‘Like a Virgin’: hymenoplasty and secret marriage in Egypt

L. L. Wynn*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


In Egypt, women seek hymenoplasty to disguise evidence of premarital sexual intercourse. Physicians hide the fact that they perform the procedure, and laypeople condemn it as against religion and morality, a way of cheating men of knowledge of their wives’ sexual history. Yet high-ranking religious leaders have condoned hymenoplasty. Based on ethnographic fieldwork, archival research, and formal interviews with laypeople and physicians, in this article, I investigate this discrepancy between religious and lay opinions. Many Egyptians believe women resort to hymenoplasty after contracting secret `urfi (customary) marriages, and I examine the relationship between hymenoplasty and extramarital and paramarital sexuality. Egyptian debates around hymenoplasty and marriage are concerned with the notion that women’s sexual status must be socially visible, believing that doctors and kin have the ability and obligation to read women’s sexual history through physiological markers and social rituals. Hymenoplasty and secret marriage render women’s sexual histories illegible to observers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)547-559
Number of pages13
JournalMedical Anthropology: Cross Cultural Studies in Health and Illness
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2016


Dive into the research topics of '‘Like a Virgin’: hymenoplasty and secret marriage in Egypt'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this