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Virginity Testing

[Hymen Week] Born-Again Virgins, Vampire-Style

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. This post originally ran in 2009. Share your biggest hymen and virginity myths here!

'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).

[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

Putting 'virginity testing' in quotation marks where it belongs

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

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

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

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

Egyptian general confirms–and defends–forced 'virginity testing' of detained female Tahrir Square activists. (Tests that prove nothing except that the military tortures women)

A couple of months ago, Aggie wrote about the the allegations that the Egyptian military tortured arrested, female activists from Tahrir Square with electric shocks, strip searches, and 'virginity tests.' Well, a senior army official just confirmed that 'virginity testing' was done, but he also defended it to CNN:

"The girls who were detained were not like your daughter or mine. These were girls who had camped out in tents with male protesters in Tahrir Square, and we found … molotov cocktails and [drugs].
We didn't want them to say we had sexually assaulted or raped them, so we wanted to prove that they weren't virgins in the first place. None of them were [virgins]."

As my partner-in-crime Lisa said when she sent me this news item: "There are so many things wrong with this story I'm not sure where to begin." Let's try anyway.

1. There is no such thing as a virginity test. You cannot tell anything about a woman's sexual history from examining her hymen, the current standard so-called virginity test. How many ways can we say that?  

2. 'Virginity testing' is torture. Subjecting female prisoners to these tests, not to mention beatings and electric shocks, while allowing guards to watch and take photos, is invasive, painful and humiliating torture.

3. Anyone can be a victim of rape, no matter their sexual history. Insinuating otherwise encourages the myth that sexually-active women are of less value and even deserving of sexual assault.

4. The State uses virginity to control women's bodies and lives (and not just in Egypt). As Aggie wrote in her previous post: "Though the majority of women in Egypt were not physically detained and tortured by the state, in a story like this, we as women are all controlled. That is, we are reminded of the intractable grip of this meaningless [virginity] construct squeezing our bodies, squeezing most stringently, of course, in those moments when we start to actualize our own awesome power."

As an aside, it was Egyptian clerics who pushed for the death penalty for any woman caught using an 'artificial hymen.'

Egyptian activists will be staging an online protest Wednesday. We'll update this post with more info. 

Just What A Virgin Nation Needs

Photo by Al Jazeera English

Guest Post by Aggie Ebrahimi

Unless you’ve been living under the influence of Glee, you’ve likely heard the allegations that the Egyptian military has been torturing arrested, female activists from Tahrir Square with electric shocks, strip searches, and virginity tests. Amnesty International has spearheaded a major petition campaign to put pressure on Secretary of State Clinton to have her put pressure on Egyptian authorities to end these inhumane actions.

The thinking behind the virginity tests is as follows: Women take to the streets in mass number to call for revolution. Old system notices (and fears) women’s power. Old system falls, but some pieces remain, as do these strong women. These strong women are most certainly a threat, the Old System thinks. The Old System needs to incapacitate them. To do so, they will arrest prominent members and perform virginity tests. Should the women fail, the state can label and prosecute them as “prostitutes,” thereby crippling their political participation.

Plain and simple.

But it’s really not so simple. For a variety of reasons. The most prominent of which, in my eyes, is that we really don’t have any idea what’s happening in Egypt, whether these allegations are true or not, how much has really changed, who is in power, why Mubarak left. While all of these questions have simple answers that could fit in the columns of the Times, they also have quite complex answers that won’t become clear for many, many years.

Nonetheless, whether or not these virginity tests happened as Amnesty describes them, the fact that this story is even circulating shows that things like this could happen, that virginity can readily be used as a means through which the (male-dominated) state controls women’s bodies. Though the majority of women in Egypt were not physically detained and tortured by the state, in a story like this, we as women are all controlled. That is, we are reminded of the intractable grip of this meaningless construct squeezing our bodies, squeezing most stringently, of course, in those moments when we start to actualize our own awesome power.

As an Iranian whose family lived through a devastating and disappointing revolution, I’ve pored over the same question ever since the Tunisia n people rose up against Ben Ali. And now, with the emergence of this story which implicates the military as yet another oppressive force – the same military that protesters hailed for laying down their arms in support of the movement – I again ask myself: Well, just how revolutionary are these revolutions?

Saving yourself for your handsome prince: Will the Royal Gynecologist be examining Kate?

