In many cultures, virginity is highly valued and sex before marriage is strictly forbidden. This puts an enormous amount of pressure on women, who must prove their virginity on their wedding night, with some even turning to surgery to keep up this illusion.
If a woman’s hymen is intact on her wedding night she will bleed, which for many cultures is confirmation that she is ‘pure’ and ‘untouched’ for her respective husband. But in actual fact, not every woman bleeds when she has sexual intercourse for the first time. There are many day-to-day activities such as biking, horse riding or even inserting tampons that can break your hymen. Yet, many parts of Europe, Asia and the Middle East still adopt the mentality that a women should bleed on her wedding night. This type of thinking can be toxic to young generations of women who are conditioned to associate sex with shame.
Recommended watch: ‘Mustang’
The movie, Mustang, directed by Deniz Gamze Ergϋven, is set in a remote Turkish village. It follows the lives of five orphaned girls, who have to face the challenges of growing up in a conservative society. The girls are accused of sexual misconduct after innocently playing on the beach with a group of school boys. The two eldest girls are subsequently sent to a clinic to get their hymen tested so they can confirm to their uncle and grandma that they are virgins. Despite proving their innocence, the girls are barred from leaving the house and are swiftly married off to men against their wishes (apart from the eldest girl who marries the boy that she likes).
On the wedding night of the second eldest girl, Selma, her new in-laws come to inspect the bed sheets. When she fails to bleed, she’s taken to a clinic once again to testify her virginity.
The film provides a powerful portrayal of the struggles that young women continue to face in conservative societies.
Turning to surgical solutions
With this type of pressure, it’s no wonder that women are turning to extreme measures. A 30-minute surgical procedure is available at the price of around £3,000 – £4,000, which will restore the hymen. A clinic in France reports that they carry out 2-4 of these surgeries a week!
One French student of Moroccan descent admitted that she’d had the surgery so that she could prove to her future husband that she’s not had pre-marital sex. This is just one story, but there are so many others.
Break the taboo surrounding sex
To quote Dr Jacques Lansac: “Attaching so much importance to the hymen is regression, submission to the intolerance of the past.”
The taboo surrounding sex must be broken in order to allow people to have healthier sex lives. This can be achieved through talking about sex and acknowledging that it’s a biological need that dates back to our evolutionary history where mating and reproducing ensured the survival of our lineage. Sex is not something that should be censored, but rather it should be normalised and discussed so that silly myths can be debunked.
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