These people want to restore your hymen.

It’s tough to think of a piece of skin with more importance per ounce than the hymen.

The thin membrane that wraps around the vaginal opening has long been held as proof of a woman’s sexual purity. When it was broken (sometimes, but not always, accompanied by pain or a little blood), that was the sign that no phallus had entered her before her current man.

Unfortunately for many would-be virgins, it’s also possible to rip the hymen in a bunch of other ways. Horseback riding, gymnastics and even inserting a tampon can sometimes do it.

So it’s also not an all-or-nothing situation. Hymens have an opening in the center, and their tissue is typically worn away over time. A newborn baby’s hymen is thick and durable, but the hymen of a teenager is thin and fragile. It can be completely worn away naturally before their first sexual experience.

In addition, some women aren’t even born with hymens, which makes the whole “you need one to be considered a virgin” thing really awkward.

Although most Western societies have significantly reduced the importance of the hymen, it’s still a big deal in other places. So women have to think outside of the box to restore that precious scrap of flesh if something should happen to it.

Welcome to the world of hymen reconstruction, a thriving economy preying on sexual repression, medical ignorance and cultural fear.

A popular urban legend holds that if you don’t have sex for seven years, your hymen will regrow itself. Needless to say, this isn’t true?—?it’s not like a fingernail. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.

A British company shows how to use an artificial blood pill. | Artificial Hymen/YouTube

Traditionally, the way to simulate an unbroken hymen has been with some other piece of material stuffed up there in its place. Sites like sell kits to let women fake their first time every time.

An artificial hymen is a rapidly-degrading natural plastic envelope?—?the same material used for breath-freshening strips?—?that contains a small amount of red dye. You insert it into the vagina 15 minutes before sexual activity, then get busy. The natural secretions of the vagina start to break down the plastic, and their partner’s thrusting does the rest. What doesn’t slide out dissolves naturally inside the woman over the next day or so.

People who have used these artificial hymens report that their partners couldn’t tell the difference in the heat of the moment, but the red dye was significantly messier than natural blood, getting all over everything.

The Zarimon system, invented by a British company, works the same way. But instead of a membrane that a partner’s penis rips, their solution is simply an artificial blood-filled pill that you shove up there, along with a mysterious “tightening pill” that is taken orally.

These kits aren’t designed to actually replace the hymen. They’re designed to trick a partner, during intercourse, that it’s still there. And the way they do that is with copious amounts of fake blood.

Unfortunately for them, bleeding when the hymen is ruptured is, for the majority of women, a myth as well. One in 200 are born with what’s called an “imperforate hymen,” which can cause pain or bleeding when it’s broken. Fewer than half of women bleed after their first intercourse, and the amount is usually light spotting comparable to a paper cut.

These artificial hymen kits don’t really care, though. The whole point of them is to be noticed, so they create a massive amount of “blood” when they’re ruptured.

If nothing but the real thing will do, don’t lose hope. Several surgeons have developed a method to surgically “restore” the hymen after it’s torn.

The procedure takes about a half an hour, with the doctor either simply stitching the two ends together or harvesting a small amount of tissue from the walls of the vagina. It’s a simple operation that costs about $2,500. Good luck getting your insurance to cover it, though.

What’s behind our cultural obsession with the hymen? It goes back as far as the Bible. Deuteronomy 22:20–21 states that if a man marries a woman and “no proof of the young woman’s virginity can be found, she shall be brought to the door of her father’s house and there the men of her town shall stone her to death.” What is the “proof” the Bible asks for? A cloth, spotted with blood.

Thousands of years after those words were written, men are still looking for that blood to reassure themselves that their partners are pure. And when they don’t find it, they’re not happy.

In April 2016, a bride was strangled by her husband on her wedding night in Pakistan because he suspected she was not a virgin. This is just one of many stories about men losing their minds when their first time doesn’t deliver the hymen-tearing experience they expected.

Could a little plastic envelope full of fake blood have saved her? Or is it finally time to educate the world that a little scrap of skin does not a virgin make?