When I heard that Kate Middleton and Prince William were finally engaged, the first thing that went through my mind was whether Kate would be examined by the Royal Gynecologist as Diana was almost 30 years ago. I was totally obsessed with Diana and Charles's wedding plans back then* and I remember reading lurid details about the Palace having to make sure sure she was a virgin before they could OK the marriage.

Given that Kate and Will have been living together for some time, her sexual status seems of little concern to anyone. (And in the age of paternity testing, do you really need to be a virgin in order to ensure your future offspring are indeed the Prince's spawn?) But Diana's virginity was a such a big deal back when she got engaged in 1981, worthy of reporting on along with the dress and the ring and the Cinderella carriage. So it's odd that after some searching, I couldn't find any actual evidence that such a test was ever administered.

In fact, people have gone out of their way to point out the test was a myth (of course, the ability to test for virginity is a myth in itself). Seems what the Royal Gynecologist was actually checking out was her ability to bear some heirs to the throne**. Not that her sexual status wasn't on people's minds. Even if she wasn't 'tested' for it, several people were kind and creepy enough to vouch for her chastity, and given that she was only 19 and not known as a party girl, the White Wedding Of The Century could go on as planned.

Poor Diana. She literally saved herself for her handsome prince–and look where it got her.

*In fact, my best friend Rosie got married in a wedding dress totally inspired by Diana's
** Which begs the question: Is fertility a pre-requisite for Kate marrying into the Royal Family?

Talkin' virginity with Lena Chen and the Gurls


Lena Chen is definitely on our radar these days: she writes the blog The Chicktionary and is now the Health, Sex and Relationships expert for gURL.com, a community for teenage girls. Lena and I had a great conversation over at gURL about virginity, chaste pop stars and whether you can tell if a guy's a virgin by checking his penis (don't worry, you can't). Here's a just a little snippet:

Therese: Let’s start with something simple like how do you define virginity. Which actually isn’t at all simple, so never mind.

Lena: I defined virginity in previous posts on gURL (“The gURL Guide To Virginity Through History“), and there’s so little consensus on the definition of sex that it’s surprising that anyone attributes any significance to their “purity.” There are a lot of people who still think (incorrectly) that you can “test” for a girl’s virginity. But guys just don’t have the same anatomy, so they don’t have to deal with the same crap.

Therese: Right. Checking the condition of someone’s hymen gives you as much information about someone’s sex life as checking the tip of someone’s penis. None. Why is it that guys and gURLs are judged differently for the same behavior?

Lena: I think the even more interesting thing is that girls are fetishized. Male sexuality isn’t commodified in the same way.

Therese: It’s true. We talk about giving away your “precious gift,” like your virgin status is really all you have to offer someone. When Taylor Swift (left, with Demi Lovato) sings in her song friend ‘gave everything she had’ to a boy, it means she gave him her virginity, doesn’t it? And it ended badly because, well, if all you have is your virginity, then you’re left kinda worthless.That was EVERYTHING SHE HAD! Really, she has nothing else of value to offer this world? Like being a kind person or being good at math, or being able to run really fast? There are a lot of very excellent reasons to wait to have sex, but the fact that your virginity is the only thing of value you have to offer the world is NOT one of them.

Read the rest of our conversation at gURL.com...

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

Accupuncture 'virginity test' frees three convicted rapists

OK, this story is just so messed up. I'm assuming they're defining virginity as never having put a penis in a vagina. Even if there were any validity to this person's bizarre virginity testing method (and, uh, there is not), there are many other ways to commit sexual assault by gang rape. Blech. Every part of this story is upsetting. Bolding is mine:

HANOI, Vietnam — An acupuncturist who claims she can detect a man's virginity based on a small dot on the ear has become a minor celebrity in Vietnam, where she is credited with helping to free three convicted rapists from prison.

Traditional medicine practitioner Pham Thi Hong started lobbying for the men's release, pleading their case all the way to the president, because she believes all three men are virgins and therefore could not be guilty of rape.

"They all had small red spots on the back of their ears," said Hong, 54. "The spots should have disappeared if they had had sex. My many years of experience told me that these men did not have sex before."

Her claims are unusual even for a country where acupuncture and traditional medicine are still common remedies, but Hong's determination to have the case reopened — even threatening to light herself on fire — led to prosecutors re-examining the case. The convictions eventually were suspended due to flaws by initial investigators.

"Thanks to her efforts, investigators revisited the case which otherwise could have been buried," said Nong Thi Hong Ha, a lawyer for one of the freed men.

