A blog about science and religion from the viewpoint of a biology student in a state that's pretty much not on the map.

Monday, August 11, 2008


This blog is mostly an entomology/evolution/general science blog because political/human rights bloggers are a dime a dozen, but I do dip into culture and politics every once and awhile. I'm also not a medical blogger, so this is also kind of new for me. Aside from reading about science, I also read up on human rights and such. The rights of women are important to me and they should be important to anyone who reads this.

One of the things that's always puzzled me about religion is the concept of virginity until marriage. I've always lived in a culture where it was considered unrealistic. According to the CDC, well over half of people are sexually active by their twenties. And here in America, it's usually considered a surprise if you're a virgin when you exit high school. If you're a male, it's considered a dishonor.

It's always struck me as just a way for men to stake their territory. While great significance is placed a woman's virginity, a male's virginity is considered a burden. Examples of double standards abound and there's no reason to expound on them.

Virginity is a very important part of many cultures in the world, but nowhere else is it more important than the Mideast. Women who have sexual relations before marriage risk being disowned by their families, or worse.

In many parts of the world, women are still treated as nothing but property...and little valued property at that. Nobody would beat their motorcycle because somebody has ridden it, however in many parts of the world women are beaten to death for precisely this reason. There have been cases in middle eastern countries where women were beaten to death for talking to westerners. Women have been beaten to death for standing up to or leaving their abusive husbands.

As late as 1994, virginity tests for schoolgirls were still common in Turkey.

Usually, virginity is determined by inspecting the hymen. The hymen is a thin, collagenous membrane that covers the vagina at birth. Many people believe that the hymen breaks during the first insertion, however this may not be necessarily true. It can break from trauma, strenuous physical activity such as gymnastics or biking or a multitude of other things. Some women may be born without one.

This creates a problem for women in cultures similar to the examples I mentioned previously. Women in Europe experience less stringent sexual norms than we have here in America, and since the population of Muslim families is increasing this results in women who may feel like they're caught between the worlds of their family and the culture they know. Similar pressures are felt by women in America who hail from places in Central and South America.

If the hymen breaks, either through excersize or intercourse, this could create a problem for women in hyper-conservative cultures. They risk dishonor, violence and death. In some cultures, this will go so far as to force the women to marry her attacker to maintain her honor.

Fortunately for them there is a solution in the form of hymenorrhaphy, or 'hymen reconstruction' in laymen's terms. This surgery, in some parts of the world, can literally save the lives of women in many cases.

The surgery is a relatively minor procedure. Patients may remain conscious after being given a local anesthetic or may be unconscious during the procedure after being given a general anesthetic.

In many cases, the hymen is barely damaged and can be reconstructed by simply stitching the remnants together with dissolveable sutures. In surgeries such as this, gelatin capsules may be inserted to simulate post-coitus bleeding.

In other cases, a flap of the vaginal lining may be used to create a new hymen. In this case, the new hymen will have it's own blood supply and the capsule will not be needed.

In many countries, these procedures are banned because they're viewed as dishonest. Many feminists also scoff at the notion of procedures used to restore the appearance of virginity. Moreover, these procedures aren't cheap...the cost can be between $2,000 and $4,000 in Europe.

Works cited/more information:

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