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If women own their bodies they can choose to modify them

The BBC reports,

Calls for ‘virginity repair’ surgery to be banned

Campaigners are urging the government to outlaw “virginity repair” surgery.

Many Muslim women risk being outcast, or in extreme cases killed, if their spouses or families discover they have had sex before marriage.

And some are opting for a medical procedure in which doctors restore a layer of membrane at the entrance to the vagina.

But there are concerns a ban would increase the dangers to Muslim women by driving the procedure underground.

Guidelines from the General Medical Council (GMC) state a patient’s consent to undergo a procedure should come into question if it is suspected of being “given under pressure or duress exerted by another person”.

Those GMC guidelines are correct. Forcing a woman to have her hymen repaired is a serious crime, as is threatening her with violence because she had sex outside marriage to get it broken in the first place. That violent threats so often go unpunished is a national scandal.

But the fact remains that most women who go to have their hymens repaired want it done. In less drastic cases they want the procedure for such reasons as to get and keep a husband, to avoid letting their parents know that they no longer adhere to traditional Muslim mores, or to avoid a breach with their husband’s family. You may say that it is a bad thing that such crushing social pressure for a bride to be a virgin remains prevalent in some communities in the UK. But the principle that an adult human being owns their own body does not cease to apply because he or she gives in to social pressure. Plenty of women get boob jobs and bum lifts because of social pressure, too. Are these bad decisions? Possibly. Cosmetic surgery has risks. But good or bad, the decision is theirs to make.

In more drastic cases women want their hymens repaired because it is the only way to protect themselves from the twisted “honour” of their fathers and husbands. Of course no woman should have to resort to such desperate measures in order to be safe from murder. But what sort of idiocy is it to see a person taking extreme measures to protect themselves from murder and then to think the course of action that best serves justice is to prosecute the victim – or the surgeon who is helping her keep safe?

The usual sort, unfortunately.

31 comments to If women own their bodies they can choose to modify them

  • But surely “virginity repair” surgery is a symptom, not a cause. I wonder what the cause might be? Surely, not a 7th century patriarchal death cult intent on pushing its medieval views on womyn?

  • Itellyounothing

    Got to ask, who is behind the calls for it to be banned? Same medieval death cult?

  • Got to ask, who is behind the calls for it to be banned? Same medieval death cult?

    Maybe Islam is RIGHT about women?

    😆

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    It is not an either-or situation. The belief that women who have sex before marriage must be killed is very wrong. That does not make the belief that women should be forbidden to have this form of surgery right.

  • bobby b

    This is like ordering people in Wuhan not to wear masks because it makes Wuhan appear dangerous.

  • Eric

    Isn’t this surgery a kind of fraud, though?

  • Snorri Godhi

    This is like ordering people in Wuhan not to wear masks because it makes Wuhan appear dangerous.

    No: This is like ordering people in Wuhan not to wear masks because in an ideal world they would not need to wear masks.

  • Fraser Orr

    I think that there seems to be a general assumption here that women want this surgery because they feel threatened by men, but I think it is not uncommon that they are just simply embarrassed that they didn’t live up to their own standards of chastity and do it to feel good about themselves even if their betrothed would be ok with a non virgin bride. Or because they want to feel renewed, like their marriage is that start of their lives. People tend to like to deceive themselves about their sexual history (men and women, often in the opposite directions) and emotions and feelings around things like chastity, loosing ones virginity, and just sexual activity in general are complex, illogical, internally inconsistent and baffling, especially to the one having the feelings.

    Of course hymens break for reasons unrelated to sexual activity, and it might be that, even were she chaste at the time of her wedding, she might want to feel “complete”.

    Of course it is all rather stupid. The virgin thing is really a strange anachronism where a male wants to ensure that his progeny are actually his or to have some weird send of conquering. It is right up there with the chastity belt and the caveman dragging her into his cave by the hair. I’d have thought that a man in an exclusive relationship with a bride would rather have someone who had some skill in the matter. (Though I think historically among those with resources, wives were for breeding, mistresses were for fun.)

