Hymenoplasty, virginity testing, and the simulacrum of female respectability

L. L. Wynn, Saffaa Hassanein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Citations (Scopus)


This article situates Egyptian political protesters’ battles over the state’s “virginity testing” in the ethnographic context of cultural beliefs about the hymen and women’s moral purity, based on ethnographic research, formal interviews with laypeople and physicians, and an examination of Egyptian court rulings and revolutionary graffiti. The use of hymens in social and political theater can only be understood by appreciating that a woman’s hymen, her sexual purity, and thus her social respectability are all simulacra, in the Baudrillardian sense: a substitution of the signs of the real for the real, and which are thus more real than real. This article analyzes hymens and graffiti as memory objects that construct idealized moral histories and that open up possibilities for creative maneuvers in the social construction of women’s moral identities, drawing on the sensory registers of blood and hymens at the same time that they reveal these to be simulacra.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)893-917
Number of pages25
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2017

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