeth Hower) to further challenge the audience's expectations of who a virgin is or should be.

But more than just the female virgin stereotype, this episode tries to explore how men deal with them. This wasn't obvious at first, but as the story evolved, we realized much of the cultural importance associated with virginity is determined by men. That's not to say one's virginity isn't or can't be important, but there's a double-standard in the expectations men put on women and their sexuality. To many of us, women should be "pure" yet experienced, a nearly impossible standard to meet.

In the episode, we tried to use Nick (the male character) to capture this absurdity, especially in how he responds to Rachel's admission of having never had sex. Beyond being dumbfounded, he takes an almost paternal stance in the way he tries to protect her and the preciousness of her virginity. His almost hero-like syndrome makes it all the more satisfying when Rachel challenges him to recall the importance of his first time and he can't.

And yet, beyond the layers we tried to squeeze into it, Keep it Casual is ultimately a story about someone trying to get what they want and not feeling like they have to explain themselves for it, something I think we can all relate to."

Meet Alexa and Moriah, the newest members of Team Trixie Films!

You'll be seeing a couple of new author names on this blog this summer: Alexa and Moriah, our newest interns here at Trixie Films. They're both doing great work on "How to Lose Your Virginity" behind the scenes, and they'll be popping up on the website as well. It's really exciting to have them here and I hope you check out their posts and leave lots of comments!

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Hi there! I'm Alexa. I attend Emory University in Atlanta where I double major in English and Philosophy. My passions include poetry, avant-garde film, and fighting for social justice. In my free time I like to build abstract sculptures of vaginas and listen to death metal. I am currently learning how to play the cello and (among other things) I want to be a poet. [Alexa did research for our story on The Misunderstood History of Incel]

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I'm Moriah, and I'm a queer witch attending RISD for illustration. I like to cook, make patches, and play outdated video games. Common identifiers include: Twenty-something Titan. Reluctant southerner. Postcard enthusiast.

Do you want to write for the blog? Send us a note here.

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

Just The Tip: Virginity in the News: Sexual truth, slut-shaming, reality purity and a new V-Card app!

DieariesDemoPage Remember that V-Card-survey we asked you to fill out last week? Well, just just spent a very intense chocolate-covered-espresso-bean-fueled weekend building a prototype based on your answers. It's Phase 2 of our V-Card Diaries project, which mixes interactive storytelling, cool charts, and some subversion of the virginity construct. Check out the V-Card Experience Engine prototype here!

Keep in mind, it's just a prototype right now, so only some parts work, and others are there to show you what it looks like as you fill it out. If you haven't done our survey to anonymously add your experiences to our database, do it now! You can enjoy the first part of V-Card Diaries, your essays on sexual debuts and deferrals, live on our website anytime.

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We love the new Make Sex Normal Tumblr. That is all.

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Scarleteen Logo

It's Heather Corinna's birthday and the wonderful founder of Scarleteen has one birthday wish: please tell the sexual truth.

"One of the very biggest problems we have in most of our cultures and communities around sex and sexuality is silence, secrecy, and talk about sex that very often either isn't truthful, or is, but isn't the whole truth. We, as people, tend to often feel so scared and shameful and nervous about sex that we posture. We embellish. We make things sound better or worse than they are. We pretend we know more than we do, or have experienced less or more than we have [...] So this year, as a birthday gift from you to me, and even more so, as a gift to yourself, I'm asking you to tell just one (but more if you like, of course!) truth about sex or sexuality with someone safe for you, today or sometime very soon."

You can (and must) read the rest of her essay/birthday wish here.

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This made our day: When the notorious abstinence lecturer/public shamer Pam Stenzel showed up to give one of her usual shaming and inaccurate high school speeches, she wasn't expecting to come up against student Katelyn Campbell (above). Not only did Katelyn refuse to attend the assembly, she filed a complaint with the ACLU, calling Stenzel's presentation 'slut shaming." But here's Think Progress reports happened after that:

But it didn’t end with a simple difference of opinion among Campbell and her principal. The high school senior alleges that Aulenbacher threatened to call Wellesley College, where Campbell has been accepted to study in the fall, after she spoke to the press about her objections to the assembly. According to Campbell, her principal said, “How would you feel if I called your college and told them what bad character you have and what a backstabber you are?” Campbell alleges that Aulenbacher continued to berate her in his office, eventually driving her to tears. “He threatened me and my future in order to put forth his own personal agenda and make teachers and students feel they cant speak up because of fear of retaliation,” she said of the incident. Despite being threatened, Campbell is not backing down.