    BTW, it reminds me of, back in the day, when Prince Charles was marrying Diana. In some report on the BBC they explained that that palace physician had examined her to ensure that she was, and I quote, “virgo intacta”. I was pretty young at the time and barely understood what they were talking about, but the ridiculousness of such a thing struck me very much back then, so much that I apparently remember it even today something like forty years later.

    I’m pretty sure that neither Kate nor the now departed Meghan, were “virgo intacta” at the time of their wedding, which I guess is progress of a sort.

  • NickM

    Eric is right. Yes it is a form of fraud. It is also utterly unnecessary surgery and surgery always comes with a risk. Should it be banned? I dunno but I do know if I were a gyno surgeon there is no way I’d do it.

    Apart from anything else hymen doesn’t equal virginity. Using tampons can break a hymen. Sexual intercourse doesn’t necessarily break one. Marry someone you love – the rest is bollocks.

    And really in 2020 should British women have to believe they must undergo a procedure enormously more invasive than actual sex in order to be some sort of fraud virgin?

  • NickM

    I kinda crossed over with Fraser Orr here. I shall find my specs. I do think we made similar points which I think are very valid.

  • Isn’t this surgery a kind of fraud, though? Eric (January 27, 2020 at 9:15 pm)

    Yes, but Jews who faked Aryan identities in the 1940s were also engaged in a kind of fraud. I have a considerable distaste for anything that savours of deceit – and a considerably greater one for honour killings. It is revolting that we have imported this long dead custom. As early as the year 1600 (and I think it merely noted an older situation), it was remarked that if the daughter of a great house ran off with a footman in England, the proud family would merely “cast her off” in a social sense, whereas in Spain in that year the murder of the daughter (and footman, of course) would be seen as a normal response. Honour killings are a massive regression of our society (inflicted on us, of course, by those who own the word ‘feminist’).

  • The virgin thing is really a strange anachronism where a male wants to ensure that his progeny are actually his (Fraser Orr, January 28, 2020 at 6:18 am)

    Wow! The strange anachronism of a male caring if the progeny he raises are his. 🙂

    If a hospital started handing out babies at random to women who had caesarians, explaining that it was a strange anachronism for each mother to want to raise her own child rather than anybody’s, would you be cheering them on? 🙂

  • NickM

    Niall,
    Shouldn’t some level of actual trust be better than a highly dubious medical “proof” if you wanna have kids? Actually isn’t this procedure a potential way to fake paternity? The whole thing is rotten. Yes, it may prevent some women being killed by their in-laws to assuage the unrighteous anger of a Dark Age kiddie-fiddler and generalised Bertram of the first water but we are better aren’t we? And it will be a colder day in Cheshire than it is now (and it is bitter) before I take advice on virginity, sexual mortality or anything from a supreme git who had multiple wives – including a nine year old.

  • Snorri Godhi

    The virgin thing is really a strange anachronism where a male wants to ensure that his progeny are actually his or to have some weird send of conquering.

    Niall has dealt with the obvious (“to ensure that his progeny are [sic] actually his”).
    (And NickM has completely missed the point of Niall’s comment.)

    I’ll deal with the weird sense of conquering.
    The fact is, for a man, a woman who has never had sex is a woman with high standards. That is true whether the man is conscious of it or not. A man would be proud to be the first to meet those standards.

    That does not hold for women: for a woman, a man who has never had sex is a man who is below the standards of other women, and why should she lower her standards below those of other women?

    Just to be clear: a virgin hymen is sufficient but definitely not necessary to stroke a man’s ego. But if a woman has the right to a penis, then she definitely has the right to a repaired hymen.

  • Sam

    It wasn’t a personal requirement but it’s not anachronistic for a man to want some kind of assurance that the kids will be his. I think NickM’s issue is an anachronistic worldview that does not include the possibility that women lie about the most intimate things possible.

