The Sunday News
I AM going to break tradition again this week — I will not be responding to questions in order to deal with an important issue that afflicts women in marriages and relationships — VIRGINITY. I know some women are being abused because their men accuse them of lying that they were virgins. So the purpose of this article is to educate ignorant men and women about virginity.
Female virginity is the state of a woman who has not engaged in penis-vagina sexual intercourse. Female virginity cannot be measured or proven from a physical examination or test. A medical professional, friend, partner, or family member cannot see a woman’s virginity. Female virginity is not a tangible entity.
Virginity is not easily detected even by specialists since the hymen can and often is ruptured for other reasons than sexual intercourse. Simply using tampons and basic physical activities can cause the hymen to break. Participating in sports like cycling, horseback riding, or gymnastics can cause hymenal tears. There are also other things that may cause the hymen to tear: the insertion of a speculum during a gynecological exam, the insertion of fingers, and masturbation. It is a false belief that breaking the hymen on the wedding night is proof of virginity. It will not re-grow, though some women have what is called an elastic hymen and it appears intact even after sexual intercourse. Again, it is not a reliable indicator.
This may sound silly but some people do not know what a hymen is. A hymen is a thin fold or folds of mucous tissue located 1-2 centimetres inside the vaginal opening that surrounds or may even completely cover the opening. Its colour is slightly pink, but it can also look whitish. When a girl enters puberty and starts to produce the hormone oestrogen, this can cause the hymen to thicken and increase in width. There is not one type of hymen; they come in many different shapes and forms. Additionally, although it is very rare, a girl may be born entirely without a hymen.
In short, the hymen is a body part, also known as virginal membrane; it is a tight or loose and flexible rim, fringe of tissue around the vaginal opening that partly covers the entrance to the vagina. However, contrary to popular belief, the hymen doesn’t completely cover the vaginal opening. If it did, women would not be able to menstruate. While the presence of an intact hymen indicates virginity, the absence of one is definitely not a proof a woman is not a virgin.
This is so because the hymen has no clear biological purpose. But virginity and the hymen continue to be relationship makers or breakers —it’s a pity. Bleeding during the first marital intercourse is required by a good section of men and at times the man’s family as ‘‘proof’’ of virginity. And in some cultures the bride has to show blood-stained bed sheets to her husband’s family as proof of virginity.
What these people don’t know is that between 40 and 50 percent of women don’t bleed upon having sex for the first time. I am sure this knowledge will not alter the weight attached to the hymen in some cultures.
As a result, women who are not virgins often have to engage in elaborate acts of deception to ensure nuptial bleeding because a lack of blood can lead to the annulment of a marriage. Some women fake virginity by hiding a small vial of animal blood in their vaginas while other women purchase a fake hymen to insert right before intercourse.
Women are compelled to do this because virginity loss is associated with penetrative vaginal sex. This is problematic because it makes heterosexual sex the standard by which we understand virginity. The hymen or lack of it is thus used as proof that a woman is a virgin or not.
But do people really know what a virgin is? A virgin is a person who has never had sexual intercourse. Sexual intercourse is reproductive act in which the male reproductive organ (penis) enters the female reproductive tract (vagina). Sexual intercourse is sex, but sex is not limited to intercourse; not even limited, in fact, to genital activities.
In reality, sex describes a huge range of activities. Many things can be sex because sex has whatever meaning we experience moment by moment; and sex has an infinite range of meanings because the scope of activities that can properly be called sexual is so vast.
So even if a woman has an intact hymen, men should not fool themselves that such a woman is innocent. Maybe she had anal or oral sex. Who is fooling who here? I am surprised that even in this day and age; perfectly sane men are concerned about such things as virginity.
It is this attitude that leads to virginity testing. Imposed virginity testing is a forced, invasive, and degrading physical examination. It is a violation of women’s human rights that breaches articles from internationally recognised declarations, covenants, and conventions. It is thus a violation of Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states: “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks”.
Additionally, the results of a virginity test are commonly given to a fiancé, husband, or woman’s family. This disclosure of patient information breaches the ethical standard of confidentiality that a medical doctor is expected to uphold.
No one has a right to tell you that you are not a virgin. Virginity is a psychological state and anyone who questions your word that you are a virgin does not know what he or she is talking about.
I rest my case.