Katelyn Campbell, you are our hero. And, via Twitter, Wellesley College has confirmed that Campbell doesn’t need to worry about her spot next year!

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All that feel-good gets pushed away by this show on Lifetime called Preachers' Daughters which asks the question: How will three Christian families headed by pastors keep their teen daughters from having sex? Andy Kopsa writes in the Atlantic about what happens when families fixate on purity:

The things each of these families is dealing with aren't unique. Raising teenagers can be a nightmare (Aside from having been a teen girl myself once, I have a 23-year-old daughter so, yes, I get it.) The way these young girls are affected by the expectations of their parents and the rigidity of their religion may seem unusual but in some Christian households it appears to be quite common. They are not an anomaly that reality TV discovered and seized onto but an accurate portrayal of a prevalent Evangelical belief system.

Many of the comments, which attack the story as they quote scripture are depressing. But we did notice one from our pal @BelleVierge

Also, the way those girls are styled above, the show should be called Preachers' Virgin/Whore Dichotomies. Thanks for the link: @Catcall Chronicle and @northstarmoll

V-Card Diaries: HantaVee "A woman can erase the act of intercourse out of her mind, and make herself a new virgin."

Today we're highlighting HantaVee, a Malagasy-European studying in the US, who believes a woman can erase the act of intercourse out of her mind and become re-virginized. If you want to tell your story, go to our submission form. You can find all our V-Card Diaries here. Tell us about yourself:  

I am a 21 year old Malagasy-European, studying in the U.S who loves politics, the arts and Rihanna. I'm currently in the Wild Wild West, more specifically in the state of Texas.

How do you define virginity?  

I look at my private hole, and if it has been entered by anyone else's privates, I consider that losing my virginity. However, it is both a mental and physical thing. Because we are not just animals, our human minds control a lot of what we believe and how things are conceived. I believe a woman can erase the act of intercourse out of her mind, and make herself a new virgin if she chooses to.

Tell us your story:

There are stories of rape, and I believe mine happens to be a mild example of one. I lost my virginity in a bathroom stall to a high school senior when I was just 14. I went in the stall with him thinking we were going to kiss and what have you, but as things heated up I wasn't fully prepared for his privates entering mine. When he stripped me down, he told me to sit, and as he pressed me down on him, I told him it hurt. He told me to hush, and that it's supposed to hurt.

Since then, I've had a terrible view on how sex was supposed to be enjoyed. I had an even more screwed up view on how I was compared to my virgin friends, how they seemed better than me because they hadn't "given it up yet." I feel like I didn't have a choice in my V-card, so I resented my non-virginity, and because it was something "that you could never get back" I continued my "unpure" sexuality, since it was already lost anyway.

Yes, this is a Bollywood/Salsa music video for female-empowerment vagina-tightener

Our friend Aggie Ebrahimi always sends us the most distressing items for this blog, and this is no exception. We've profiled other vag-tightening creams here and here before, but none come with an ad campaign like this one. Behold an Indian commercial for the launch of '18 Again' which is described as

"a vaginal rejuvenation tightening gel is redefining the term women empowerment [their italics]. It is a powerful and natural answer to intimate feminine concerns. A remarkable product to empower the new age women."

Apparently, the cream was heartily endorsed by a group of Indian actresses at its launch, much to the dismay of Paromita Vohra, a Mumbai-based filmmaker, who writes:

I would also humbly request the beautiful, feisty ladies of a certain age present at the launch, who have rousingly performed "The Vagina Monologues," a play which aims to rescue the vagina from a place of shame and darkness, with the use of powerful words, not tightening and whitening creams — please do not confuse this issue and rob your good work of its power. And other ladies and gents, it’s really time you rejected this claptrap. It’s dumb, it’s uncool and also, it costs Rs 2,430 a pop. Get on with the real revolution now, it’s much nicer than being 18 again.

