Who would have thought a wee little packet of fake blood could threaten to unravel an entire culture. But so great is the threat of the "Artificial Virginity Hymen" -- a kit that helps women fake their virginity -- that prominent Egyptian conservatives are calling for an all-out ban. Not only that, they are also demanding the exile of anyone who traffics it.
Longtime Broadsheet readers will no doubt remember the item at issue, which is made in China and sold by an online sex shop. Once inserted into the vagina, the gizmo leaks fake blood. The product hasn't changed since I puzzled over it last year, but the price sure has: It's selling for a pricey $30, instead of $14.90. It seems the creators have realized that, while similar technology sells for just a couple bucks at a Halloween superstore, they have hit a marketing gold mine. They've also hit a cultural nerve.
The kit "encourages illicit sexual relations," declared Abdel Moati Bayoumi, a respected Egyptian religious scholar, according to the Associated Press. He added: "I think this should absolutely not be allowed to be exported because it brings more harm than benefits. Whoever does it should be punished." On a similar note, Sheik Sayed Askar said, as the AP paraphrased it, that "the kit will make it easier for Egyptian women to give in to temptation." On the Muslim Brotherhood Web site, he wrote: "It will be a mark of shame on the ruling party if it allowed this product to enter the market."
If a woman in the Middle East fails to bleed on her wedding night, she can face shame, abuse and even death. Sure, many women don't bleed when they lose their virginity. Yes, hymens are often torn through non-sexual activities. True, there exists no way to prove a woman's virginity. But, la-la-la, they aren't listening to any of that medically accurate naysaying! Bloody the sheet or else.
The truth is Muslim women are already artificially making that happen, regardless of whether they're virgins (see above: Virgins don't always bleed). Outlawing the "Artificial Virginity Hymen" won't change that. Egyptian women will still have hymenoplasties, which are outlawed in the country but take place nonetheless, get doctors' certification of chastity -- which can be forged or real, at least to the extent that such a thing can be legitimate -- or come up with a creative home remedy. Given the high stakes, this will always be the case. To think otherwise is willful denial or utter foolishness, or both.