The virginity test:great structural contradiction

4 Jan

The international news media last week was full of shocking accounts of Egyptian female protesters who, arrested  during the recent violent military crackdown in Tahrir Square and beyond, were rampantly subjected to so-called “virginity tests” while in police custody.







I had not really heard the term “virginity test” bandied around that often, so I was curious as to what exactly it might mean. Aside from Wikipedia, the sites I found were mostly just articles referring to the tests. (It seems that the term is such an obvious descriptor, that definitions are not totally necessary.) So, I guess the term itself must be thought of in literal terms: the attempt to decipher whether or not the female studied is a virgin. Further, this attempt is activated literally–whether the female subject has a hymen or not.

Why would the Egyptian military and its police arm use such an antiquated, misogynist form of intimidation? Further, how exactly is the virginity of the female protesters relevant?

Well, I guess it is safe to say that the tests themselves point to the Egyptian state being much less advanced than perhaps hoped. Also, despite the general notoriety of Egyptian culture historically, tests such as these point a big fat finger against assumptions of intellectual and cultural advancement.

Think about it this way: the majority of Egyptian men are most likely not virgins. Therefore, in order for them not to be virgins, they are having sexual intercourse with others. It is often commensurate that the female side of the population be statistically in harmony then, as the two sides are having sexual intercourse together. However, if the female partner in the culture is considered more valuable as a virgin, and if the nation-state works to regulate this virginity (as is the case here), then it could be surmised that the men are not having sex with the women, but with unknowable others.

But, who the men are sexing is not as important as the imperative that the women are not. This inherent contradiction–politically, culturally, socially–is not considered important. The status of female purity remains paramount.

So, the average female–be she a protester in Tahrir Square or not–represents sex, in that she must stand in for the lack of it. This all-at-once-while-none-at-all is a form of sexual schizophrenia rooted in a violent misogynist double-standard.

Surely, the men in uniforms and boot-straps are not virgins, nor are they doctors; they are, however, somehow rendered credible judges and juries of the female body and her prior experience. They are somehow considered appropriate evaluators of female citizens they do not know, and to whom they are by no means intellectually, emotionally, or physically superior.


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