The virginity fraud | Nina Dølvik Brochmann and Ellen Støkken Dahl


Nina Dølvik Brochmann:
We grew up believing that the hymen is a proof of virginity. But it turns out, we were wrong. What we discovered is that the popular story we’re told
about female virginity is based on two anatomical myths. The truth has been known
in medical communities for over 100 years, yet somehow these two myths
continue to make life difficult for women around the world. Ellen Støkken Dahl:
The first myth is about blood. It tells us that the hymen
breaks and bleeds the first time a woman has vaginal sex. In other words, if there is no blood
on the sheets afterwards, then the woman was simply not a virgin. The second myth is a logical
consequence of the first. Since the hymen is thought
to break and bleed, people also believe
that it actually disappears or is in some way radically altered
during a woman’s first intercourse. If that were true, one would easily be able to determine
if a woman is a virgin or not by examining her genitals, by doing a virginity check. NDB: So that’s our two myths: virgins bleed, and hymens are lost forever. Now, this may sound
like a minor issue to you. Why should you care about an obscure little skin fold
on the female body? But the truth is,
this is about so much more than an anatomical misunderstanding. The myths about the hymen
have lived on for centuries because they have cultural significance. They have been used as a powerful tool in the effort to control women’s sexuality in about every culture,
religion and historical decade. Women are still mistrusted, shamed, harmed and, in the worst cases,
subjected to honor killings if they don’t bleed
on their wedding night. Other women are forced
through degrading virginity checks, simply to obtain a job, to save their reputation or to get married. ESD: Like in Indonesia, where women are systematically examined
to enter military service. After the Egyptian uprisings in 2011, a group of female protesters were forced
to undergo virginity checks by their military. In Oslo, doctors are examining
the hymens of young girls to reassure parents
that their children are not ruined. And sadly, the list goes on. Women are so afraid not to live up to
the myths about the hymen that they choose to use
different virginity quick fixes to assure a bleeding. That could be plastic surgery, known as “revirgination,” it could be vials of blood
poured on the sheets after sex or fake hymens bought online, complete with theater blood and a promise to “kiss your deep,
dark secret goodbye.” NDB: By telling girls
that no deed can be kept secret, that their bodies
will reveal them no matter what, we have endowed them with fear. Girls are afraid of ruining themselves, either through sport, play, tampon use or a sexual activity. We have curtailed their opportunities
and their freedoms. It’s time we put an end
to the virginity fraud. It’s time we break the myths
about the hymen once and for all. ESD: We are medical students, sexual health workers and the authors
of “The Wonder Down Under.” (Laughter) That’s a popular science book
about the female genitals. And in our experience,
people seem to believe that the hymen is some kind of a seal
covering the vaginal opening. In Norwegian, it is even called
“the virgin membrane.” And with this,
we picture something fragile, something easily destructible, something you can rip through, perhaps like a sheet of plastic wrapping. You may have wondered
why we brought a hula hoop onstage today. We’ll show you. (Laughter) Now, it is very hard to hide that something has happened
to this hoop, right? It is different
before and after I punched it. The seal is broken, and unless we change the plastic, it won’t get back to its intact state. So if we wanted to do a virginity check
on this hoop right here, right now, that would be very easy. It’s easy to say that this hoop
is not a virgin anymore. (Laughter) NDB: But the hymen
is nothing like a piece of plastic you can wrap around your food, or a seal. In fact … it’s more like this — a scrunchie or a rubber band. The hymen is a rim of tissue
at the outer opening of the vagina. And usually, it has a doughnut
or a half-moon shape with a large, central hole. But this varies a lot, and sometimes hymens can have fringes, it can have several holes, or it can consist of lobes. In other words, hymens
naturally vary a lot in looks, and that is what makes it so hard
to do a virginity check. ESD: Now that we know a bit more
about the hymen’s anatomy, it’s time to get back to our two myths: virgins bleed, hymens are lost forever. But the hymen doesn’t
have to break at all. The hymen is like a scrunchie
in function as well as in looks. And you can stretch a scrunchie, right? (Laughter) You can stretch a hymen, too. In fact, it’s very elastic. And for a lot of women, the hymen will be elastic enough
to handle a vaginal intercourse without sustaining any damage. For other women, the hymen may tear a bit
to make room for the penis, but that won’t make it disappear. But it may look
a bit different from before. It naturally follows
that you can’t examine the hymen to check for virginity status. This was noted over 100 years ago in 1906 by the Norwegian doctor Marie Jeancet. She examined a middle-aged sex worker and concluded that her genitalia
were reminiscent of a teenage virgin. But that makes sense, right? Because if her hymen
was never damaged during sex, then what were we expecting to see? ESD: Since hymens come
in every shape and form, it is difficult to know if a dent or a fold in it is there
because of previous damage or if it’s just a normal
anatomical variant. The absurdity of virgin testing is illustrated in a study
done on 36 pregnant teenagers. When doctors examined their hymens, they could only find
clear signs of penetration in two out of the 36 girls. So unless you believe
in 34 cases of virgin births — (Laughter) we must all agree that also our second myth
has taken a vital blow. You simply cannot look a woman
between her legs and read her sexual story. NDB: Like most myths,
the myths about the hymen are untrue. There is no virgin seal
that magically disappears after sex, and half of virgins
can easily have sex without bleeding. We wish we could say
that by removing these myths, everything would be OK, that shame, harm and honor killings
would all just disappear. But of course, it’s not that simple. Sexual oppression of women
comes from something much deeper than a simple anatomical misunderstanding
about the properties of the hymen. It’s a question of cultural and religious
control of women’s sexuality. And that is much harder to change. But we must try. ESD: As medical professionals,
this is our contribution. We want every girl, parent
and [future] husband to know what the hymen is and how it works. We want them to know that the hymen can’t be used
as a proof of virginity. And that way, we can remove
one of the most powerful tools used to control young women today. After telling you this, you may wonder what the alternative is, for if we cannot use the hymen
as a proof of virginity for women, then what should we use? We opt for using nothing. (Cheering) If you — (Applause) If you really want to know
if a woman is a virgin or not, ask her. (Laughter) But how she answers
that question is her choice. Thank you. (Applause)

