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The virgin/whore paradigm still exists in 2020 and we're TIRED

AH, THE PATRIARCHY. Even in this day and age, it's still in tact. Like the hymen of a virgin, apparently. 

An investigation by BBC Newsbeat and 100 Women has found that so-called "virginity tests" are being offered to women in British medical clinics. Not only is this procedure unscientific, it is completely unnecessary (unless you think controlling women in necessary). 

As the World Health Organisation put it in their 'Eliminating Virginity Testing' statement of 2018:

"Virginity testing is rooted in entrenched systems of discrimination against women and girls (i.e. gender discrimination). It further reinforces socio-cultural norms that perpetuate women’s inequality, including stereotyped views of female morality and sexuality, and serves to exercise control over women and girls."

Many of you, like me, will have read comments from the rapper T.I. about accompanying his daughter to gyno appointments to "check her hymen", with a mixture of disgust and... well, more disgust!

The idea of a father 'protecting' his daughter's 'purity' for as long as possible, usually until she's delivered to a husband *throws up in mouth repeatedly* is not a concept worthy of defence in 2020. And that's what it's wrapped up in, ultimately; the idea that a woman is property. And if you want the best price for it, you keep it in mint condition, right? 

Grim. 

The BBC investigation discovered a number of disturbing things. They made inquiries with 16 clinics, seven of which confirmed that they offer "virginity testing" (several others wouldn't clarify their position). Every one of them offered hymen-repair surgery - thousands of pounds for something that can be 'undone' by inserting a tampon or exercising!

Virginity is a construct and it is so bound up in the idea of women being rewards - gifts - objects to be bought for or owned by men. Not "previously owned". Shiny and new, ready to be subjected to the process of becoming 'owned'. Their agency in these situations seems not to matter much. 

And while we might think virginity checks are extreme, many of us have participated in or internalised problematic thought patterns or behaviours that underlie more extreme manifestations. Have you ever been asked by a new beau about how many sexual partners you've had before?

What's your number? 

Each individual you shared an experience with - each human being - tallied up as a mark on score card (usually a black mark against you, if you're a woman). The further away you are from virginity means something to some people - they will interpret it in their own way, from imposing a set of perceived morals (or lack thereof) to questioning your motivation or character. 

This virgin/whore dichotomy is hard to escape from. We internalise societal and cultural messages about it all the time, from numerous sources. And we live in a country where, while FGM is thankfully illegal, virginity testing - another form of controlling women's freedom and sexuality - is not. We live in a country where you can have your hymen 'repaired' and where labiaplasty is being sought by girls as young as nine - before their bodies have even finished developing! 

So when it comes to tests, it seems to me that it is society that has failed. Not the individual women and girls facing shame and stigma living within it. 

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