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Re-made in china

Faking it - Although China is witnessing rapid modernisation, a deeply conservative male attitude is pushing its women to ‘restoring’ their virginity.

world Updated: Aug 21, 2010 22:40 IST
Keith B Richburg

China has long been known as the land of cheap fakes Rolexes, DVDs, handbags and designer clothes. Now add a new one to the list: fake virgins. A growing number of young Chinese women, mostly in their 20s and about to get married are opting for a surgical procedure called “hymen restoration,” which repairs the hymen to its previous condition before it was ruptured, which typically is done by first sexual contact but can also happen by playing sports or riding a bicycle.

Even as China has flung open its doors to the West and modernised, a deeply conservative, male-chauvinistic attitude persists. Many men, including white-collar professionals, still say they want their future wife to be a virgin. And increasingly liberated Chinese women have found a way to give men what they want.

“We can fix it so the men can believe they are marrying virgins,” said Zhou Hong, a physician and director of gynaecology at the Beijing Wuzhou Women’s Hospital. “We don’t advertise it, we don’t publicise it.” Zhou, 44, said the majority of her patients are sexually active young women who are about to get married and have told their future husbands they are virgins. She said a smaller number want to forget a bad relationship and “start over,” and a few have been victims of rape.

Zhou is one of many Chinese doctors performing the procedure, which is also done in other countries. She said she restores as many as 20 hymens monthly, and the number is increasing. Now for as little as 5,000 renminbi, or about $737, for a 20 to 30 minute procedure, Zhou is giving young women a second chance at having a first time. “I don’t agree with this value” placed on virginity, Zhou said. “It’s unfair to the women. The men are not virgins.” There are no statistics available in China. But sociologists and others, as well as anecdotal evidence, suggest it has gained in popularity, alongside plastic surgery.

For women who don’t want to undergo a surgical procedure, a cheaper, faster path to “revirgination” is available in most sex novelty shops: a Chinese-made artificial hymen that, when inserted, purports to create a lifelike sensation for the man and emits fake blood when ruptured.

“I think it is really stupid for women to do this kind of surgery and buying fake hymens,” said Li Yinhe, a sociologist at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and the country’s preeminent sexologist. “It’s self-deception.”

It’s demand-supply, stupid!

The topic of virginity has recently popped up in newspaper columns and Internet debates. “Women demand men have houses and cars, why can’t men demand women be virgins?” asked one anonymous man on the Internet chat site Tianya. “So, greedy women, remember, you have to protect your hymens, because those are big dowries for you to exchange for money.” Some men interviewed agreed. “I really care about virginity,” said Xia Yang, product manager for an IT company. “If you go to buy a cellphone, of course you’d want to buy a new cellphone. Who would spend the same amount of money to buy an old cellphone that’s been used for two years?”

The virginity debate also underscores a contradiction in modern China: As it becomes more freewheeling, there remains a deeply conservative core rattled by the rapid pace of change.

Zhou, the gynaecologist, is unperturbed by the controversy surrounding the procedure. She just wants to make young women happy. She said after their wedding night, many of her patients send her text messages saying it had been a success. “That’s the happiest thing for us,” she said.

With researcher Liu Liu in Beijing