What significance does a drop of blood hold? For a vampire, it could be precious life; for Sleeping Beauty, it would be certain death with the prick of her finger; for a virgin, it is evidence of her purity. Recently, the trend of “designer vaginas” has taken a turn toward more moral ground, where women are requesting to have their hymens reconstructed to maintain, or regain, their virginity.
In an age when women are increasingly showing up at plastic surgery practices with photos clipped from pornographic magazines depicting the way they’d like their “hoo-hoos” to look, some women are seeking vaginal surgery for deep-seeded social, cultural, and religious reasons. For these women, revirginization is not merely a state of mind, but a matter of personal, and sometimes familial, reputation.
Hymenoplasty, or the surgical reconstruction of the hymen, is a popular procedure among Muslim women in France that is spreading across the U.S. as more women find out about it. During the operation, a woman’s hymen is either surgically re-sewn or a thin membrane is created from the vaginal walls to replicate the hymen so that it breaks and bleeds on the wedding night.
n cultures where a woman and her whole family can be shamed if that drop of blood doesn’t stain her wedding sheets, revirginization is a real concern
Realistically, a woman’s hymen can break long before she’s had intercourse, through playing sports, using a tampon, or other sexual activities. Truth is, many women can’t tell if they’ve “popped their cherries,” and undoubtedly, neither can their partners. But in cultures where a woman and her whole family can be shamed if that drop of blood doesn’t stain her wedding sheets, revirginization is a real concern.
Many “born again virgins” regain their virginity by abstaining from sex for an extended period of time before their weddings to restore a sense of newness, mystery, and sacredness that is revered in our notions of virginity. For some couples, the pledge to become virginal once again is enough, and perhaps more meaningful than an outpatient procedure that reconstructs the hymen for a couple thousand dollars.
I don’t want to downplay the significance of virginity in many religions and cultures worldwide. Neither do I want to dismiss the serious social repercussions that a woman may face if she is thought not to be a virgin on her wedding night. However, I wonder what a drop of blood truly symbolizes and whether its preservation and re-creation is worthwhile. Why is it that women have to face plight if they have had premarital sex, but a man’s virginity is never questioned? Indeed, men are often ridiculed for being virgins, while women are thought of as being promiscuous, immoral, and worthless if they are sexually experienced.
While hymenoplasty is certainly a voluntary surgery, the cultural norms that inspire a woman to undergo such a procedure reflect a society that psychologically keeps women in fear of God or public humiliation for doing what she chooses with her body. On that note, if you want to reconstruct your hymen for whatever reason, sister, go right ahead. The very fact that this surgery exists gives it validity, but I hope that one day we will live in a world where a woman won’t have to consider vaginal surgery to escape persecution or condemnation for what she does with her own body.