The Hymen: What it is and the myths surrounding it

With hymen being the he-who-must-not-be-named of our country, one must really start at the very beginning and ask what a hymen even is. Essentially, the hymen is a mucosal tissue that partially covers or surrounds the vaginal opening. Every woman’s hymen is shaped differently, some have thin elastic ones, while some are thicker and less stretchy. There are also different kinds of hymens ranging from imperforate hymen, which covers the vagina completely and has to be medically opened to allow the women to menstruate, to septate hymens, the membrane has a strand of extra tissue which creates two openings to the vagina.

Everyone’s heard the urban legend that narrates the story of your hymen ‘ripping’ the first time you have sex, followed by details of pain, terror and blood everywhere. Well, it’s called an urban legend for a reason. While, medically, the hymen’s function is up for debate, but the hymenal tissue is worn away gradually during adolescence. Through the years, the membrane thins and widens due to cleansing, physical exercise and even self-exploration.

Though certain cultures put their absolute faith in the condition of the hymen as proof of virginity and hold it synonymous to honor, purity and chastity, the state of a hymen cannot be a conclusive indicator of virginity because it can stretch and tear as a result of physical injury, medical examination, physical exercise or disease. For many women, the “first time” is a myth because the first time of full penile penetration can be a result of several times of partial penetration attempts. In this case, the hymen stretches and becomes flexible enough to accommodate full penetration.

Popular Myths

First Time Pain

Because of the thinning of the hymen by the time a woman finally has intercourse, the pain can be a product of the psychological fear of the “first time”, vaginal dryness, if the penetration is forceful, or if the women isn’t aroused and lubricated.

Bloody Sheets

In some cases, a small tear might occur, but it does not necessarily have to be during the first time. Although, any blood during first penetration is more likely due to general vaginal tearing if the woman is not aroused or from lack of lubrication. Ideally, intercourse should take place when the woman is relaxed and penetration should be gentle, if not, the tissue might tear and bleed.

No Break, No Pregnancy

During intercourse, if you are not using some form of birth control and your partner ejaculates near the vaginal entry, the sperm cells can make their way through it and it can result in you getting pregnant.

Bleeding = Virginity

As established, every woman’s hymen is different and responds differently. Sometimes, women can have penetrative sex without harming the hymen at all, women who have never had intercourse can go through it without any pain or bleeding the first time.

Tampons or menstrual cups

Whether you are a “virgin” or not, you can absolutely use tampons and menstrual cups. Depending on the type of hymen, it may break or tear with the usage of tampons and menstrual cups, but fact is that your hymen can break or tear due to any of your daily activities, like exercise. And many women don’t even break it during sexual intercourse.

Can I Ride a Bicycle and Still Remain a Virgin?

Well, yes. Hymen rupture can occur due to various strenuous physical activities that include but is not restricted to cycling. Even regular gymming, swimming and horse riding. This still remains a myth because the condition of your hymen and its link to your virginity has been naturalised over time.

Hymenoplasty, considered a scientific triumph, sheds true light on the regressive thinking on the position of women in our conservative country. Treatment options include surgery for a natural looking hymen or hymen repair.

IndiCure define hymenoplasty in India as “Hymen restoration surgery or Hymenoplasty or Hymen repair surgery popularly known as Revirgination is the operation to get virginity back is a simple plastic surgery procedure used for reconstructing the hymen of women who need to have their virginity restored for cultural, social and ethical reasons.”

In a conservative and patriarchal country like ours, preserving ones virginity is still considered a necessity and an added attraction during marriage negotiations. Because of this, more and more women are now queuing up for this cosmetic surgical procedure that will restore their hymens and keep this virginal state intact in front of future in-laws and husbands. The discrimination on the basis of gender gets sidelined in a narrative that alleges to re-virginise you and provide you a chance at a good beginning to married life. In a public hospital, the surgery ranges between Rs. 15,000 to Rs. 20,000, whereas in a private hospital, the surgery starts at Rs. 50,000.

Regarding virginity

Fact is that your hymen does not determine your virginity. Some people believe that virginity is broken only and only when you have sexual intercourse for the first time. And others believe that even oral or anal sex makes you “lose” your virginity. Point is, that the definition of virginity is complicated but it has definitely nothing to do with your hymen.

About the Author

Neha Ramneek Kapoor

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