The Big Black Wedding?

“A lot of women love the idea of the white wedding and becoming this princess for a day,” Shechter says. “But for me, it smacks of advertising some kind of sexual status that my groom didn’t have to do.”

“Re-virginizing” for a day didn’t appeal, she says with a laugh: “My sexual history is one of the good things I bring to this marriage.”

I was super excited to be quoted in Canada's Macleans Magazine for an article about non-white wedding dresses. Read the whole story here.

[Hymen Week] Stitch a Hymen, Save a Life: The absurd necessity of hymen reconstruction

Cable has Shark Week, we have Hymen Week. All this week we're reposting some of our favorite hymen-related stories from the alarming to the ridiculous. The following post was originally published on April 28, 2010. 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 a BBC program 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.

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.

[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

So apparently Frida Khalo never got down and dirty.

So I found this gem on the internet when I googled "How to Tell if a Girl is not a Virgin." I'm hoping we're not the only ones thinking of this "Mean Girls" moment while reading the article:

Myth #1: A non-virgin walks with her legs wider apart.

Myth #2: Hair between the eyebrows is gone after one loses her virginity.

Myth #3:A girls' fully-rounded backside suddenly flattens after she has sex.

Myth #4: A virgin's breasts point upwards.

Myth #5:One's breasts become larger after she loses her virginity.

Myth #6: A virgin's urine is clear and sparkling.

Myth #7: A girl who has done it before has "a certain kind of look" on her face.

Myth #8: A girl will definitely bleed when she has sex for the first time. If she doesn't, then she is lying about being a virgin.

As expected, the fact portion of this article refutes each of these myths. But we still think it might be fun to revirginize ourselves every time we drink a Big Gulp (see Myth #6).

More on 'first time' myths here

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.

Join us at the "Rethinking Virginity" conference at Harvard on May 3rd

I'm really honored to be part of this conference organized by Lena Chen at Harvard. You can find lots of info about the event here and below (nice cherries!)

Check out the amazing lineup of speakers, panelists and topics! I'll be on a panel or two, and Team Trixie will be shooting the event and interviewing some of the participants for the film. It will be an exciting and busy day, so if you're in the Boston area, please join us. You can RSVP on Facebook.

RETHINKING VIRGINITY
Harvard University

May 3rd, 2010, 10am-5:30pm
Boylston Hall, Harvard Yard (Tentative Location)
Free and open to the public.

Brought to you by the Harvard College Queer Students & Allies.

Is there a sex-positive way to teach abstinence? What are the historical and cultural origins of the virginity ideal? How does a queer person lose their virginity? Does anyone even know what virginity really is?

From debunking myths to defying norms, the Rethinking Virginity Conference will feature scholars and experts speaking about gender, sexuality, and the elusive concept of virginity.

For a sneak preview, check out our tentative panels, read about the speakers, and register for free. Confirmed speakers include:

Lori Adelman (Feministing.com, International Women’s Health Coalition), Lux Alptraum (Fleshbot), Chloe Angyal (Feministing.com), Megara Bell (Partners In Sex Education), Sady Doyle (Tiger Beatdown), Dr. R. Marie Griffith (Harvard Divinity School), Elizabeth Janaik (Center for Wellness at Harvard University Health Services), Dr. Kathleen Kelly (Department of English at Northeastern University), Ellyn Ruthstrom (Bisexual Resource Center), Therese Shechter (“I Was A Teenage Feminist”, “How To Lose Your Virginity”), and Shelby Knox (“The Education of Shelby Knox”).

