June 14th, 2008

Let It Bleed

The big controversy in the British and French media this week is the disclosure that apparently a lot of Muslim girls in both countries are having surgeries to get their hymens replaced.

The basic deal is this - the girls grow up and have somewhat normal lives in the UK or France, which means that at some point they get laid or as one UK paper put it - engage in other sexual activity that is disruptive to their hymens.

Then it comes time to get married, but their bridegrooms will freak out if they are not virgins on their wedding night. In fact, in France a couple weeks ago a Muslim dude was granted the right to sue his new bride for both divorce and fraud when she failed to bleed on their wedding night.

Romantic dude.

In the UK, the National Health Service pays for these operations, while in France they are done in private clinics so many of the girls have to go get loans (imagine that conversation with your bank manager.)

A lot of the pundits are calling for the operation to be banned in both countries. But, that's a sticky point. The argument could be made that an adult woman (the brides tend to be in their 20s) have a right to do whatever they want to with their bodies as long as it doesn't cause irreparable harm.

On the other hand, it does suggest that Muslim males are not doing a great job at integrating into their societies and it is an example of an emotional violence against women that is very, very troubling.

The obvious answer is for the women themselves to think "any man who wants me to bleed, is not really the type of man I want to marry", but if you live in that culture the pressure must be intense.

I don't think there is any good response to the situation until the immigrant Muslim communities develop their own feminist history.

And, given that American culture encourages "The Sliver Ring Thing", "Chastity Balls" and "True Love Waits" I have to wonder if we are really all that different.