The lives of women and their place in ceremonies of love have been dictated by deeply rooted myths about female virginity for ages.
Social media users have noticed a rise in videos of “virginity testing” ceremonies gaining over 10 million views on TikTok, just when we might be tempted to think that customs around proving sexual “purity” are a thing of the past.
The practise has been widely criticised in all its manifestations, but it is still practised in at least 20 countries throughout the world.
The Western world has made some efforts to slow down the spread of virginity testing; in fact, the UK government is currently working to make it illegal in England and Wales due to widespread condemnation from the World Health Organization (WHO) and other UN agencies who view the practise as a violation of human rights.
Experts are stressing the necessity of people comprehending the ceremonies they are being shown since there has been a dramatic increase in material which captures the cutoms online ripped out of their natural community contexts.
The hymenal membrane is often examined visually or physically by a medical expert as part of a “virginity test,” despite the widespread agreement among doctors that there is no biological evidence to support such an evaluation.
Videos showing a new custom performed by members of the Roma minority in western Europe, specifically in France and Spain, are gaining traction online.
For this reason, the honra, which social anthropologist Paloma Gay-y Blasco calls a “tangible, physical characteristic which they think is found inside a woman’s vagina,” is the focus of the examination.
The lecturer from St. Andrews University explains the practise, saying, “For a lady to be regarded really untouched she has to have pink, tight exterior genitals.” However, until her honra is spoiled or lost, she is treated as a virgen (virgin).
“a white or greyish hard grain the size of a tiny chickpea which holds her honra,” she explains, is what the Roma people of Spain believe a virgin woman carries inside her body in the form of a grape (uva).
When a woman is deflowered by a professional woman or when she is sexually entered for the first time by a man, a yellow fluid is spilled and lost.
The Roma wedding ceremony revolves around the bride’s retrieval, which serves to demonstrate and commemorate her virginity.
In order to get the honra, the bride must lie on her back in a room with her legs spread apart and a cushion placed under her lower back by an ajuntoaora, a woman who is paid to “examine” whether a girl is a virgin.
The woman will use her fingers to pry open the bride’s external labia so she may inspect the gentials within for colour and tightness.
The ajuntoaora declares that she is as pure as the day her mother brought her into the world, and then calls on other wise women to attest to her claim.
She “deflowers” the girl by wrapping a white handkercheif with ribbons or lace around her forefinger and pushing it into the bride’s vagina, causing the “grape” to “burst.”
The rose-like yellow stains are obtained by repeating this process.
Sophia Smith Galer, a journalist and the author of Losing It: Sex Education for the 21st Century, tweeted that the ajuntoaora presses the Bartholin’s glands, “a pair of pea-sized glands found slightly behind and either side of the labia near the entrance to the vagina.”
They’re what keep us lubricated, which is why the handkerchief isn’t red but rather yellowish white.
The honra, however, is largely disregarded by medical professionals and is thus a “virginity test” for which there is no biological basis.
Smith Galer claims in a TikTok video discrediting the practise that the videos of the Roma ceremonies that keep popping up on her “For You Page” had been online for a while, with at least one of the four she saw in one night dating back to June.
She is quick to clarify that the purported test is unrelated to sexual orientation at all.
She emphasises that “no physical examination can determine anything.”
Gay-y Blasco says that the emphasis on virginity tests in Roma cermonies “revolves around a dual moral standard: women should dominate their wishes much more than men.”
“While being anchored in the idea of intercourse as delightful, and of sexual desire as vital to what men and women are like, [Roma] morality lays considerable premium on control,” she adds.
Roma “invarianly link marriage to the loss of female virginity,” she says, so much so that the word for an unmarried woman (moza) is a synonym of virgen (virgin).
The World Health Organization has condemned virginity tests as “a violation of the victim’s human rights,” citing their link to “both immediate and long-term repercussions that are damaging to her bodily, psychological, and social well-being.”