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14.10.09

Virginity through technology

In Helsingin Sanomat today, a Finnish author/columnist Riku Korhonen discussed news about Egyptian lawmakers wanting to ban a recent biotechnological innovation, the fake hymens made by a Chinese company Gigimo. New York Post (5 October 2009) describes the product:
The Artificial Virginity Hymen kit, distributed by the Chinese company Gigimo, costs about $30. It is intended to help newly married women fool their husbands into believing they are virgins - culturally important in a conservative Middle East where sex before marriage is considered by many to be illicit. The product leaks a blood-like substance when inserted and broken.
Riku Korhonen is not sure what to think of this "innocence manufactured in Far East." He sees the bodies of the women relying on the product as a battle ground where Western sexual liberalism and traditional religious moral code collide with the production lines of the ascending East Asia. In the product, Korhonen thinks, the animal instincts of humans are combined with a technocratic ability to solve problems.

The fake hymen is a great example of a technological innovation with a high load of cultural meaning. How much the product is improving women's rights is another thing. Perhaps it is good that women in male-hegemonic cultures are now more able to have premarital sex and quietly rebel against the traditional moral system. On the other hand, perhaps using the product is in a Foucauldian way reinforcing male domination as women are accepting the men's rules of sexuality by circumventing them.

Then again, to set the phenomenon in a larger context, there is nothing new under the sun. People around the world have been and are using all sorts of technologies from small things like going to the gym, using make-up and shaving to more radical operations like cosmetic surgery to make themselves more desirable to the opposite (or same) sex. What's a bag of protein in that complex web of sexual culture?

Picture source: Artificial Virginity Hymen sold by Gigimo.

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