Hong says she discovered the spot on Nguyen Dinh Kien's ear the first time he visited her for treatment four years ago. He was brought to the hospital from prison, where he was serving a 16-year sentence after being convicted of gang raping a 20-year-old woman in 2000.

After seeing the spot on Kien's ear, Hong believed his insistence that he was innocent. She later examined his two alleged accomplices and began a campaign for their release. Eventually, President Nguyen Minh Triet ordered that the case be re-examined.

You won't go blind but you might get killed.

Did you know May was National Masturbation Month? It's true!

So in honor of this magical month, here's a video from an Islamic cleric explaining why it's especially bad for women to masturbate. His logic on this: Inserting fingers and other objects into the vagina might tear the hymen, leading families to suspect 'fornication' on the part of the woman, leading them to kill her. Yup. And it's important to note that he thinks killing a woman for suspicion of sexuality is too extreme, and feels flogging is sufficient. This is what passes for helpful advice in his universe.

Also, someone should tell him about the clitoris.

[Thanks to Jen and Christy for passing this on]

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.

UPDATE: Does she have to type 60 words per minute, too?

"The woman did not provide the necessary qualifications"

–Reason a Turkish court gave to annul a marriage, regarding a husband's claim that his wife was not a virgin on their wedding night.

Despite the fact that she obtained a certificate of virginity from a Gynecological Hospital, and won a counter-suit for divorce in Family Court, the case was overturned on appeal in favor of the husband. There appeared to be no evidence against her except her husband's oral statement. No word on whether he was qualified to be a husband.

Update from the blog Kamil Pasha via Jen:

80% of Turkish women agree that women should be virgins when they marry! This according to the 2008 Population and Health Report carried out by Hacettepe University.

However, only 8% thought women should not work, and only 12% agreed that educating a male child is always better than educating a female child.

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:

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.

V-Card Diaries: Matt "Moving to Indonesia gave me a whole new perspective on virginity."

Today we're highlighting 28-year-old Matt Higgins, an American journalist based in Indonesia . He talks to us about what women really want, virginity testing in the police force, and why newspaper reporting and a love life don't always mix. 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 28-year-old, heterosexual male – born and bred in the American Midwest but moved to Southeast Asia to cling to the dream of working in newspapers. On top of being a virgin, I've never been kissed and haven't managed so much as one date in the past 10 years.

Mind you, that's not a plea for help or an attempt to foist blame for my situation on others (like those truly frightening YouTube videos Dan Savage linked to recently). My foibles are my own and of my own doing. I knew back in high school that being a reporter at a daily newspaper would entail long, strange hours and likely preclude any chance at a social life, and yet years down the road, here I am, still in the game.

Why? Because this is what stirs my passions. Staring at a blank page every day with the chance to create, inform and entertain is still irresistible. My profession may not last forever – heck, it might not make it to the end of the month at this rate – but as long as I have this, I'm OK with being alone. When it's gone? Well....

How do you define virginity? Every person, it seems, has their own line of demarcation. In my mind, you relinquish your V-Card upon consensual vaginal or anal penetration (if, however, it is taken against your wishes, a mulligan is more than justified).

Oral sex isn't quite as cut and dried. It is a form of sex, but I can understand how one might still consider themselves a virgin despite having engaged in oral. As long as it's done in moderation (37? In a row?), I see no problem with that.

Why have you decided to stay a virgin? It wasn't so much a decision as it was just how things played out. I voluntarily gave up my nights and weekends when I got into the business, and having mostly worked on smaller staffs, pulling six-day and/or 50- to 60-hour work weeks is not uncommon. When you work while everyone else plays, it's hard to be social.

Lately, I've been wondering if I'm not social because I work so much, or is it I work so much because I'm not social? I've never been good with small talk (I much prefer to listen and then ask questions – shocking for someone in my line of work), and things like flirting and body language are utterly lost on me. At least when I'm interviewing someone, I have a clear, defined goal of getting the other person to open up and express more than just the usual yes/no/basic facts responses. As long as I have that goal in mind, I can do what I need to do without coming across as a complete nebbish.

Once I lose that, though, and I'm on my own in a social situation, things – as Lewis Black would say – take a turn. A reporter who manages to survive and thrive despite a complete lack of social acumen ... I'm not sure whether that's hilarious or sad.

