Nobody likes Arranged Marriages
, except for the occasional lucky bastard
. Fewer still relish the thought of consummating
the marriage, especially to a groom you hardly know, or worse, hate, except that society expects
you to do it. The servants are sure to gossip if they don't see the "blood on the sheets"
the next morning, too. There's just one problem - you've already done the nasty with someone else, but they need to see that blood
The solution? Fake it.
The most common way is faking the "blood on the sheets" by using animal blood - your husband will be delighted, thinking that you did the do. This is common among noble women who don't go to their marriage bed virgins, especially in societies that value ladies' maidenheads. Of course, false "evidence" may be required even if the wife was
a virgin, as the majority of women do not actually bleed after their first time having intercourse. Try telling the writers that, though.
A variation is to not actually consummate the marriage at all - render your husband incapable of consummating, then fake the blood and let everyone believe you did it. Yet another is to have your husband in on it - neither of you want to do it, so both of you are in the deception.
- Borgia Power And Incest by Milo Manara has Lucrezia do this for her first husband (who is Camp Gay to the point of impotence if no men are involved), via an eggshell filled with blood. A bedsheet is draped over the happy couple so the audience (yes, the audience) can't see the details, and after a few screams of pain on Lucrezia's part and effort on her husband's, the bloodstained bedsheet is revealed to all (without any actual intercourse having taken place).
- In Yentl, the title character is a woman pretending to be male so she can go to school. She gets trapped into an arranged marriage with a woman who doesn't particularly want to marry "him" either. On their wedding night they play around non-sexually in their bedroom and Yentl "accidentally" spills some red wine on the bed, which is taken by the others at the wedding night party as proof of consummation.
- There is an old joke where a man, on his wedding night, has trouble with consummating the relationship. So once the wife falls asleep, he cuts his finger and smears the sheet with blood. An hour later, when he is asleep, the wife wakes up, sees the sheet, thinks for a moment and uses the sheet to blow her nosenote .
Live Action TV
- Mentioned in a roundabout way in Judge Dee, when Ma Jong mentions that Mongol women aren't required to be virgins on marriage, as they spend most of their childhood riding horses (which would naturally tear their maidenhead).
- Happens in the second duology of Arcia Chronicles: Dariolo Kerna is supposed to be a virgin when she marries Arthur Barrot, when, in fact, she already has two (illegitimate) children from Alexander. Arthur, being not the sharpest tool in the shed and madly in love with her, assumes her hymen was broken while riding a horse and cuts himself to produce a stained bed sheet as proof that his wife was a virgin before marriage, as the nobility custom dictates.
- In Abel Posse's Dogs of Paradise, Isabella and Ferdinand had some trouble waiting until the wedding night... so they present a large Japanese flag.
- In the Young Royals book Patience, Princess Catherine (a historical fiction about the early life of Catherine of Aragon and Henry VIII) Catherine of Aragon and Arthur Tudor use goats' blood as proof of consummation so they don't have the pressure of having to consummate the night of the wedding for the bedding ceremony. They never actually have sex together, but the "proof" (along with some cuddle sessions in the same chambers) causes problems when Arthur dies and she wants to marry his brother Henry, as a church doctrine prohibits the marriage of a widow to the brother of her deceased husband if the marriage was legal and had been consummated.
- In A Thousand Splendid Suns, after her husband falls asleep, Laila cuts her finger the night she consummates her marriage and lets the blood stain the sheets.
- Accidentally done in Grave Mercy. The protagonist, Ismae, is pretending to be the mistress of Viscount Duval in order to explain her presence at court. He visits her bedchambers every night for a few hours to keep up the ruse, but they do not have sex and Ismae is a virgin. However, when Duval tries to wake her from a nightmare, she immediately lashes out at him with a knife and ends up cutting him. The next morning, the housekeeper sees the blood on the sheets and kindly assures Ismae that "it will not always hurt so", much to Ismae's embarrassment.
- Used as a Pet the Dog moment for the antiheroic male lead in a romance novel whose title I've forgotten. He and the female lead had "consummated" some time before and had been forced to marry, but their premarital funtimes aren't public knowledge. Believing that the forced marriage was her plan all along, he is angry enough to refuse to have sex with her on the wedding night. Waking up to find her approaching the bed with a knife, he tackles her, only to have her explain that she was planning this trope. He takes the knife and - after a moment of fear on her part that he will allow her to be shamed - cuts himself instead, musing that he left so much blood on the sheets that the servants will pity her for having to deal with his brutality.
- Philippa Gregory has used this trope a couple of times. In The Constant Princess, Catherine of Aragon cuts her foot to stain the sheets in order to fool Henry VIII into thinking she was a virgin on their wedding night and had not consummated her marriage to Prince Arthur. The trope gets used again in The White Princess between Elizabeth of York and Henry Tudor, with Henry cutting her foot. In this instance, it's because not only had Henry and Elizabeth had slept together prior to their marriage, but Elizabeth had previously slept with Richard III too.
- A variant in Warbreaker. Princess Siri of Idris needs the priesthood of Hallendren to think that she's sleeping with their God-Emperor (since she was sent down from Idris as an Arranged Marriage to produce an heir), but the God-Emperor in question is something of a Man Child and has no clue how sex works (at least at first). Eventually, she just starts bouncing up and down on the bed and moaning, satisfying the listening observers. The God-Emperor, of course, has no clue what to make of this until much later.
- The 1986 miniseries Peter The Great by NBC Productions showed the newly crowned Czar Peter of Russia taking the introverted virgin Eudoxia to the honeymoon bed. When Eudoxia claims that she must "sacrifice" herself for the good of Russia rather than out of love for Peter, Czar Peter shatters a wine bottle and lances his finger with a shard. His blood stains the center of the bedsheet, which he then displays proudly to his loyal palace guards downstairs.
- As mentioned above, this was very common in royalty and nobility, where no "blood on the sheets" would be taken as a sign that either no consummation had taken place or the bride wasn't a virgin on her wedding night. Either options would bring shame upon the couple. In some cases the stained wedding night bedsheet would be saved as evidence against future attempts to impugne the bride's honor.
- In some places that still place a high value on a woman's virginity at marriage, there exist a few surgical procedures (though they might be illegal, in order to prevent this trope.) One such procedure involves creating an artificial hymen (that has no actual blood supply, but contains a packet of fake blood.)
- It should be noted that many women actually don't bleed the first time they experience penetrative sex. In fact, blood on the sheets is a sign that there was not enough lubrication and/or that things got a little too rough, whether the woman was a virgin or not. There is no way to reliably tell whether a woman is a virgin or not.