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For about $US30 you can buy an artificial hymen pack from China and have it shipped to anywhere in the world.

This ‘newly developed technology enables (customers) the amazing ability to become a virgin again’. The page warns the customer to watch out for inferior products which ‘might cause a very negative situation when the male discovers he has been fooled to believe that his wife was faking her virginity.’

When I was first given this story, I had a pretty clear idea of what I wanted to say. I wanted to point out that buying fake hymens – either in packs delivered from China or from a plastic surgeon – is straight up bad and we, as women, are participating in our own oppression by engaging with this crud. What I failed to comprehend is that this is a safety issue for a lot of women. Approximately 5,000 honour killings occur internationally every year. This number is thought to be a gross underestimate. Two thirds of these victims, 93% of whom are women, were killed by their own family. This occurs in western countries. In 2010, police in the United Kingdom reported 2,823 honour attacks, nearly 500 of which occurred in London. These attacks include abduction, murder, beatings, burning, gang rapes, use of acid and mutilations. Whilst there are no clear figures for how many of these attacks and murders are related to suspicions that a woman may not be a virgin, it has been claimed by police in Egypt that the operation to reconstruct a woman’s hymen has caused an 80% reduction in honour killings.

When we shifted from the hunter-gatherer way of life into agricultural societies, we shifted into a rigid view of gender roles. This is because the new way of doing things prioritised property and ownership. Land passed from father to son, reinforcing the need for paternal certainty. This, in turn, encourages the idealisation of female purity. A pure woman can be passed from father to husband as a means of gaining or tying together of fortune and land. A pure woman only has her husband’s babies, meaning his land passes to his biological sons. The agricultural society’s gender structure was reinforced by the monotheistic religions which came about around that time and also stress female purity. These ideals remain in our society today, not just in the communities where honour attacks occur.

“Why buy the cow if you get the milk for free?” The warning for all women, that if you have pre-marital sex you are not marriage material — marriage being your ultimate life goal, obvs. “Don’t have sex on the first date if you want to have a relationship with the guy,” because no man wants an impure girlfriend.

Placing importance on your virginity, your hymen, perpetuates the idea that when you lose it, you are diminished in some way. Like that one moment defined you and defines your sex life after that point. If the loss of virginity moment isn’t perfect, what does that mean for you after that point?

As Jessica Valenti points out in The Purity Myth:How America’s Obsession with Virginity Is Hurting Young Women, when we buy into the idea that a woman’s value is determined by her purity, we allow women to be valued by their sexuality. We feed into the system that keeps women and men trapped in these restrictive gender roles. When a culture believes this, it makes it easy to belittle women based on these things. It takes away a woman’s value and power in important areas, not just the bedroom.

Now I am not saying don’t think of your first time as special. I am saying think of every time you have sex as special. Make every time a time when you feel respected and cared for. Sex is special and something you should only do when you want to and when you feel comfortable and cherished. That isn’t just the first time, that is every time. It’s about more than your hymen.

A 2011 study of students at Dicle University in Turkey found that 30% of male students stated that a blood stained bed sheet should be displayed to their family on the day of their wedding. If you are in a situation where you feel one of these kits is necessary for your safety, my first instinct is to tell you to run. You are welcome to stay at my house. Or lie. But don’t use the hymen kits. Reviews say the “blood” in these kits looks like Kool-Aid. If someone is likely to hurt you because of your hymen, they deserve a lie. I can’t stress this enough: you deserve to feel cherished and safe your first and every time you have sex. Your life and your safety are important. Your hymen is not. There is more to you than your purity and your sexuality. You bring value to this world.

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