    More interestingly to me: how are the lefties going to square this ban on genital manipulation and their support for unfettered taxpayer funded genital manipulation for confused 8 year olds?

  • bobby b

    Fraser Orr
    January 28, 2020 at 6:18 am

    “The virgin thing is really a strange anachronism where a male wants to ensure that his progeny are actually his or to have some weird send of conquering.”

    More like, the virgin thing is important to men who cannot stand the thought that their performance or equipment might not stand comparison.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Wow! The strange anachronism of a male caring if the progeny he raises are his.”

    The anachronism is the assumption that sex = progeny. Given that since contraception came into widespread use, sex without progeny is now normal, so the rules have changed. Men still care about the progeny they raise. They don’t care so much about a bride’s virginity so long as there is no chance of children.

    Where contraception is forbidden or rare, it still matters.

  • Fraser Orr

    NickM
    Eric is right. Yes it is a form of fraud.

    Every cosmetic procedure is a type a of fraud. When you get dentures you are perpetrating a fraud that you have great teeth. You are even covering up your moral failures as to your poor past choices in inadequate flossing.

    It is also utterly unnecessary surgery and surgery always comes with a risk.

    Who are we to judge what is necessary or not for someone else? A boob job is unnecessary surgery too and comes with risks. A tattoo is a form of surgery (in the loosest sense) and carries risks too. Parachuting out an airplane for recreation is not necessary and comes with risks. But these are just more culturally acceptable to you.

    And really in 2020 should British women have to believe they must undergo a procedure enormously more invasive than actual sex in order to be some sort of fraud virgin?

    Should they have to? No. Should they be allowed to? To say they should be “allowed to” is to accept that you or I have even the slightest say in what decisions she and her doctor decides or what she believes. We don’t get to “allow” women to do things to their body. It is none of our damn business.

  • Fraser Orr

    @Niall Kilmartin
    Wow! The strange anachronism of a male caring if the progeny he raises are his. 🙂

    Yes I didn’t express myself well. All this talk of sex is apparently befuddling my brain… 🙂

    I guess the point I am making is that there is a natural asymmetry. When a baby is born it is obvious who its mommy is, it is much less obvious who its daddy is. So so chastity, fidelity and virginity are a method of controlling that.

  • Eric

    Every cosmetic procedure is a type a of fraud. When you get dentures you are perpetrating a fraud that you have great teeth. You are even covering up your moral failures as to your poor past choices in inadequate flossing.

    Well, sure. But some moral failures are more important than others to a potential suitor. While it’s true your sex life is your own business as a single person, it’s not really true when you get married.

  • Fraser Orr

    @Eric
    Well, sure. But some moral failures are more important than others to a potential suitor. While it’s true your sex life is your own business as a single person, it’s not really true when you get married.

    Are you arguing that by restoring her hymen the woman is committing a fraud because a woman with a hymen is more valuable than one without? Much like if I sold you a used computer but claimed that it was brand new?

    I think the radical proponents of some religions and backward cultures would agree with you, but I certainly don’t. But in a sense I am hoist on my own petard here since I would certainly argue that value is subjective. In my judgement a woman without a hymen seems more likely to have more skill in the arena of sex, so I might well judge the reverse, but these judgements are very personal.

    Of course in the western culture blondes with big boobs are often considered more attractive and consequently more valuable than brunettes who are less buxom. Does that mean that boob jobs and peroxide are also a fraud? How about padded push up bras and spanx? Or what about the dude driving the Porsche that he is massively over extended debt wise to communicate to “the ladies” that he is super successful. Is that also a fraud?

  • NickM

    Fraser,
    I am married to a curvy blonde. I have had previous long-term relationships with very slim brunettes. The history is complicated but has a heck of a lot more to do with things like the Atlantic than my aesthetic thoughts. But if a woman had gone to the extreme of very intimate surgery to “prove” her previous “purity” then I would wonder. And yes it is way different from other forms of cosmetic surgery because it is fraud. It is totally different from breast augmentation because usually she’ll be err… be upfront about that.