100 Comments

  1. Any man that cares about such a ridiculous issue does not deserve the woman that he’s with.
    When I was going to school in California I met a Syrian who had graduated from Mississippi State as an engineer and was now learning aircraft mechanics with at a school full of middle eastern students.
    He told me, this is 1963 that the custom where he was from in Syria was for the father of the bride to stand outside the wedding bedroom waiting for the soiled cloth, proof of his daughters virginity.
    And of course if the cloth was not soiled horrible things could happen to the young woman.
    He thought that all Christian girls were whores and as much as I tried reasoning with him it was to no avail.
    Well, obviously my friend was living in the Middle Ages and in spite of his education as an engineer he knew nothing about woman and much less about Christian girls.
    I am now 75 years old married for the second time with a woman 25 years my junior, also on her second marriage and I must say that the last thing that I would have wanted in my sexual life would have been a Virgin.
    I always liked mature and experienced women, since after all they were the ones who educated me in so many ways.
    Non, ye ne regrette rien!

  2. There are so many myths and lies created to control women's sexuality and women in general. Patriarchal religions are responsible for most of them.

    Is there anything more ridiculous and far from the truth than the idea of a male (god) creating life, for example? All religions subvert reality and the vast majority of the religions we know today were created with the objective of controlling women.

  3. So because they slutted around in their young years and now stable men don't really like them anymore they want to change scientific facts to subvert society and benefit themselves. GG.

  4. How serious can a woman be expected to be taken when she is wearing a red window drape talking about hymens with a bigger white woman wearing a tighter selection of drape, colored black? This TED talk is pointless.

  5. So what they are saying is now there is absolutely no aspect of women that can be trusted… lol interesting… But all jokes aside religiously motivated murder is the sickest form of murder no one deserves that. If this research takes away tools from religious extremists to harm women if it is all double blind validated I'm all about it. I would have liked to see a straight male gynecologist on stage as well championing this data.

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  7. i though the brain was the most misunderstood part of the fema… oh… female, yup that make sense now

  8. Hmmm, beating around the bush, no pun intended, lol. It has nothing to do with virginity checks. It has to do with religion, particularly Islam.

  9. What year is this? They taught us this in high school 30 years ago! 😃 is Norway and Sweden that backward?? For real?

  10. I'm on board but there may be an interesting evolutionary biological explanation why males care so much about virginity. I wish a TED talk explored that.

  11. This will outrage countless dogmatic radical fundamentalists throughout the world. Like in places where rape is virtually non existent because it requires 3 or more witnesses, & where men are allowed to mutilate their wives with a pair of pliers because its just personal property etc. ALL negativeness stems from fear, belief & expectation, & pretty much in that order.

  12. To have any impact or to "end the virginity myth" as they say, this tedtalk must be done in Indonesia and Syria, etc…other countries they allude to. If not it's preaching to the choir that either already knows or doesn't chastise women for not being virgins.

  13. The hymen is not the "problem" here. It's the people who don't want a sexually adventurous woman in their house. You have to change the way people think about it and with this talk I think you failed. For a person who values virginity, it's still better to rely on blood and inspection and be completely sure for 50% of the women he has, than be completely unsure about all of them.

