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Then there's hymen repair, which has a whole other kind of unnerving subtext, one most people probably don't really want to think about. Alinsod explains the basic procedure to me over the phone during his morning commute from Los Angeles to Laguna, which is kind of unnerving itself.
"With hymenoplasty we attempt to find remnants of the hymen," he says. "Most ladies have the hymen broken by the time they're teenagers. The goal is to make the hymen appear to be reconnected as if it hadn't been broken yet."
But then comes that unthinkable subtext, as Dr. Alinsod mentions that he was contacted by forensic pathologists in Egypt who were interested in how they could tell if an intact hymen was the result of chastity or plastic surgery. I'm already nauseated from the graphic descriptions of vaginal surgeries, and it's only 9 a.m., so this is fucking brutal.
"Hymenoplasty is most requested by Middle Eastern and Asian cultures," Alinsod continues. "Middle Eastern cultures often require that when a young lady and a man get married, on their wedding night they have to show the family a white towel that has blood on it, resulting from having had intercourse and breaking the hymen. It's a proof of virginity for the family, and if that doesn't occur, in some cultures there is a loss of faith and there is great risk that could occur to the lady and her family, and there have been deaths due to an inability to believe in the first intercourse of the couple."
Of the Egyptian pathologists, Alinsod says, "The alleged killer is claiming that the lady was not virginal so they had every right to kill her, for an honor killing. It's amazing."
He says this gravely. It's a relief that a doctor who spends much time trimming privileged labia still understands the context of his work. He perks up a bit explaining why else someone might want her hymen restored. "There are some—this may sound strange—who want a hymen as a gift for their partner. I've had requests [for this to be] an anniversary gift to their partners."
* * *
Envisioning these procedures calls up some unholy images, reminiscent of those I encountered doing a 10th grade social studies project on female genital mutilation. Whether that kind of semiotic is empty and overlooks the kind of power and choice that American women wield, or if messing with a functional, healthy vagina purely for aesthetics is a truly egregious and anti-feminist trend is debatable. I definitely have more trouble accepting vaginal rejuvenation than pretty much every other kind of elective surgery. But my opinion only counts in my own pants. Martinez, who had a vaginoplasty in addition to her labiaplasty, says that the laser resurfacing she had done as part of her procedure "made it really pretty." And for her, feeling pretty is the trump card.
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