Any special plans or ideas for losing it? Not really. I used to tell myself that waiting for marriage would be my way of retaining my honor and showing my prospective bride that I thought so highly of her that I was willing to wait however long it might take to find her.

That, perhaps not surprisingly, turns out to be bunk. Most women – or at least the intelligent, strong, capable ones to whom I am attracted – don't want a white knight riding to their rescue on a shimmering steed. They want a similarly intelligent, fully formed man who is confident and comfortable in his own skin. Being a "Nice Guy" just means they don't run screaming at your presence, and keeping yourself "pure" in anticipation of the already over-hyped Wedding Night doesn't mean jack – especially if you don't have anything interesting to talk about in the awkward silence that will inevitably follow.

**Ahem** Sorry, got a little rant-y there. Where was I? Ah, yes – not really. If it happens, odds are you won't hear me complaining. If not, I'll know why. I'll just keep stumbling along while my peers all stay conversant in the Things You Should Know About Dating By Now (TM).

How have your dates/partners reacted? You can count the number of people I've told about my virginity on one hand. Reactions have varied from mild surprise ("I didn't know people still did that.") to dismissiveness ("Then you got no chance with me, buster.") to the old stand-by ("I just assumed you were gay.").

My family does not fit into that one hand, incidentally. My two younger siblings and I never had any of The Talks (drugs, sex, etc.) – when asked, our parents' response was always, "You're smart. You'll figure it out." I don't feel compelled to share this with them, and none of my friends are close enough to where I'd feel comfortable sharing such information ... perhaps that's why this all flows forth so easily on the Interwebs.

Anything else you want to say about virginity? Moving to Indonesia gave me a whole new perspective on virginity and women's issues as a whole. One of the first stories I read when I arrived was about how women were now allowed to serve as police officers ... provided they kept up with their cooking, sewing and beauty classes and passed their monthly virginity checks (!). The only thing that stunned me more than that revelation was how everyone around me just took it as a matter of course. I thought of myself as open-minded and sympathetic to the cause of women before, but seeing the way women and girls here are subjugated now makes me viscerally angry.

As for virginity: This may sound odd, coming as it does at the end of all this yodeling, but it's really not that big of a deal -- or at least it shouldn't be. Whether or not your genitalia have carnal knowledge of another set of genitalia has next to no bearing on your status as a person. The sooner people wrap their heads around that, the sooner we can move on to something important – like the lack of communication and emotional intimacy that persists despite people having more ways to speak to each other than ever before.

I've gone 28 years without sex, and I imagine I can wait a while longer. What I don't want to miss, though, is that emotional intimacy, that feeling of being able to implicitly love and trust someone else and have them feel likewise toward you. That's probably a trickier and more time-consuming pursuit, but it's also more rewarding than worrying about who's stuck what in whom and how often.

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...

Scholarships for Virgins?

From IOL, a South African news website (via Broadsheet) reports on a new program:

Schoolgirls who can prove they are virgins are being offered the chance to gain scholarships to university under a scheme launched in Sierra Leone on Monday to combat high rates of teenage pregnancy.

Girls from northern Biriwa will be eligible for the scholarships if they apply and pass a virginity test conducted by a community nurse, according to the Biriwa Youth Alliance for Development Organisation (BYADO).

There's a whole lot of wrong here: Submitting girls to virginity testing, which all you readers know reveals almost nothing about whether a girl has had intercourse or not, is just plain invasive.

And rewarding girls for staying virgins is a misguided way to combat teenage pregnancy, given the prevalence of sexual assault. It's another example of making girls solely responsible for what happens to them sexually (the guys are barely accountable in this equation) without giving them any tools to control their reproductive health.

The only mention of the boys:

For those bike riders who pregnates a girl student, their bikes will be confiscated, sold and the expenses go towards the upkeep of the baby.

Virginity Auction: "Ten thousand Euros is not so much money"

An update on Alina Percea, who says she sold her virtue for far less than the 50,000 Euro she hoped to make.

"Ten thousand euros is not so much money, even in Romania,' admitted Alina. 'But it will be enough. I hoped I'd be able to have an apartment in town. But now I will live with my parents while I go to university."

How would her life be different if tuition was cheaper or free? Why do women need to prostitute themselves to get a good education? Anyway, she also reports that she took the morning after pill and is planning to see the guy again. Wondering if this means more of these kinds of auctions in the future?

The story continues to depress me. Here's a photo of Alina taken by the German auction site, I guess to make her look sexier than the original photos she provided.