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Consummation Counterfeit

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"But a little imagination, a phial of blood hidden beneath your pillow. You wouldn't be the first."
Cut line from Kemal Pamuk, Downton Abbey

Few brides relish the thought of consummating an Arranged Marriage. 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. If they don't, you could be facing execution (either at the hands of your family or the state), banishment, or good old Slut-Shaming from everyone who hears about it.


The solution? Fake it, in order to prove that you were a virgin on the wedding night and/or the wedding was consummated.

The most common way is faking the "blood on the sheets" by using the bride's own blood or that of an animal's — the husband will think the marriage was sufficiently consummated. This is common among noble women who don't go to their marriage bed virgins, especially in societies that value ladies' maidenheads. 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, which is often the case for more sympathetic grooms. 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.


This is something of an Undead Horse Trope — while the myths of the hymen as an indicator of virginity and that a woman bleeds during her first time having sex have been discredited, there are still cultures that place a high value on a woman's virginity and require physical proof of it. And of course, it gets mileage in period works.

Subtrope of Virginity Flag. See also Common Hollywood Sex Traits.



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     Comic Books 
  • Borgia Power And Incest by Alejandro Jodorowsky and 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.
  • In The Handmaiden, there's a scene from Sook-hee's perspective where she hears Hideko and Fujiwara having sex next door and Hideko's sheets are shown to have a bloodstain on it the morning after. In the replay of this scene from Hideko's perspective, however, it's shown that Hideko pulled out a knife to prevent Fujiwara from getting into bed with her, masturbated on her own to make it sound like they were having sex, and then cut her hand with the knife to leave the bloodstain on her sheets.
  • The Pornographers: Ogata, the titular pornographer, has a side business as a pimp. An extremely creepy businessman demands that Ogata find him a virgin to deflower. Ogata winds up finding a hooker who specializes in pretending to be a virgin for gullible johns to deflower. She even gets a fake doctor's certificate to "prove" her virginity.

  • 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 .
    • An alternate version of the joke has the young couple staying at an inn, where the innkeeper finds the bloody bedsheets and, overjoyed that there are still "virtuous" couples in the world, lets the couple stay free of charge. Many years later, the now-old couple visits the same inn again, and when the wife blows her nose on the sheets, her husband asks her what she's doing. She answers: "You saved my honor once, now I'll save your reputation."
  • A woman is worried that her husband-to-be will think she's not a virgin in their nuptials because her hymen has been ruptured. So a friend suggests she place a deflated balloon inside her vagina so he won't have that assumption. On their wedding night, when they are both naked in bed, the husband looks into his new wife's vagina, puzzled. "What's wrong, honey?", she asks nervously "Is there anything wrong with my hymen?" "I don't know", he answers, "I've never seen one with 'Happy Birthday' written on it."
    • There is a variant with a sausage wrapping and a kashrut certificate.

  • In romance novels with Arranged Marriage, a gentleman will use his own blood to do the faking.
  • 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 bedsheet as proof that his wife was a virgin before marriage, as the nobility custom dictates.
  • Mentioned in Aztec as one of the services provided by a local witch-woman. She provides a type of pigeon egg that "bleeds" when broken, which a woman may insert before her wedding night.
  • In the Book of Exodus, a woman who cannot produce "evidence" that she was a virgin on her wedding night on her husband's (or in-laws') demand is to be stoned to death by the men of her community right on her father's doorstep (or left on her father's doorstep after the fact). This is the same punishment she'd face if she'd had an affair after the wedding: the "engagement" was considered the be partially marriage. However, if she (or rather, her parents) were able to produce a bloodied sheet or garment to show her husband/in-laws/neighbors/whoever, then her husband (or whoever made the accusation) was to receive A Taste of the Lash. (And if it was the groom that made the accusation in that case, then he was never allowed to divorce her.) It should be noted that the Jewish explanation in the Oral law treats showing a bloodied sheet as an expression, and takes into account other reasons for lack of blood.
  • Suggested on Chronicle of a Death Foretold to keep rich suitor Bayardo San Román from finding out that Ángela Vicario (who he had just married) is not a virgin. Unfortunately, the plan needed him to fall asleep drunk for Ángela to perform the simulated motions... and his high tolerance to alcohol became a Spanner in the Works, and the ensuing panic over the loss of honor became the trigger for the titular murder.
  • 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 the medieval bodice-ripper Enchanted (the final in a trilogy), the heroine refuses to sleep with the hero on their wedding night (readers know, but he doesn't, that she was raped and therefore has a Paralyzing Fear of Sexuality). So he cuts himself and spills blood on the bed so that necessary people believe that they've consummated their marriage.
  • 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.
  • In Elizabeth Chadwick's The Greatest Knight William Marshal, the knight of the title, has just been rewarded for years of good service with the hand of a rich royal ward. The girl is frightened and William is nursing a wounded leg so he suggests a rain check on the consummation and supplies the necessary blood himself with a prick of his dagger commenting that the better the lover the less the blood. As it turns out he could have saved himself the trouble as her period starts in the night giving them the perfect excuse to put of the consummation till they get to know each other a little better. By the time her period ends Isabelle's only doubt is whether it would be to forward for her to remind William that they have unfinished business.
  • 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).
  • In Malediction Trilogy human girl Cecile is married to troll prince Tristan in order to fulfill a prophecy. He is a decent guy and does not want to force her, he even goes to sleep on the sofa - but his father demands that marriage be consumed and offspring produced. Since trolls themselves cannot lie, Tristan tells his wife to lie about what happened during the night. He also pretends to be totally disgusted by his wife so that she does not have to lie too often.
  • 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 Cousins War series. In The White Princess Henry Tudor cuts Elizabeth of York's foot in order to fake it. 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.
  • In The Serpent & Dove Trilogy Lou and Reid need to consummate their marriage, or it won't be official. However Lou does not want to sleep with him and Reid doesn't want to force her, so she cuts open her arm and lets her blood drip on the bed to fake a consumation.
  • 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.
  • 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 Manchild 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 Wild Tales short story The Seed of the Dervishovs by Bulgarian writer Nikolay Haytov has the trope inverted and deconstructed. In a mountainous village, an Arranged Marriage happens between a boy and a girl. They fall for each other, but both are shy and he doesn't want to force himself on her. They fake the consummation in order for the village to leave them alone and let them stay together. It works, however when a brutish neighbor notices that the girl isn't getting pregnant for a long time, he deduces she's still a virgin. He bribes her brothers into kidnapping her and forcefully marries her, making everyone's life miserable.
  • Invoked in The Fire's Stone when Aaron offers to kill a chicken to stain the sheets on Chandra and Darvish's wedding night.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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.
  • Brazilian soap opera author Glória Perez is fond of this trope, when writing about Arranged Marriage in conservative cultures, as in the soaps Explode Coração and O Clone. In these occasions, the men were aware that their respective wives weren't virgin, then they cut themselves and bled in the bedsheet.

  • Done by accident in Queen of the Dead by A-gnosis. Persephone's period starts shortly after being abducted by Hades. She sardonically tells Hades that they can use the bloodied sheets as 'proof' that he took her virginity (which is wrong on both counts; she's not a virgin and he never touched her).

    Real Life 
  • 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 option would bring shame upon the couple. In some cases, the stained wedding night bedsheet would be saved as evidence against future attempts to impugn 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. There is no way to reliably tell whether a woman is a virgin or not.