Gynecologists say that in the past few years, more Muslim women are seeking 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.”
Source: The New York Times
Evil, secular European society is being blamed here, but at most it simply provides a context where Muslim women have more options to make choices about their lives and their bodies. Unfortunately, some of the choices which they want to make are still so frowned upon by traditionalist Muslims that these women have to find ways to "take back" what they did. They still don't have enough power in Muslim families and communities to demand acceptance of who they are and the choices they made, so they have give the illusion that nothing happened.
And what are those choices? On the surface, they are about having sex with whom they want and when they want; more fundamentally, though, those choices are about living their own lives and taking control over their bodies and sexuality. The demand for virginity, in contrast, is a demand for control: families demand control over the bodies and sexuality of young women until they can be delivered into the waiting hands of a husband who, in turn, will also demand control over his wife.
A woman is not allowed to have sexual feelings, desires, or experiences which are not under the control of the patriarchal leaders in her life. Religion is an effective tool in maintaining this sort of control because religion teaches that it's God's will that men have this control over women. It's a "sin" for women to have their own feelings, desires, and experiences. It's "wrong" for women to dress, think, talk, and behave in ways that demonstrate any independence from the sexual control of men.
“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.”
Given the violence which Muslim women can face if they don't submit to the standards imposed on them by men, it's hardly surprising to find women anxious to undergo this surgery — but why suggest that virginity is more important than life? For one thing, every surgery comes with risks and so what we have here are women who are taking medical risks in order to appear to be virgins and thus avoid abuse from men. Secondly, when virginity and "sexual purity" are idealized and fetishized to such a degree, they really do become more important than humanity and human life. This is often a problem with religions where "purity" is valued because total purity is impossible while the consequences of impurity are horrendous.
Of course, religion isn't the sole problem here. Although religion has been integral in defending, justifying, and preserving patriarchy, even in the absence of religion these type so misogynistic attitudes would persist. That's demonstrated by how easy it is for some men to defend controlling and/or subordinating women without resorting to religious arguments. We saw that here on this site recently when a couple of commenters insisted that women who don't dress "modestly" and "conservatively" are sluts, attention-whores, prostitutes, and of course are just getting what they deserve when subjected to abuse, bullying, and harassment on the streets.
William Saletan writes in Slate:
I'm no fan of most cosmetic medicine. It's a surrender to stupid social pressures. It's superficial, unnecessary, and expensive. It perfectly expresses our insecurity and triviality. We should use technology to overcome tragic realities, not to alter stigmatized appearances.
But sometimes, a stigmatized appearance can become a tragic reality. That's the paradox of virginity fetishism. The quality of your soul doesn't matter. If you don't have that bit of tissue between your legs, you're garbage.
That is indeed how some men feel even today — a woman's worth is defined by how successful she has been controlled. If she has refused to act autonomously and make decisions which her male relations might disapprove of, then she is "pure" and thus a good person. If she makes decisions which males regard as insufficiently modest, then she is garbage. We found similar sentiments expressed here in a non-religious context. Deathslayer wrote:
This strumpet isn’t just “asking for it” when it comes to sexual attention, she is DEMANDING it.
Yes, some innocent women get hurt, but the reality of rape statistics is that few middle-aged and older women get raped compared the vast majority who are in the 18-35 age range.
Somewhere along the line, I went through a metamorphosis. I changed from a man who loved women and thought they were just about the greatest thing in the world, to a man who can’t stand them, or anything about them.
Women are SLAVES to their emotions and their ENTIRE life is guided by whatever mood they may be in at any given time. You may have good intentions and think you are “helping” or “educating” women by explaining things clearly and reasonably, but all you are doing is wasting brain cells and oxygen. I have come to believe that most women are INCAPABLE of deep intelligence. They simply do not have the technical mind necessary for rational thought and true reason. It is beyond their grasp. You might as well try explaining Quantum Physics to your dog.
When women are capable of making logical, long term decisions, that are for the good of the whole and not just themselves, they are welcome to join us men at the adult table. Until then, there is plenty of room at the kiddie table.
Should women wear berkas, I really do not care, if American women want to go that far just to get some “attention” then so be it. Maybe it will stop so many of them using the “summer” as an excuse to leave the house looking like a Bangkok street walker, and then getting upset when they are viewed upon as such.
Women who fail to abide by men's standards about what is appropriately "modest" and "conservative" for women are not just garbage, they are "hoebags," "strumpets," and "streetwalkers." Women who make autonomous choices must be denigrated and told that they aren't mature or intelligent enough to make choices for themselves. Although Muslim society is among the strictest when it comes to the oppression of women, it's clear that there is a lot of sympathy for such oppression among some men in the West.
Demanding that women adopt certain standards of "modesty" which aren't applied to men falls in the same category as demanding that women be virgins on their wedding night, that women be demure in their speech, that women focus their goals and desires on keeping house and raising babies rather than getting a career, that girls take abstinence pledges and attend purity balls, and so forth. Furthemore, when such controls fail, the next stages include verbal abuse, harassment, catcalling, whispering campaigns, gossip, and ultimately even physical abuse, torture, and death.
It's all about controlling women's sexuality and bodies in order to ensure that they remain available to men. It's about preserving men's superior social and political status — it's Male Supremacism, morally and intellectually on par with White Supremacism as a social ideology or outlook.