Like a virgin...
Women are having surgery to rejuvenate their love lives
When Jeanette Yarborough decided to give her husband a gift for their seventeenth wedding anniversary she wanted it to be special. Really special. She decided that conventional treats such as Mediterranean cruises, gold watches, cars, a murder-mystery weekend, or even a boob job just werenâ€™t going to cut it. She gave him something much more personal â€” and painful. Her virginity.
Well, sort of. Mrs Yarborough paid $5,000 (Â£2,860) to a cosmetic surgeon to stitch her hymen back together so she could â€œlose her virginityâ€ all over again and her husband would have that thrilling conquest at the grand age of 40.
He did, and after that very expensive moment the ecstatic couple spent a passionate Valentineâ€™s weekend last year having the kind of sex that they had almost forgotten about. Now they are busy telling family, friends and strangers that it is the best money they ever spent and everyone should do it.
â€œNow my sister is thinking of becoming a virgin again for her 45th birthday to surprise her husband,â€ says Mrs Yarborough gleefully, as she sits in her modest family home in San Antonio, Texas, talking unabashedly about such intimate matters.
She is not the first to choose the operation â€” a hymenoplasty â€” to repair the fragments of skin forming the traditional â€œgatewayâ€ to the vagina, years after originally losing it.
Women have resorted to backstreet hymen repair for centuries in religions and cultures in which marrying as a virgin is sacred and losing your â€œmaidenheadâ€ before matrimony can mean shame, or even being put to death. But an increasing number of women such as Mrs Yarborough are now electing to be â€œrevirginisedâ€ using modern techniques as a purely cosmetic or lifestyle choice, to â€œput the sparkleâ€ back into their marriage or give their husband a surprise on the second honeymoon.
They usually opt also to have one of the new â€œdesigner vaginaâ€ procedures, such as tightening up of the vaginal canal slackened by childbirth, or the cosmetic trimming of enlarged labia.
â€œI have affluent upper-class ladies coming in from Manhattan, getting ready for a second-honeymoon cruise or something like that. Or some women had a disappointing time the first time they were deflowered and now they have found someone special they would really like to give it up to,â€ says Dr Marco Pelosi, a gynaecologist and plastic surgeon who has a specialist clinic in Bayonne, New Jersey. He performs ten hymenoplasties a month.
â€œNinety per cent of them are for women who are in big trouble if they do not appear to be a virgin when they get married. Then there are the small number who just want it done,â€ he says. For six to 12 weeks after the operation the woman cannot have sex or exercise vigorously while she heals up. Then she is ready to return, in a flash of additional pain, to her deflowered state. â€œThousands of dollars, and it lasts a few seconds. People think itâ€™s crazy but to my patients it does not matter. It means such a lot to them,â€ says Pelosi.
The operation is performed under general anaesthetic and takes up to an hour. The fragments of the broken hymen are made raw again using a laser, which cuts and cauterises simultaneously. Then the fragments are pulled together and stitched, leaving only the small vaginal opening associated with virginity.
The technique was pioneered by Dr David Matlock, a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon, about five years ago and he has trained a handful of others, most of whom have fanned out across the US, with one or two in Canada, to set up their own clinics (there are only about a dozen cosmetic surgeons in the US offering the procedure).
One doctor in Connecticut markets extensively in magazines and on the internet to British clients, offering international vaginal makeover packages that include flight, limousine transfer, hotel â€” and hymenoplasty. Most clients are Latin Americans, Saudi brides-to-be or British Muslims who fly in to be surreptitiously revirginised before marriage. But there is also a growing demand for â€œrecreationalâ€ hymenoplasty. Indeed, it â€™s now so common at two New York clinics that the price has dropped to $1,800 (Â£1,029).
Named after Hymen, the Greek god of marriage, the vaginal membrane has been a marker of virginity since the Stone Age, even though it can be ruptured by nonsexual activity, such as athletics or wearing tampons. It has always been a sensitive topic: Dr Matlock told The Times that he was happy to talk about all the â€œdesigner vaginaâ€ operations he offers â€” except hymen repair, because he has had death threats from religious groups outraged that the fallen faithful can buy a fake virginity. Even the American plastic surgery industry, which convinced nine million people last year â€” up by a quarter since 2000 â€” that their lives would be better if only they remodelled their breasts, thighs, tummy, bottom, eyelids, cheek, nose, etc, draws the line at â€œrevirginationâ€.
Hymenoplasty is not licensed by any official plastic surgery or gynaecological association, it is not officially taught and it is so new and on the fringe that there are only anecdotal statistics. All the operations are done privately and paid for in full by the individual.
None of which bothers Jeanette Yarborough, who decided to have her hymen reconstructed in a combination operation with vaginal â€œrejuvenationâ€ tightening. She looks adoringly at her husband, Louis, as she says: â€œWhat an awesome gift to give the man in my life who deserves everything. It was the most amazing thing I could give him as a woman,â€ she says. Louis Yarborough, 44, explains hastily that he did not expect such an extreme gesture from his wife and tried to dissuade her from going through the painful revirgination experience â€” both the surgery and losing it again to him.
So what do you think of this?
Do you think this is plain nuts, or actually something good?