Hymen and virginity: How to separate myth from fact

The concept of female virginity seems to be a very complicated topic, with plenty of misinformation surrounding the issue. The notions of chastity and honor surrounding a woman’s ‘virginity’ only makes matters worse. So here is an attempt to unravel the mystery behind the Hymen.

What is virginity?

According to Eisler, virginity is a social construct, not a medical reality. “While there is no medical definition for virginity, it is an important concept to many people, it’s built by social norms and beliefs even if it doesn't have a scientific basis.” To many, virginity means you haven’t yet been penetrated by the male organ penis, or your hymen has not been “broken”. In more general terms, it means you haven’t yet had sex..

Picture Credits: http://junesecrets.blogspot.in/

Know your hymen

  • No one really knows why female are born with hymens.

  • At birth, the doughnut-shaped membrane is prominent and thick, but that changes pretty rapidly.

  • The hymen is not a wall or a structure that needs to be broken. It is not some kind of protective tissue that bars the entry of a penis. It is a tissue that stretches, and even tears due to sexual activity, or other strenuous physical activities.

  • In reality, the hymen is a thin membrane that is just inside the vaginal opening. 

  • It also has an opening in it, so that menstrual blood and other secretions can get out. 

  • Generally, that opening is in a crescent shape, but it varies from woman to woman. 

  • Some have very small openings, and some even have multiple openings in the hymen. 

  • Rarely, a woman will have a closed hymen, which is called “imperforate,” but that requires medical intervention.

  • Your hymen can be hard to see.

  • During the early years, the membrane thins and widens as a result of athletics, self-exploration, cleansing and even activities as simple as walking. A little of the tissue may remain around the opening of the vagina, but that's usually it.

  • Activities like horse riding, biking, gymnastics, using tampons, fingering and masturbation can all cause the hymen to move out of the way. Hence, do not consider the broken hymen and male penetration to have a symbiotic condition. There can be other ways of losing ‘virginity’, which have nothing to do with the male hymen alone.

To bleed or not to bleed:

Bleeding in women during or after intercourse is pretty not unusual, however some women shed a few drops of blood the first time they have vaginal sex. According to Eisler, it doesn’t even have a huge blood supply, so even if it is intact, you may not bleed much or at all. “People make a big deal about whether you bleed the first time you have sex. But the idea of ‘popping a cherry’ is not the momentous event that a lot of people think it is or are told it will be,” Sometimes sex can cause bleeding from the vaginal mucosa, not the hymen, if it’s particularly dry or the movements are too fast or rough.

Myths related to Hymen:

  • An intact hymen indicates one is still a virgin.

  • A woman’s first sexual encounter is painful because her hymen is breaking.

  • Tearing of the hymen causes bleeding.

What is important to remember is that virginity is not a thing. Not really. It is a social construct meant to make people, especially women, feel badly about their sexuality and sexual experience. It is a way of policing other people’s bodies and passing judgment on how they use them. It is, at its very core, a way of controlling and subjugating women.

WHL Tip:  It is a good idea to touch yourself carefully ‘down there’, to explore and know how your body feels. Some women even use mirrors.

About the Author

WHL Staff

The WHL staff comprises a group of ladies out to give you exhaustive, practical health tips and resources.