Coke Zero's Amazing Re-Virginizing Effects


Coke Zero Commercial "The Morning After"

Thanks to Joanna for sending us a link to this video at always-fascinating Sociological Images. As far as I'm concerned, the commercial sucks at selling Coke Zero, but aside from that here's their analysis of the not-so-subtle gender and sexual dynamics of the film:

More than just another example of a product being marketed with hypermasculinity, this ad sends “…the message… that women’s sexuality is owned by the men with whom they interact…” The “hero” must erase all signs that he transgressed on the father’s property. Her “daddy” must not know. Clean and showered, the woman can greet her father in all innocence.

As Mar says it: …with all traces of sex duly washed away, she’s free to greet her father while pretending to be a virgin. Because for women, virginity: good; sex: bad. But if you’re a man: sticking around to meet the parents: bleah; sex: rawr; Coke Zero: arooooo.

And if the Artificial Hymen is sold out...

As a follow-up to the controversy over Egyptian clerics calling for severe punishment for users of a device called the Artificial Hymen, the blog The Sexist reports on another virginity-faking device:

...patented in the United States by Shahram Shawn Omrani of Passaje, N.J. The product, called the Condom Simulating Virginity consists of a flexible, open-ended sheath (like your regular Trojan), but is outfitted with an additional burstable pouch “containing a red colored fluid simulating blood.”

The idea is that the secret pouch of blood is made of a thinner material than the rest of the condom, so that when penetration occurs it ruptures. The secret is that the condom is a dark color so that you can't see the blood capsule hidden in the tip.

This makes no sense. Is the woman supposed to trick her husband into wearing this on their wedding night? It's hard enough getting a guy to wear a condom, especially when your first priority is to give birth to a son. How does she even explain that she just happened to have this odd-colored condom on hand for this special occasion.

Or is he in on it, in which case why go to all that trouble? There are easier ways to fake bleeding if your husband agrees that the whole thing is a crazy crock of shit.

As I wrote in the previous post, in some cultures it's so dangerous to not bleed in your wedding night, even virgins get surgery to make sure they bleed on penetration.

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.

Touched For the Very First Time


Thanks to our favorite film editor Carole for alerting us to this wonderful website. Pure Romance seems to be a kind Avon-like enterprise, except that instead of a woman showing up at your door with a selection of lipsticks, she has a selection of dildos.

They also sell a vaginal tightener called "Like A Virgin." It's an alum-based cream that, when applied to the vaginal walls, causes swelling making it feel, you know, like the very first time. At least that's what they claim. We've written about similar products before, mostly to compare it to Trixie Films' favorite vaginal tightener "China Shrink Cream." Here in our test kitchens, we applied it to the facial lips of one willing intern with little result.

Anyway, we're pretty over the fact that these products exists and that people actually think it's something they should use. What got us – and Carole – was this line of how-to advice from Pure Romance CEO and "Intimacy Expert" Patty Brisben:

If you can’t reach very far into the vagina, or are too uncomfortable touching yourself...

We're with Carole in thinking that if a woman is too uncomfortable to touch herself, yet is seeking out this product, perhaps she should be directed to a therapist instead.

Born-Again Virgins, Vampire-Style

Throwing a whole new wrinkle into the 'How do you define virginity?" conundrum was a recent episode of "True Blood" in which Jessica found an unexpected barrier to relations with Hoyt.

Clip is here, courtesy of io9.com.

Since Jessica, who was 'made' by Bill in season 1, had an intact hymen at the time of her transformation, no matter how many times she has intercourse and breaks it, it will always grow back. Something to do with the innate regenerative properties of vampire blood, I guess. Jessica and Hoyt, not surprisingly, have different views on the matter:

Jessica: It grew back! Everything heals when you're a goddamn vampire!
Hoyt: It'll be beautiful. Every time will be like our first time
.
Jessica: It'll hurt like hell! I'm a fucking deformity of nature. I'm going to be a virgin forever!"

In a world where virginity = intact hymen, I guess she's right. Which means she'll easily pass muster with the many dangerously-misguided people who subject women to virginity tests all over the world (despite her whole undead blood-sucker thing)

By the way, being HBO-challenged, I just finished watching the first season on DVD. I had to wade into Season 2 episodes I really shouldn't be seeing yet to bring you this report. The things I do for you loyal readers...