Tradition deems that a bride should give a few gifts on her wedding day. She might give jewelry to her bridesmaids and chocolates to her guests. She might bestow a monogrammed hankie on her mother, and will likely present her groom with a little sumpn special back at the hotel ifyouknowwhatimsayin.
But here’s a nuptial-day trinket you don’t often see a bride offer up in 2015: a note from her gynecologist to her father avowing that her hymen is thoroughly, virtuously intact. A Maryland bride did just that recently, posing with her dad, a big ole virginal grin, and a physician-signed “certificate of purity.”
Let’s review: Her wedding. Her gyno. Her father. Her hymen. The situation is wrong on so many levels. Here are just four of them.
1) What the hymen is: a stretchy membrane that partially covers the vaginal opening. What the hymen is not: remotely relevant to a woman’s value.
In centuries past, when daughters were brokered out to husbands like so much cattle, a virgin bride was expected to stain the marital bed sheets with blood from the inaugural straining of her hymen. (Think of it like the tamper-proof seal on a bottle of Tylenol; once it’s prodded out of the way, there’s no putting it back.) These sheets are a plot point in Shakespeare’s Othello, and even Yentl. But the notion dates back to the Bible, which states that if the marital sheets are clean, the bride must be returned to her father’s house and stoned to death by the men of her village. Seems fair.
But modern-day Maryland is neither that time nor that place. And behaving as though it is — as though a woman is a less valuable partner for having unapologetically, even frequently explored her sexuality before promising herself to one person for the rest of her life — is an insult to all women. As Othello’s poor Desdemona says, “By heaven, you do me wrong.”
2) A woman’s daddy and her vagina should have less than nothing to do with one another. They shouldn’t even have both been mentioned together in the previous sentence, and I apologize for that.
The notion that a woman’s sexuality is any of her father’s business is fostered by rituals like “purity balls,” prom-like events held throughout the U.S. at which young Christian girls formally pledge to their fathers to abstain from intercourse until marriage. Though the phrase “purity balls” makes me giggle and I pledge to snicker about it with my own dad the next time I see him, it’s messed up to put a prepubescent girl on her father’s arm dressed up like a woman — so that he can tell her how much he dreads her becoming one.
3) Where was the groom’s certificate of purity? How would he vouch for his chastity — if anyone even cared about it? How would his mommy figure into the equation? Discuss.
4) The integrity of a hymen is no measure of sexual experience. It can be stretched and bleed from riding a bicycle or even inserting a tampon. Some girls don’t have much of a hymen to start with. So any doctor who’d associate this trifling anatomical flap with “purity” isn’t worth his speculum.
Look, if you want to “save yourself” for marriage, go for it. Personally, I think it’s unwise: How will you know if you’re hetero? What if you and your spouse have wildly different sexual temperaments? But if you truly believe that public vows will make your first hay-roll more pleasurable — and believe it enough to remain chaste for the years (and dates) leading up to it — then they probably will make it so. Sexual pleasure generates as much from the mind as anywhere else, and if your Big Dirty Fantasy is to be deflowered by your spouse, then sure, that’s a schtupp worth waiting for.
But cut the cake already and get on with it.