Jewish Journal

Muslim women surgically ‘restore’ virginity

by Brad A. Greenberg

June 10, 2008 | 5:42 pm

Repairing the hymen is a 30-minute surgery that costs just under $3,000 and involves a small cut and some 30 stitches. It’s purpose is to provide “the illusion of virginity,” the New York Times reports in tomorrow’s paper:

Like an increasing number of Muslim women in Europe, she had a hymenoplasty, a restoration of her hymen, the thin vaginal membrane that normally breaks during the first act of intercourse.

“In my culture, not to be a virgin is to be dirt,” said the student, perched on a hospital bed as she awaited surgery on Thursday. “Right now, virginity is more important to me than life.”

As Europe’s Muslim population grows, many young Muslim women find themselves caught between the freedoms that European society affords and the deep-rooted traditions of their parents’ and grandparents’ generations.

Gynecologists report that in the past few years, more Muslim women are asking for certificates of virginity to provide proof to others. That in turn has created a demand among cosmetic surgeons for hymen replacements, which, if done properly, they say, will not be detected and will produce tell-tale vaginal bleeding on the wedding night. The service is widely advertised on the Internet; medical tourism packages are available to countries like Tunisia where it is less expensive.

“If you’re a Muslim woman growing up in more open societies in Europe, you can easily end up having sex before marriage,” said Dr. Hicham Mouallem, who is based in London and performs the operation. “So if you’re looking to marry a Muslim and don’t want to have problems, you’ll try to recapture your virginity.”

Premarital sex is taboo in Islam and Christianity, and considerably less so among Jews. Chastity is considered a virtue by Catholics, the self control to not pleasure the body over God. But once lost, is virginity something that can be restored or reclaimed or repaired?

“I tell you without hesitation,” St. Jerome wrote, “that though God is almighty, He cannot restore a virginity that has been lost.”

Once it is gone, it’s gone. Unless it is sown back together again, an act that at least has practical purposes for women like those mentioned in the NYT article.

I’d never heard of virginity reclamation, but it seems the movement came stateside several years back. Personally, I don’t get it:

“In America there is the idea of the remade person,” she explains. “We are all in an endless state of becoming. You can remake yourself. That has been deeply ingrained in the culture for a long time. So why not virginity? Why not sexuality?”

Of course, there is also a double edge to that sword. “To some people, remakability is precisely what cheapens the thing in first place,” Carpenter says. “Virginity is not special if you can be a virgin again.”

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