Is there any evidence of male virginity?

The holy virgin

“Do not be afraid, Maria! You found grace with God. See, you will become pregnant and give birth to a son. You shall name him Jesus. ”This is what the angel Gabriel is said to have said to Mary when he surprised her in Nazareth. It is understandable that she asked in astonishment how that was supposed to work, because she did not know "about any man". Pregnancy without prior sexual intercourse? Unthinkable, even for Maria. Over 2000 years later, Christians continue to profess their faith with the words: I believe ... in Jesus Christ, God's only begotten Son, our Lord, conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary.

The virginity of Mary is by no means to be understood literally, emphasizes Martin Germer, pastor of the Berlin Memorial Church, in an interview with "nd". "In antiquity, people used to speak of the son of a deity in other constellations when it was a question of a person of special importance." Such stories are primarily to be understood symbolically, so Mary's virginity in the creed is rather a statement about the meaning of Jesus and his unique relationship with God and not belief in the actual birth of a virgin.

Above all, however, the texts in the New Testament would be misunderstood if they were read as historical texts, says Germer. “People in antiquity dealt with such statements differently than we do today, where we are very trained in scientific thinking.” In poetry, things can move on several levels of meaning, “but it works in historical texts today not «, says Germer.

And yet, for many believers, a woman's virginity is still very important. Stories of young women can be read on the internet who are taught one thing above all by Christian and Muslim families and religious communities: just not have sex before marriage.

This is what happened to Clara in a Protestant church in North Rhine-Westphalia, as reported by the online magazine “”, but also to the Muslim Leyla, whose story was published in the “Süddeutsche Zeitung”. "For the majority of parents, their daughter's hymen is more important than her job - even in supposedly progressive academic families," says family counselor and psychologist Kazım Erdoğan in the same article. In his Berlin counseling center, he mainly receives Turkish families.

In Protestant circles today, no one would formulate the expectation that a woman would not be allowed to have sexual intercourse before marriage, emphasized Pastor Germer. "Those are moral concepts that were a long time ago." Nevertheless, he too cannot rule out the possibility that this still occurs in certain piety traditions - Protestant as well as Catholic.

The myth of the hymen

A look at the anatomy of the female body shows that virginity is actually a social construct. Because there is no hymen that would show whether a woman has already had penetrative sex or not. In order not to solidify this idea, many also speak of »vaginal corona«, »vaginal wreath« or, more often, »hymen«.

This is a fold of the mucous membrane that is attached to the vaginal wall like a wreath. The size and shape of the hymen are different and changeable. The most noticeable change takes place during puberty, when hormones work their way all over the body - and not after the first sexual intercourse. On the contrary: hymen are very elastic. Whether it actually tears - and bleeds - during the first penetration sex depends on the shape of the hymen and its elasticity. In purely anatomical terms, many cannot meet the cultural and social expectations of women. In fact, only about half of all women bleed during their first vaginal sex. However, the blood can also come from the vaginal wall.

“With some, a narrow part of the hymen extends across the vaginal opening so that it looks more like an 'Ø' and not an 'O'. In others, the hymen resembles a sieve with lots of small holes instead of a large one in the middle. Still other hymen look as if they have small fringes on the vaginal wall, and only very few girls have a hymen that covers the entire vaginal entrance, ”explain doctors Nina Brochmann and Ellen Støkken Dahl in their book“ Viva la Vagina ”. So a hymen that corresponds to the idea of ​​a hymen to be pierced. This is not only rare, but also extremely problematic. Because at the latest with the first menstruation, the blood must be able to flow out of the vagina. The "hymena atresia", as this variant is called, must then be surgically opened.

So there is no hymen variant for women who have had sex and another for virgins, sum up Brochmann and Støkken Dahl. “Like other parts of the body, the hymen has individual variations in appearance. Sorry, chastity tests don't work. ”All the more frightening that in many parts of the world an“ intact ”hymen is still considered evidence of virginity.

Tool of oppression

A "long religious-patriarchal tradition" for the "control of female sexuality", criticizes Verena Brown. The pediatrician cares for victims of sexual abuse in the USA and caused a sensation in 2019 with a Facebook post about the hymen. The hymen is surrounded by "antiquated traditions and misinformation" that women all over the world "cost their lives or honor," write Brochmann and Støkken Dahl.

In fact, many women undergo tests to check their virginity or even to "restore" them with "hymenal reconstructions". The hymen or vaginal tissue is narrowed so that it would certainly be injured during sex. Some women also resort to artificial hymen: membranes with fake blood that dissolve through body temperature and fluid and cost around 50 euros. Others have their virginity certified by doctors. However, the investigations are not always voluntary and are often criticized by human rights organizations. Forced virginity tests "violate the rights of women and girls to physical integrity, dignity and privacy, and the right not to be subjected to torture or other inhuman or degrading treatment," Amnesty International declared in 2016.

In the end, only one thing can really be attested: that virginity is not an anatomical condition, but a mental, possibly also an emotional decision. For women and men.

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