The Business of Artificial Virginal Hymens

(Boxun)  You walk into a public restroom for women in a Chinese city and you are likely to see a sign such as this one: "Artificial virginal hymens for sale: 500-700 RMB.  Telephone number: XXXXXXXX."  Your first response is, "Hmmm ... that's more expensive than the standard price?"

Anyway, there are enough contrabands in this world already.  Once upon a time, it was just common items such as needles, bowls, plates, name brand clothing and so on.  They may be fakes, but they are perfectly usable.  Have you not seen the beggars in the street dressed in their Pierre Cardin clothes?  Or else the prices are so cheap that no one will feel a thing about them.

Later on, we have fake cigarettes, liquor, medicine, food, consumer electronics and cosmetics.  Now some of these can sometimes be dangerous.  Finally, we have fake seedlings, fertilizers, pesticides and these are usually pursued to the full extent of the law.  As for the fake documents, money bills, receipts, lottery tickets and stock certificates, they are usually identifiable with care.  However, we seem to have some difficulty identifying the fake monks, nuns, reporters, teachers, police officers or even army generals; and there are even fake beggars.

So it will comes as no surprise that fake virgins have come into being.  Take a look around in China.  Most of the hospitals and clinics offer "hymen repair surgery."  Even cosmeticians and underground doctors offer the service.  Medically, this is a simple process that is no different from stitching together a skin surface tear.  This is a simple surgical procedure that should take about 40 minutes and the patients can move around immediately afterwards.  The cost of the procedure is usually between 1,000 to 3,000 RMB.  This is a simple procedure with a huge profit margin, and that is why hospitals are delighted to offer it.

According to one doctor, he began offering the service in 1997 and he has treated more than 1,000 cases.  All of them are females younger than 30 years old, including a 16-year-old.  The "re-created virgin" service emerged several years ago in Beijing and Shanghai, and it is now present in many cities around the country.  One Guangzhou hospital conducted more than 300 operations last year.

However, the hymen repair service has the drawback of being relatively expensive at several thousand RMB.  It is also inconvenient because you have to go to the hospital.  More importantly, one needs to have the operation every time that the need arrives.  (6Park)  Recently, a hospital in Hangzhou had a bout of conscience attack.  When a prostitute showed up for her ninth hymen repair in the last 3 years, the hospital refused on moral grounds.

Enter the "artificial virginal hymen."  (Interestingly, in the photo below, it is called "man-made hymen".  Why can't it be woman-made?)

On the Chinese city streets everywhere, you will find these ads:

The user instructions remind people that "When the time goes, please remember to act like you are a virgin!"

At 260 RMB (and it is actually priced a lot less), this is undercutting the hymen repair services offered by the hospitals and clinics.  How will the hospitals and clinics counter the erosion of their lucrative practices?  This is about brand trust.

Here are some stories that have probably been planted.

(Washington Post)   Knowing cultural view of virginity, Chinese women try surgical restoration    Keith B. Richburg    August 17, 2010.

Even as China has flung open its doors to the West and modernized, a deeply conservative and chauvinistic attitude persists. Many men, including white-collar professionals, say they want to marry a virgin. And increasingly liberated Chinese women have found a way to oblige them.

"We can fix it so everything is perfect, so the men can believe they are marrying virgins," said Zhou Hong, a physician and director of gynecology at the Beijing Wuzhou Women's Hospital. "We don't advertise it; we don't publicize it."

Zhou, 44, said most of her patients are sexually active young women who are about to marry and have told their future husbands they are virgins. She said a smaller number want to forget a bad relationship and "start over," and a few have been victims of rape. Zhou is one of many Chinese doctors performing the procedure, which is also done in other countries. She said she restores as many as 20 hymens a month, and the number is increasing. For as little as 5,000 renminbi, or about $737, for a 20-to-30-minute procedure, Zhou is giving women a second chance at having a first time.

Does she worry that she is encouraging people to start their marriages with a lie? "It's just a white lie," Zhou said. And she blames men for having unrealistic expectations. "I don't agree with this value" placed on virginity, Zhou said. "It's unfair to the women. The men are not virgins. But we can't change this male-privileged society."

The surgery, known as hymenoplasty, has been around for years, although it is considered rare and is illegal in some countries. It is performed primarily in Muslim countries, where the traditionalists place a high value on a woman's virginity. It also has become common in France among French Muslims, usually for young women about to enter a traditional marriage. There are no statistics available in China on how often the surgery is performed. But sociologists and other experts, as well as anecdotal evidence, suggest it has gained in popularity.

For women who do not want to have surgery, a cheaper, faster path to "revirgination" is available in most sex novelty shops: a Chinese-made artificial hymen that purports to create a physical sensation for the man and emit fake blood when ruptured.

A 25-year-old woman from Guiyang recently bought several online, intending to resell them to young women in her circle. Some of her friends, she said, were worried that their boyfriends might leave if the truth about their virginity was known. "It's really worthless for couples to break up over this small issue," said the woman, who asked not to be quoted by name.

Some sociologists and others have criticized the virginity obsession as emblematic of a male-dominated society in which women are viewed as sex objects. And they are equally critical of women undergoing potentially dangerous or painful medical procedures to conform.

"I think it is really stupid for women to do this kind of surgery and buying fake hymens," said Li Yinhe, a sociologist at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and the country's preeminent sexologist. "It's self-deception."

The virginity topic has surfaced in recent newspaper columns and Internet debates. Several men posting comments on a popular Web site blamed women for what they called modern women's materialism when seeking a mate.

"Women demand men have houses and cars, why can't men demand women be virgins?" asked one man on the Tianya site. "So, greedy women, remember, you have to protect your hymens, because those are big dowries for you to exchange for money."

Some men who were interviewed agreed about the importance of finding a virgin. "I really care about virginity," said Xia Yang, product manager for a technology company. "If you go to buy a cellphone, of course you'd want to buy a new cellphone. Who would spend the same amount of money to buy an old cellphone that's been used for two years?"

The virginity debate also underscores a contradiction in modern China: As the nation becomes more freewheeling, there remains a deeply conservative core.

"Since the reforms began 30 years ago, sexual relations in China are actually quite chaotic," said Chen Lan, a novelist and social commentator. "One-night stands, extramarital affairs, prostitution. . . . All this means Chinese women have more frequent sexual activity, and at a younger and younger age. And this makes men feel women's bodies are not as clean as before. In these circumstances, men care even more about a woman's virginity."

Zhou, the gynecologist, is unruffled by the controversy. She said that she hears from satisfied clients after they are married, women who text-message her to say that the wedding night was a success. "That's the happiest thing for us," she said.