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"Human Nature" is one of my favorite parts of Slate (beaten only by "Dear Prudence" and sometimes, "Explainer"). In it, William Saletan tackles some truly touchy issues with patience and logic. In the essays, he does an excellent job of explaining why some things we consider to be "natural" are quite the opposite, and vice versa. What those of us who've descended from a judeo-christian tradition take as irrefutable human truths are often just constructs which were developed out of biblical misogyny — and seriously, the misogyny in the Bible is quite breathtaking in both scope and influence. Saletan has written essays on homosexuality and incest, oral sex, and most notably — and controversially — the effect of genetics on intelligence. He took a lot of heat for this last one, and later even wrote an apology of sorts. More recently, Saletan brought up the issue of "virginity restoration." A piece in the Times discussed the growing popularity of hymenoplasty among young Muslim women. The interest is spurred by a court case in France in which a marriage was annulled by a Muslim man who discovered that his wife wasn't a virgin (and he announced this to the still-partying guests before taking the woman back to her parents' home). The uproar is over the fact that French court allowed a marriage to be annulled based on something that's so clearly misogynistic. However, I'm not going to argue that the marriage shouldn't have been annulled. While the man's behavior was despicable, it wasn't totally unexpected. The emphasis placed on virginity in Islam (and even Christianity) is strong, and women more often than not know what they're getting into. But they shouldn't be punished for having sex outside of marriage, and if the structure they reside in won't allow for pre-marital sex, then I think hymenoplasty is a reasonable answer. Saletan:

You and I can sit here all day rehearsing these complaints. And some day, God willing, the twisted culture of virginity hypocrisy will wither away. But until it does, hypocrisy is its own best remedy. Help these women deceive their husbands and parents. If they want artificial hymen restoration, let them have it.

2 new thought(s):

CNEL said...

You know that the debate will likely and undoubtedly end up being about women's rights and a woman's right to do to her body what she wants. I don't think I disagree, but for me I think the bigger issue would be the deception. I don't know if I expect to if hell ever freezes over marry a virgin, but I think I'd be more offended by marrying a liar.

shani-o said...

Well, CNel, the difference is, your parents aren't going to request certification from a gynecologist that your wife is a virgin. So it's unlikely she'll have to deceive you. The man who marries a woman under such barbaric conditions in 2008 deserves all the deception she can throw at him.