Pod people: hypocrisy & virginity checks

In the latest Crossroads, I discuss with host Todd Wilken the media coverage of hypocrisy, the murder of a Pakistani journalist and virginity checks in Egypt.

The latter two stories have stuck with me. They are sad in the way that lingers. The death of the Pakistani journalist didn’t generate much conversation on this site, although I trust readers are just as appalled as others. The conversation on virginity did include quite a few comments and was a reminder of just how much I enjoy our community here.

Longtime commenter Julia pointed out one flaw with the story:

This archaism drives me crazy. There are many ways a hymen can be perforated other than intercourse. A medical exam, use of Tampax, an accident. I keep seeing this idiocy that an un-intact hymen is proof that one is no longer a physical virgin – only the journalist is tip-toeing around the subject. …

I’m not just talking about Egyptians. The journalist seems to accept that you can tell physically that women are no longer virgins. Why is there no explanation of why these women were considered not virgins. Where is the interview of a physician about the significance of an non-intact hymen? Who performed these tests and what was the criteria used?

Sorry for being graphic, but the subject is physical proof of virginity. It’s the failure to discuss what we’re really talking about that keeps this assumption alive – with horrible consequences to some women in the 3rd world who fail this “test”.

Excellent point and one I wish I’d made. Another point was made by commenter Marie:

What about the implication that only a virgin can be raped and therefore any sexual assault on a non-virgin can never be considered rape. In other words if a man were to force himself on a non-virgin that would be okay.

Obviously these are both points that should have been addressed in stories about the virginity tests.

We also had a vibrant discussion about Weinergate, with some predictable results. But there were a couple of comments that were helpful, including commenter GFE who pointed out that CNN found a non-social conservative hypocrite:

For what it’s worth, a short while ago I was listening to CNN, and a theme of the reporting on John Edwards is that he was a hypocrite (yes, they used the word) — not because he was a “family values” candidate, but because of the image he presented during his campaigns of being a family man.

The original report I criticized showed a CNN host suggesting that only social conservatives had the capacity for hypocrisy. This goes to show how much a perspective can change just from show to show even on the same network.

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  • Julia

    National Geographic this month has an interesting story on The Secret World of Child Brides by a woman activist against child marriage. This story got me to think about virginal testing and the consequences of failing the test.


    Forced early marriage thrives to this day in many regions of the world – arranged by parents for their own children, often in defiance of national laws, and understood by whole communities as an appropriate way for a young woman to grow up when the alternatives, especially if they carry a risk of losing her virginity to someone besides her husband, are unacceptable.

    What permeates the differing reasons in different cultures
    is preserving that value of the bride as a virgin.

    So in communities of pressing poverty, where nonvirgins are considered ruined for marriage . . . it’s possible to see how the most dedicated anti-child-marriage campaigner might hesitate, trying to fathom where to begin. “One of our workers had a father turn to him, in frustration”,[says a specialist who worked for] one of several global nonprofits working actively against early marriage. “This father said, ‘If I am willing to get my daughter married late, will you take responsibility for her protection?’ The worker came back to us and said, ‘What am I supposed to tell him if she gets raped at 14?’ These are questions we don’t have answers to.”

    There is a great section citing many different opinions in Yemen on Islam’s stance on the marriage eligibility of young girls. Included is the significance of Muhammad’s 9 yr old bride and the meaning of what the Koran has to say.

    Most of the article focuses on culture alone. It would be interesting to know what religious authorities have to say in the other countries mentioned – India, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Senegal, Nepal.