Defloration refers to the rupture of the hymen, a fold of mucous membrane covering the vaginal opening. Cultures that require proof of virginity in a bride at marriage are assuming that the hymen of an inexperienced girl will still be intact. The blood that is taken as a test of virginity is the result of the breaking of the hymen during sexual intercourse. When premarital sex is successfully prohibited, defloration often, although not always, occurs when a marriage is consummated. But in a number of societies, special customs surround the loss of virginity in a girl before she is married.

In cultures with defloration customs, loss of virginity takes place during some specific event or with a specific male or group of males. In Australia, an Aranda girl's first sexual experience must be with the male kin of her husband. At marriage, the new bride is taken into the bushes by some of the groom's male relatives, all of whom have intercourse with her. She is then returned to her husband (Murdock, 1936). Among the Marshallese of Oceania, a girl loses her virginity to the chief at her initiation rite (Erdland, 1914). In the Amazon, a Cubeo girl is digitally deflowered in private at about 8 years of age by an elderly celibate man from her sib. Afterwards, an announcement is made that she is a woman (Goldman, 1963). Among the Toda of India, a man who is not from a girl's clan has sexual intercourse with her before she reaches puberty. People say that the girl would be disgraced if she were still a virgin after puberty, and she might have trouble finding a husband (Rivers, 1906). Palauan girls are deflowered by their mothers when they reach puberty. Sex is prohibited for some months afterward, but then girls are educated about sex and encouraged to engage in sexual relations (Barnett, 1949). Sometimes a girl is expected to deflower herself. In Zaire, Nkundo girls gradually enlarge the vaginal opening by inserting larger and larger plant shoots in the vagina. The procedure is called "opening the way." Sometimes a group of girls will carry out the process together (Hulsaert, 1928).

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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