This Woman Is Tearing Down Her Country's Rules About Sex

Catherine V. Harry is only 23, but she's already famous for tackling topics, from female virginity to menstruation, that most people in Cambodia won't touch.

Catherine Harry knew right away that doing a video on female virginity was going to get a reaction — she just didn't expect it would get 2 million views.

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"I actually didn't think it was going to be that big!" the 23-year-old student told BuzzFeed News. "Apparently people here are very, very interested in debating about whether or not a woman's virginity is her worth.

"It's one of those things that riles me up because I always hear people say 'This woman is not a virgin, she's not pure, therefore she's not a proper woman' ... I wanted to dismantle the whole idea."

Harry, who built a loyal following in her native Cambodia over four years through her popular blog, has only been posting vlogs since February. But her Khmer-language videos have totally blown up this year.

Harry adopted social media early — she opened a Facebook account when she was 12 to follow her then-crush Jesse McCartney. Back then hardly anyone in Cambodia was on Facebook, and nobody thought of it as a platform for news.

After she finished high school, she started working with the BBC on a project focused on reproductive health and began to realize many of her thoughts on the subject were missing from Cambodian media. And with that the "A Dose of Cath" blog was born.

"I felt like I needed to be heard," she said.

Traditional gender roles are still very much a part of the culture in Cambodia, where schools teach a code of conduct for women called the Chbab Srey, which puts women at the center of domestic life and deemphasizes their roles as leaders.

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Her willingness to take that on has prompted plenty of love from her fans, many of whom are women from Cambodia's younger generation.

Unfortunately she gets some hate too, she said, including harassing messages and even unsolicited dick pics. The hate has kept others from speaking out on the same subjects, even though her following demonstrates the interest is there, she said.

"No Cambodian person has ever done this before in Khmer," she said. "People see the reaction I get and people are scared by that. It's not very pleasant to get all the harassment and all the negativity."

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But in the end, Harry says that people follow her because she isn't afraid to speak about taboo subjects — everything from abortion to victim-blaming.

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There are lots of NGOs in Cambodia that work on issues concerning women, like sex trafficking, but Harry wants to address issues she feels have been left out of the conversation, like online harassment, sexual health, and beauty standards. She hopes to keep growing the audience for her vlog and start a foundation someday.

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