What Is a Virginity Test?

Alex Tree

A virginity test is conducted to determine whether a woman has had sexual intercourse. These tests are usually performed by looking for the woman’s hymen, testing the laxity of her vagina, or both. The tests can be highly inaccurate because hymens are sometimes broken by sport activities, and the laxity of vagina muscles varies and is also affected by activities other than sex. Virginity tests are illegal in many countries because they are often seen as a human rights violation, and authorities acknowledge how inaccurate virginity tests typically are. There is a lot of criticism surrounding virginity tests and why they are conducted, often leading to protests in some countries, encouraging those in power to stop or ban the practice.

A virginity test may be performed to determine whether or not a woman had engaged in sexual intercourse.
A virginity test may be performed to determine whether or not a woman had engaged in sexual intercourse.

The most common method of testing a woman’s virginity is searching for a hymen. If a doctor is not available to look for a hymen, an older female family member or respected family friend is asked to do the job. Sometimes the tester will also perform a laxity test to check how lax the vaginal muscles are. This method is less commonly used, because it could injure the hymen or cause the woman distress. Once a girl or woman’s virginity is confirmed, depending on her jurisdiction, she might receive a certification of virginity or participate in the shunning of non-virgins.

Hymens are sometimes broken by sport activities, such as horseback riding.
Hymens are sometimes broken by sport activities, such as horseback riding.

A woman’s hymen can be broken during sports activities like horseback riding or stretching. Using tampons or menstrual cups will also stretch the hymen and, by the time a girl is in her early teen years, her hymen is usually very elastic. Such an elastic hymen makes it difficult to impossible to tell whether someone has engaged in sexual intercourse. In addition, a virginity test to determine the laxity of vaginal muscles can also be inaccurate because it is possible to have a naturally loose vagina or tighten the vagina through regular exercise.

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A girl in her early teen years often has a very elastic hymen due to use of tampons.
A girl in her early teen years often has a very elastic hymen due to use of tampons.

Many people criticize the virginity test, the reasons behind it, and the outcome for girls who are not virgins. Some tribes and societies conduct a virginity test on girls and women, but do not take into account whether they consented to sexual intercourse. In addition, sometimes a virginity test is required for rape victims, but experts say that this could further traumatize the victims in the process. Due to these concerns and more, virginity tests are illegal in many places, such as the United States and Canada.

A virginity test might be given in the case of a suspected sexual assault.
A virginity test might be given in the case of a suspected sexual assault.

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Discussion Comments

anon257474

You made a very strong statement about virginity testing being illegal in the US but I could not find one single law specifically against virginity testing.

Furthermore, if a girl over 18 asks her doctor for a virginity, i.e., hymen test how could there be anything illegal about that?

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