The Two Finger Test & Institutional Misogyny

Virginity is a patriarchal, hegemonic myth. It’s called the two finger or “virginity” test, and it is exactly as it sounds. Doctors putting their fingers inside you to test for “vaginal laxity”. Vaginal laxity is another supposed way of determining whether or not a woman has had sex. The credo that if anyone can put two fingers into a person’s vagina “easily” then that person has had sex.

STOCKHOLM NOVEMBER 2022: Virginity is a patriarchal, hegemonic myth. It is the idea that a person assigned female at birth sustains physical damage the first time they have sex, and that evidence of this damage serves as proof of the act. More horribly, there is no counterpart to test people assigned male at birth for this so-called “sex-induced” physical damage, and indeed society has never invented a “medical” way to determine if men/AMAB people are or are not “virgins” because, of course they haven’t.

Whether or not men or AMAB people have had sex is of no consequence to anyone, and it doesn’t “damage” them the way this signifier is implied to unveil “damage” to a woman. The signifier I mean, obviously, is the hymen. The hymen is a thin piece of tissue at the opening of a person’s vagina, presumably a vestigial structure that used to help regulate menstrual flow before evolution rendered it absolutely useless. But did you know that until 1979 in Britain, it was customary to finger – yes, FINGER – a woman who emigrated to the United Kingdom for the purposes of marrying her betrothed? To determine whether or not her hymen was “intact”. And in the United States, this practice has yet to be outlawed.

It’s called the two finger or “virginity” test, and it is exactly as it sounds. A medical examiner – or, in developing countries, an older woman – puts their fingers inside of you to check to see if your hymen is intact. But no two hymens are alike, and it would not be prudent to trust a stranger to know what the inside of your body is supposed to be shaped like.

Nevermind that hymens can break while cycling, horseback riding, during other strenuous exercise, that many people naturally have very little of this vestigial tissue or the fact that some people assigned female at birth never had a hymen to begin with. Other variants on the abominable test include a doctor putting their fingers inside you to test for “vaginal laxity”.

Vaginal laxity is another supposed way of determining whether or not a woman has had sex. A quick internet search for “laxity of vaginal muscles” will show you that it is worth worrying about – but not for the reasons these doctors, medical examiners, and misogynists think.

Women or AFAB people who have experienced pregnancy or have experienced a decline in estrogen production can have thinner, less resilient vaginal muscles -which can decrease their enjoyment of sex or masturbation. This – an actual problem, the instance of women not being able to enjoy intercourse – is the entire reason we have an exercise called “kegels”.

Finally, there is a perfunctory and heinous utilization of this “test”, which is wildly subjective. It is the credo that if anyone can put two fingers into a person’s vagina “easily” then that person has had sex.

Imagine experiencing sex – which we must agree includes anal, oral, and manual – for the first time because someone wanted to check to see if you have had sex. This is the reality for many women in developing countries all over the world. The two finger test has been banned in Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan after years of being a common practice. But for women in parts of the Sudan, it is still a regular custom before marriage.

All outrage and definitions aside, we have to talk about this practice being used on rape victims in a shocking display of unscientific, moralizing oppression. In many places, a woman can been sexually assaulted and, instead of being believed, she is assaulted again by a person of authority.

The authority’s only aim (on the surface) is to prove that she has probable cause to press charges, perhaps, but isn’t the entire idea backwards? The entire idea of virginity is about protecting men and subjugating women, who are considered not good enough for a marriage if they have experienced rape or otherwise lost their hymen, but men can experience rape as the perpetrator and everyone is none the wiser.

You cannot rape a woman (with your hands) in order to prove that she has never been raped any more than you can treat infertility with In Vitro Fertilization and call it immaculate conception.

Bangladesh Government Rewarding Human Rights Abusers

Image: Mitchell Joyce

Salope von Asheen

Born in South Africa, now living in Austria. 28 years old - worked many years in the fashion industry. Now working as a freelance writer and designer.
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