Legislation Proposed To Ban Virginity Tests In NY, Which Are Still A Thing In 2019
It is November 13th, 2019, and the virginity test is still a thing that exists. I am calling out the date, in case you thought maybe we had flashed back to, I don’t know, 1519? Because in this our advanced age, we shouldn’t need to be reminded that virginity is a social construct and not something you can physically test for! But people keep on trying, so Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages has introduced legislation to ban the practice throughout New York State. According to Solages, it “violates the rights of women and reinforces stereotyped notions of female sexuality,” shoring up “gender discrimination against women and girls.” Correct!
“Across our nation, new conversations are being had about the practice of hymen examinations as a means to ascertain whether a woman is a virgin,” Solages said in a statement. “As a member of the Assembly Health Committee, it is my sincere belief that we must proactively challenge institutionalized misogyny in the health field. The notion that a woman’s body can be subject to examination to prove their worth or dignity is an outdated patriarchal concept.”
A hymen exam, for reference, involves a doctor sticking two fingers or speculum inside a patient’s vagina to determine whether or not the thin stretch of tissue at the opening is still intact — if it isn’t, the thinking goes that the patient must have had sexual intercourse. That’s not necessarily how the body works, though. Hymens may break for any number of reasons, including but not limited to non-sexual physical activity (gymnastics! horse-back riding! biking!) and tampon use. Some people with vaginas are born without hymens, and some hymens simply thin over time. In short, the state of a person’s hymen cannot definitively tell you whether or not its owner has had sex.
And yet, in at least 20 countries around the globe, people are made to submit to these exams to determine their eligibility for marriage, even for employment. The World Health Organization has called for a ban on the practice, which is invasive, emotionally traumatizing (especially for victims of rape and sexual assault), and actively dangerous: WHO points out that, “in extreme cases,” people who do not pass this arbitrary virginity test “may attempt suicide or be killed in the name of ‘honor.'”
The reason you’ve been hearing about virginity tests so much in recent days likely has something to do with the rapper T.I., who recently admitted in an interview that he accompanies his 18-year-old daughter on “yearly trips to the gynecologist to check her hymen.” The remarks were met with widespread disgust, and also served as a reminder that hymen exams remain disconcertingly common across the United States, particularly within religious sects. Solages’s bill would make performing them an “act of professional misconduct,” effective immediately, outlawing the exams across the state.
“FIGO [the World Congress of Gynecology and Obstetrics] has defined the procedure as invasive and medically unnecessary,” Solages said. “With trust being so vital to the healthcare profession, New York State must take every measure possible to ensure that medical procedures meet the highest ethical standards.”