There's a Price Tag on Virginity?

While living with the Bedouins in Jordan during my Peace Corps stint, my village neighbors would consistently bombard me with questions circulating around those nebulous issues of marriage, dating, sexual practices, religious beliefs, drinking alcohol, and wearing bikinis. Even after two years of living and teaching in Sabha, my closest friends in the village would occasionally pop in a "So when you go back to the U.S.A., you will not care if you are not married?" or "Will you wear the abbaya even in the U.S.A.?"

The answers to any questions regarding issues that would be a judgment of me as an American and Peace Corps representative, or cloud my respect as a teacher in the community, were rehearsed and well-intended: "No, I have never had a boyfriend." "No, I don't wear bikinis in public." "Yes, I believe in God, but not the same God." "No, not everyone in America will sleep with someone after a very nice meal with wine - that is only in the movies. And I don't drink wine. Or beer. Just water. And of course chai."

One of the largest issues circulated around sex: Do boyfriends and girlfriends sleep together? Do couples really have sex before marriage? How can a woman still have respect for herself if she loses her virginity before she is married? My village neighbors couldn't believe what American movies were portraying; one of their favorite references was from the movie Titanic: "Titanic is the best American film ever. Ever. But Kate Winslet should not have slept with Mr. Leo on the ship. That is a disgrace."

In Muslim cultures, premarital sex is forbidden and women are expected to be virgins when they get married. Texting a boy messages like "Flower to me you are" or "Love is the petal I smell when I think you near" meant that you were dating - at least to my female villagers who went to university in the city. Other daughters whose families couldn't afford to pay for university or who didn't pass the high school exam were married to suitable cousins, and we're not talking second or third down the relative line.

Virginity is sacred, and I never admitted to any of my villagers or Muslim friends in Jordan my true sexual status. Why would I lie - outrightly and with a straight, honest expression - to my best friends and neighbors that I'd known for 2 years? Why would I want to shield Bedouin women from true American culture and lie to them to save face? I didn't want to jeopardize my status as a respected English teacher and the first American most of my female students had met - I have no doubt that if certain facts would have surfaced about me, there would be no mercy in the requests by village parents for me to be removed from the school; they would not tolerate their daughters learning from someone who prances in bikinis on the beaches in America.
I stumbled across an article in a grocery-store magazine - an interesting read mainly because it points out the new wave of liberalism spreading through the Middle Eastern female population: they're less conservative and more willing to break the traditions that are the foundation of Islam religion.

From Marie Claire magazine, February 2010 edition:

"Virginity For Sale: A new product aims to save lives by making women into 'virgins'"
A Chinese retailer has found a new market in the Middle East by selling virginity to women - in the form of a fake-blood-squirting hymen.
Why would someone want such a thing? If you're a woman living in a conservative country like Egypt or Syria, it could save your life. There, women are expected to be virgins when they get married; failure to produce bloodstains on the sheets can be fatal. Premarital sex is forbidden in Islam, and some hard-line husbands - or even the brides' own families - will beat or even kill women if they don't bleed on their wedding night.
Gigimo, an online sex shop based in China that offers everything from vibrators to "portable urinals," sells the Artificial Virginity Hymen for 30 bucks on its website. How the item works: A small plastic insert adheres to the sides of a woman's cervix. During sex, the pouch is punctured, releasing a red liquid ("not too much but just the right amount," according to the website). The site also offers some free advice: A woman should add "a few moans and groans" to make her case more believable to her partner. What happens to the fake hymen after the deed? It will simply "melt inside the vagina," the site says.
Conservative religious leaders in Egypt have been quick to denounce the fake hymen, promising strict punishment for anyone caught importing it. Let's hope the vendor sends it in an unmarked box.

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