Fake hymens and slut shaming
By Natalie Serafini, Opinions Editor
I suppose I’m a member of that feminine mystique Betty Friedan once got so uppity about. I’ve spent the requisite hours and dollars on magazines; I’ve ignored homework in favour of camouflaging a zit; I’ve done the whole “I’m too fat” thing and subsequent obsession with salads. Of course the list of what it takes to be a woman nowadays goes on, but you get the basic gist. Imagine my shock and chagrin when I heard of what is—for some women—a requisite to respectable femaleness: a fake hymen.
[quote]Apparently the feminine mystique lies at the point between prude and slut. [/quote]
The target audience for the product seems to be countries where virginity is integral to securing a husband. Companies like the Hymen Shop tout the artificial membrane’s ability to restore virginity with “no needles, [and] no costly operation.” Whether you want to feign your virginity for the big night or spice up your married life with multiple fake hymens, this is the place for you!
Of course the product isn’t actually for the woman’s happiness and well-being; or it is, but only in the sense that a thin layer of membrane lies between a woman being marriageable and being destined for spinster-ship. Falling for imitation artificial hymens (ones that aren’t the genuine Hymen Shop article) will apparently incite anger in the husband upon his finding out he was tricked into marrying a less than virginal woman. Which brings me to the conclusion that fake hymens—like breast implants and vaginal bleaching—are not for the woman’s pleasure, sexual or otherwise. Who wants to shove a fake membrane that dissolves into blood up their vagina? I get enough real blood once a month, thank you very much.
They attempt to be discreet, but the Hymen Shop describes its services with a wink and a leering nod. “Since hymens can be broken via physical activity or even by the use of a tampon, many women are concerned about restoring their virginity.” It’s true that hymens can be broken in a variety of ways. Yet, if a tampon or “physical activity” (due to their subtlety, I’m forced to assume that they mean exercise rather than sex) caused the hymen to break, I doubt many people would refer to that as a loss of virginity. In which case, there’s no need to worry about restoring it, because it wasn’t lost. But that isn’t the real concern. The concern is with shaming women for being sexually active and then capitalizing on that shame.
Many people may be shaking their heads in disappointment and disgust at the way these misogynistic, fundamentalist countries treat their women. Oppression of women is pretty blatant in countries where women are pressured into buying fake hymens.
Well, Western society isn’t much better. Our appearances, thoughts, actions, and speech are shaped by a fundamentally sexist society. There are wrinkles in our thinking habits that sometimes get ironed out by feminists. Those ideas that women aren’t intelligent enough to vote, women aren’t intelligent enough to work, women are only glorified baby-making flowerpots. But language is still peppered with “bitch,” “slut,” “whore,” and “ho,” and we live in a rape culture that blames the survivor rather than the perpetrator.
Apparently the feminine mystique lies at the point between prude and slut. While we aren’t exactly selling fake hymens in drug stores, we’re still guilty of slut shaming. I’m angry that artificial hymens are a thing, but I’m not about to blind myself to the fact that we have a similar problem here. Maybe it’s not as obvious as the fake hymen slogan, “Kiss[ing] your deep dark secret goodbye,” or maybe it just seems smaller because we’re living it. Whatever the case, we can’t delude ourselves into thinking sexism—along with slut shaming and the devaluation of women—isn’t a problem.