Woman’s worth



Raquel Ronzone

New car. Caviar. Football team. Lear jet. For the women paying for their hymenorraphies, money buys something much more significant: safe lives in their societies.

Named after the Greek god of marriage, the hymen is the thin membrane that partially closes the entrance to the vagina. Archaic languages called it the maidenhead; current dictions have named it the cherry or the flower.

Regardless of the socially generated terminology, the hymen’s mere existence has erroneously become the definitive test of a woman’s virginity.

People have asserted that, because of its very intimate location, the hymen would remain intact as long as a woman did not engage in sexual activity; during her first sexual encounter, the conviction further states, a woman’s hymen would tear, causing her inevitable pain and blood loss.

Acting on this widely propagated belief, cultures that esteem or mandate pre-marital virginity have undertaken great lengths to determine the chasteness of prospective brides.

Some Australian tribes consult a specially appointed older woman, Discovery Health notes. That elder would perforate the hymen of the future bride exactly one week before her nuptials. If she concludes that the young woman’s hymen has already separated from the vaginal wall, then the bride-to-be’s surrounding community can torture, starve, publicly shame and murder her. It is entirely within societal boundaries.

One blogger from “Brutally Honest” notes the emphasis placed on post-coital bleeding by some groups. In some Mediterranean and African cultures, the spouse’s family can punish or banish the newly wed woman because she, a “non-virgin,” “shamed” them.

In Arab countries, the blogger adds, people may kill “non-virgin” brides. These deeply ingrained customs, mainly the “necessity” of a woman’s pre-nuptial purity, that rationalize these violent, inhumane behaviors often exempt the wrongdoers from punishment.

The devastatingly popular two-fold myth of hymen attachment in virgins and first-time bleeding – along with the criticism attached to pre-marital sexual intimacy by certain cultures throughout the world – has fueled some women to undergo hymen reconstructive surgery, colloquially known as revirginization.

This “restoration” of female virginity comes with a significant price tag. The aforementioned blogger writes that women in Egypt pay anywhere from $100-$600 for the operation that could take place in a clinic or private home; women in Turkey pay between $140 and $1500.

Elaine Sciolino of The New York Times wrote in a June 11, 2008 article that increasing numbers of European women, particularly Muslims, are footing the exorbitant bills for the “illusion of virginity.”

One 23-year-old French student paid a reduced fee of $2,900 while another 26-year old French woman split the $3,400 bill with her fiancé.

Science has proven countless times that the hymen has no easily discernible purpose and is not, by any means, the telltale sign of a woman’s sexual history.

It can tear during strenuous athletic exercise, during menstruation or for no apparent reason at all.

None of these reasons involves sexual activity. Furthermore, some women must have their hymens surgically removed before giving birth because they are either flexible or small enough to remain intact during intercourse.

A long-running, grave misunderstanding of the female anatomy, then, has forced women to suffer the shame of being a “non-virgin,” whether true or not; to hand over hundreds or thousands of dollars to doctors whose claims of restoring virginity are completely and entirely groundless; and to endure excruciating, even fatal, condemnation about their personal lives from peers.

Outrage is just the beginning.

Worldwide, people are validating the worth of a woman by a single part of her body – a thin piece of tissue located in the most private place on her – to the point of compromising her identity.

Women, misguided and pressured by their own cultures and homes, are undergoing surgery to give the outward appearance of virginity, particularly for their forthcoming marriages.

In these allegedly civilized communities, everyone, from the elders who encourage hymenorraphy to the doctors who perform it under the guise of “revirginization,” sends a very direct message to these women: You are not good enough. You need to change.

Virgins or not, each women is good, from those unfamiliar with the procedure to those who suffered it.

Despite what hymen restoration, a blatant sabotage of female value, dictates, women are far more valuable than their appearances.


Raquel Ronzone is a sophomore from Philadelphia, Pa. She can be reached at [email protected].