  14. "Ruined" <— Hymen myth but also the idea that virginity, proof or not, does not "RUIN" anyone, that's the word that has to go. Virginity worship is a mental derangement in my opinion.

  15. There is an interesting explanation of the purpose of the hymen if you look up the Aquatic Ape theory pioneered by Elaine Morgan. Land mammals don't have one, but aquatic ones, like dolphins, do. It's purpose is to protect the internals from sea water and infection. It's meant to regrow after intercourse too.

  16. Lovely and very educational talk ladies! It is important that people learn the anatomy and biology of the female body. When people are educated, people are safer.

  17. This is feminism. And it’s not working. Talk about the hundreds of millions of boys who are mutilated every year….

  18. Thank you for sharing this!! I'm sure that many women will be spared some disgrace this information. I know that many will not… But, thank you for the start. And I thank you for those who cannot.

  19. "you just want them to know" after giving a full speech with the underlying message about "ending control over women". Let's face it you label it as a control issue but while sadly it really is in less developed countries, throughout the rest of the world it's not. It's your choice and you trying to enforce the acceptance of your choice upon free people. Shaming is not ok, but choosing based on, among other things, on that too, is ok and no amount of feminist overtones will change that. "But if you can't know for sure?…" But you CAN know if a woman is honest. So, to put it shortly, this video doesn't just stick to the facts, it also tries to use your emotions to change your thinking which is not ok. You don't have a right to mock or harass, but you have every right to make your own decisions about choosing a person.

  20. I only know of the Hyman
    Maneuver. I have to tell
    Ted never to send me stiff again. Did people pay to listen to the girls ?

  21. I have seen a hymn, maybe two, it does break but does not bleed, it can be broken many other ways like gymnastics, but where l live is not about a physical issue, is about a girl not being with every man in the neighborhood.

  22. I remember watching a story on the news of this American couple where the Bride voluntarily went to a gynecologist and got a certificate, signed by the gynecologist, stating that her hymen was intact and she was a virgin. She proudly presented it to her new husband at the wedding reception in front of guests and even invited the doctor to confirm it was authentic….

  23. Ask her …. and she will LIE !!!! like millions of others .. since the beginning of time .. criminals learn to lie from a young age, then it becomes natural

  24. So does a woman traumatize a "bad" man for life or does a "good" man traumatize a woman for life or this combinations and not their opposites?

  25. the number of sexual partners a human has had is a determining factor in how successfully they will be able to pair bond, and have a successful relationship upon which a healthy functioning family could be built/grown

  26. That is a vivid and clear message to those who still believe in bleeding on their first day of marriage. Virginity is the most growing concern for societies all over the world. You did a good job giving a few examples to make it more clear.
    Well done!

  27. I found this fascinating. I have always had questions about this. As a mother of daughters, I am grateful to know that I won't be passing down the bad information my mother gave to me!

  28. thanks for your interesting video. religion is thankfully dying, the sooner it's completely gone, the better.

  29. The whole business of the hymen being an "intact seal" without a hole in it never really made sense in the first place – I mean, how were you expected to menstruate if there is nowhere for the blood to go ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?

    It needs to be drained somehow

  30. Warning: a lot of lesbos in the comment section. Sad miserable angry bitter pathetic squalid creatures. Gross

  31. So what? What's the point, Ladies?
    No fraud whatsoever to be found over 11;41 loong minutes.
    And to state that virginity-ism is to be avoided like many other -isms doesn't need more than one simple phrase I'm afraid. A TED-non-talk, a waste of time, what a pity, especially in this important field …

  32. i had 10 girlfriends in da past n i asked 'em if she was a virgin all of 'em said yes. but i found later dat all of 'em were not virgin. but when they ask me i told dat i was not a virgin. so guys a girl will never say da truth when asked.

  33. Sounds like a couple of ho's that want to trick the world into thinking they're virgins. All joking aside though, it seems the real problem these women have is with Islam even though they don't specifically mention it. Honor killings, checking a girls virginity for a job….that's all islam, baby. But of course, these girls from Europe can't condemn the religion outright because they'll be jailed for hate speech, so they have to go this route.

  34. Instead of talking of this in TED go in the "shithole countries" and basically 100 % of muslim countries and go teach them.

  35. that is so true about Indonesia. Your value as a woman is determined by your virginity and it's sad. I'm surprised she even mentioned it lol.

  36. Это так прекрасно, это был десятиминутный рай для моих глаз

  37. thank you so much! it's really important that you spread awareness about this topic. girls and women need to be empowered! <3

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