For the low, low price of $30, you can be a virgin again! Or can you? What does that even mean?
The Huffington Post recently reported on a virginity kit claiming to “restore your virginity in 5 minutes,” and “save marriages by allowing women to trick their signification others into thinking they still have a hymen.” From the product’s website, here are the instructions: “Insert the Artificial Hymen into your vagina carefully. It will expand a little and make you feel tight. When your lover penetrates, it will ooze out a liquid that appears like blood, not too much but just the right amount. Add in a few moans and groans and you will pass through undetectable!”
Now this is obviously a cultural issue: The Huffington Post article states that it is sold mostly in the U.S., but I have no information on the age, race or religious background of the buyers. I hope it’s not stereotyping to think that it is likely a highly religious population making this purchase. The product itself perhaps seems a little silly but, who knows, maybe it will keep some women safe from family members who would punish them for not having evidence of virginity after a wedding night. Lord knows it’s cheaper than spending thousands of dollars on hymen restoration surgery.
The concept of bleeding-as-proof of virginity is predicated on the notion that it is normal for someone to experience vaginal bleeding from a broken hymen after first intercourse. Sure that can happen, but not everyone with a vagina bleeds the first time they experience penetrative sex – anatomy varies such that some hymens may tear during sex, some get pushed aside with no problem, some are barely existent in the first place. So bleeding after first vaginal intercourse is not an indicator of virginity. In that vein, so-called “virginity tests” are also bogus – you cannot tell if a person has had intercourse by inspecting their hymen.
I think it’s really important to consider what virginity means in the first place. The most common definition of losing one’s virginity is experiencing penis-in-vagina intercourse. Defining sex as PIV intercourse is highly heteronormative and perhaps even a little dangerous – after all, infections can be spread through oral and anal activity just as easily as PIV intercourse. It also narrows the whole spectrum of human sexual intimacy down to one act. Sex doesn’t deserve to be defined in such a limited black-and-white way.
Personally, I hate the term “losing your virginity.” I hate the idea that a person loses something when they begin having sex. I think you can also gain something: an experience, knowledge of your partner, or even just pleasure. The terms we use for having sex for the first time all denote something being taken from you: “Lost your virginity”; “Lost your innocence”; “deflowered.” I came across an excellent idea the other day: referring to your first sexual experience as your “sexual debut.” Love it.
As far as virginity restoration kits, everyone involved knows it’s not really about getting your virginity back; virginity is not a physical state. It’s about creating an illusion. And if you feel it’s necessary to use one to keep yourself safe and live up to cultural expectations, go for it. As far as making your sexual debut, you don’t have to define it as PIV intercourse – it’s your body and your experience. Define it how you want to.