  • Paul Marks

    Being shunned (“ostracised”) is NOT a violation of freedom – J.S. Mill was just wrong to claim (in his “On Liberty”) that it was. It can be very nasty – but it is not a crime (by the way – this is one reason why the “harm” principle is a very bad replacement for the “non aggression” principle of the Common Law – many actions “harm” others without being crimes).

    However, threats of violence (including murder) clearly are a violation of freedom.

    If a women is under threat of violence then the person who threatens her must be punished.

    As for the medical question – yes a woman should be allowed to have this operation if they really want to, but NOT OUT OF FEAR OF VIOLENCE.

  • Eric

    Are you arguing that by restoring her hymen the woman is committing a fraud because a woman with a hymen is more valuable than one without? Much like if I sold you a used computer but claimed that it was brand new?

    I think the radical proponents of some religions and backward cultures would agree with you, but I certainly don’t.

    Yes, but it doesn’t matter whether you or I think this is true; what matters is what the groom thinks. And if this is a problem for the bride, why doesn’t she marry someone else instead of engaging in fraud?

  • Fraser Orr

    @Eric
    Yes, but it doesn’t matter whether you or I think this is true; what matters is what the groom thinks.

    My problem is with the word “fraud”. It is a legal word, it is a criminal word. It implies that the value being taken in the deception is somehow something that the rest of us should get involved in.

    If you say it is deceptive, then plainly that is true. But fraud? Is every lie or untruth a fraud?

    And if this is a problem for the bride, why doesn’t she marry someone else instead of engaging in fraud?

    I’m sorry I find this a silly complaint. People decide to do things, and especially important things, for a large range of reasons. Just because a woman finds her betrothed views on virginity backward doesn’t mean that his many other qualities, and the cultural and familial benefits of a marriage, don’t massively outweigh this one shortcoming. I’m sure you are a great guy but should you get married (or if you are) do you really think that your partner didn’t compromise about some of your shortcomings? You don’t think they maybe even weren’t entirely honest about every part of their past? Perhaps your relationship is one of complete honestly and openness, and if it is, good for you, but I think you set your exceptions rather too high for the rest of us mere mortals.

    And FWIW, as I said above, I think you’d find that a lot of the virgin restoration surgery is a lot more to do with the woman’s self perception than it is about fear of her male relatives. I don’t have any surveys to back that up with actual data. I imagine such data would be almost impossible to obtain. But based on what I know of people and the complex illogical, emotional way people think about sexuality, I suspect that I am right. Within the evangelical Christian community there is a significant movement toward so called “revirginizing” which, although not generally involving surgery, does tell you a lot about people’s perception on these things.

  • Eric

    My problem is with the word “fraud”. It is a legal word, it is a criminal word. It implies that the value being taken in the deception is somehow something that the rest of us should get involved in.

    If you say it is deceptive, then plainly that is true. But fraud? Is every lie or untruth a fraud?

    Marriage is a contract. Do we not “get involved” when contracts aren’t honored? What happens if you dump your wife for a younger model? Everyone shrugs and walks away?

    I’m sorry I find this a silly complaint. People decide to do things, and especially important things, for a large range of reasons. Just because a woman finds her betrothed views on virginity backward doesn’t mean that his many other qualities, and the cultural and familial benefits of a marriage, don’t massively outweigh this one shortcoming.

    Well, okay, if his many other qualities are important to her, then she ought to live up to his expectations instead of enticing him to marry her under false pretenses. Or just accept that the choices she’s made, as they are wont to do, have negatively affected the course of her life. Is this different from the case of a broke man using borrowed money to represent substantial wealth throughout courtship?

  • APL

    “Many Muslim women risk being outcast, or in extreme cases killed, if their spouses or families discover they have had sex before marriage.”

    Should ‘the procedure’ be conducted on the National health service? Once you remove socialised health care from the equation, who cares if a woman wants to pay good money to for an elective procedure.

