Hymen reconstruction surgery in Jordan: Sexual politics and the economy of virginity

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

Abstract / Description of output

If, as Lama Abu Odeh argues, “the discourse on gender and the discourse on virginity in Arab culture overlap so broadly that they are hardly distinguishable” (Abu-Odeh, 2010, 917), then understanding the ideology of virginity and the various technologies used to maintain it is essential to understanding sexual politics in Arab patriarchies. In Jordan, the hymen is admitted as the physical marker of female virginity and its presence is of paramount importance to certifying unmarried women's chastity, adherence to socio-sexual norms, and economic value as potential wives. But it is within the context of marriage that the economy of virginity can be best understood: it is an asset to be protected by women and their families in order to secure a good marriage, a return on men's investment in mahr (dowry) and other expenses upon marriage and, finally, through restorative technologies such as hymen reconstruction surgeries and fake hymens, it is a commodity that is fixable, tradeable, and transferable. In this landscape of economised sexual politics, restorative technologies like hymen reconstruction surgery can be seen as mere survival strategies, as technologies that perpetuate inequality and cater to the hegemonic ideology of virginity, or as subversive strategies challenging and slowly chipping away at this very ideology.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBody, Migration, Re/constructive Surgeries
Subtitle of host publicationMaking the Gendered Body in a Globalized World
EditorsGabriele Griffin, Malin Jordal
ISBN (Electronic)9781351133661
ISBN (Print)9781351133678, 9780815354192
Publication statusPublished - 3 Sept 2018

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • gender
  • sexuality
  • virginity
  • marriage
  • Jordan
  • Middle East


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