    Maybe the question ought to be, since according to the terms of the original article, this procedure seems to be a minority elective procedure, if it were to be a procedure conducted for free on the NHS, there should be a sort of tax levied on the fraction of the population that most frequently uses the procedure, a kind of Jizya.

    Anyway, by many accounts, that fraction of the population have had their labia and clitoris torn off with a blunt blade already. So, I can’t see there is much scope for reconstructing the hymen in those circumstances.

  • I find this a silly complaint (Fraser Orr @ January 29, 2020 at 10:09 pm, replying to Eric.

    A bit rich, Fraser, when your own argument turns on the lawyer’s distinction that not all deceit is legal fraud. 🙂

    People do indeed differ in what kinds of honesty they expect in marriage. Because Mary Katherine Ham was very upfront in letting her Obama-supporting fiancé know that she, um, didn’t, he could not complain, after they were married, on the occasion when an afternoon discussion of Obama’s dietary rules ended with

    HIM: It’s just salt!
    HER: Its just freedom!!!
    HIM: It’s just – two in the morning. Can we go to sleep?

    But I’m sure there are TDS sufferers out there who would be appalled to discover that their spouses had been unfaithful to them with Trump in the voting booth or had concealed a past of tweeting the kind of thoughts they loved to cancel. Your terming some views ‘backward’ is a bit question-begging.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Isn’t this surgery a kind of fraud, though?

    Since this comment has generated a sub-thread:
    In the late 1990s i watched Eurotrash on Channel 4, occasionally. I still remember that a minor Italian female celebrity, quite good-looking, made an appearance. She was going to marry another Italian celebrity about 3 times her age, and to celebrate the event she was going to have her hymen restored.
    She definitely was not deceiving anyone!
    (Almost certainly, her betrothed had already found out that she was not a virgin.)

  • bobby b

    “She was going to marry another Italian celebrity about 3 times her age . . . “

    Kevlar, perhaps . . .

  • Lee Moore

    Regarding Fraser’s “anachronism”

    Others have dealt with the point that who’s progeny he is pouring his resources into is of some interest to most men.

    But why ? Not because (most) men have rationally computed, in proper microeconomic fashion, the return on investment. But because evolution has provided them with a largely unconscious heuristic – it matters whether the kids you are bringing up with your gal are yours. For evolution has biased your inherited mental furniture. Those cavemen who didn’t care whose kids they brought up left fewer descendants than those who did so care.

    So what your average chap has got in his head is not a sleek Ferrari of microeconomic circuits that can immediately recompute in the light of knowledge about contraceptives and DNA testing. It’s that old set of psychological heuristics that say “my mate must be chaste, except with me.” And “she looks pretty, hope her husband goes off with the hunt tomorrow.”

    There are other sex-based heuristics that do not live up to the standards of RATIONAL MAN, in the modern age.

    There’s “I want a young, plump in the right places, gal”; “Ooo, he looks so strong and tough”; “what the Hell can I do to make myself look younger, and plump in those places, not those places.” And “is he the sort of chap who’s going to be able to bring home the bacon, or at a pinch, wildebeest.” And “I find asymmetrical faces ugly.”

    Ze point – obviously – is that all those old heuristical bits of instinctive mental furntiture are still there shaping our actual preferences in 2020. And they are not weak, vestigial things. They are the most important things in everyone’s lives, until (perhaps) they work well enough to generate actual sprogs, who can then seem quite important too.

    The fact that a small minority of metrosexual columnists think that sex and reproduction ought to be completely separate, because contraception, does not mean that they are separate. Even in 2020 they’re still joined at the hip – or perhaps more accurately, in our heads.

    That old mental furniture may be “anachronistic” in the sense that it evolved a long time ago. But it’s still here and will not be dismissed by a few columns, or even thousands of columns, in the Guardian.

    It’s here, it’s queer, and it ain’t leaving any time soon.

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