Even in an age of medical discovery, the hymen myth lingers like peanut butter to jam, in every aspect of our lives. From classrooms, to TV and even in general conversation there is no escaping it.
Many people believe the hymen to be a thin piece of skin hidden finger deep inside the vagina. The myth further alludes that this skin covers the vaginal entrance and tears, or breaks when penetrated during sexual intercourse. In many cultures and religions, the hymen is seen to symbolise virginity. Someone who has an intact hymen is seen as pure whilst someone whose hymen cannot be felt or found would be viewed as impure.
However, a quick look at the female anatomy would tell you that this archaic perception of the hymen is almost as ridiculous as believing the world to be flat and should probably have been left back in the age of the dinosaurs.
So, what is the hymen?
The hymen is a membrane which partially covers the vagina. It is circular or oval in shape hugging the vaginal walls. However, contrary to popular belief, the hymen contains a hole in its center. The size of this hole varies depending on the size of the vagina and the type of menstruation flow. This membrane is intact but alowly deteriotes into adolsense.
Does it cover the entrance of the vagina?
No. The hymen does not completely cover off the entrance of the vagina. A hole is required in order for period blood, etc. to pass out of.
Does the hymen break during intercourse?
The hymen does not break during sexual activity, as that would be extremely painful and would require medical attention if damaged badly.
Instead of breaking, the Hymen stretches to accommodate the penis. Although stretched the hymen does not “break”.
Terms such as “tearing”, “breaking”, “popping” are a part of a misogynistic social construct as it implies that by having sex with a female, a male can take or claim something from her. It sounds really violent and is thrown around to ensure that females stay away from claiming their right to control their sex lives consentingly.
If the hymen doesn’t break, what causes first time sex pains?
Pain is not to be normalised. Some people experience a lot of pain and sometimes bleeding during sex and others do not experience any pain and bleeding. Its important to remember that both of these experiences are natural and normal.
Pain or discomfort may be caused by a number of different aspects. For example, the rush of hormones, tighter vagina or larger penis, clenching of vaginal muscles because of nervousness, etc.
Accessive pain or bleeding, however is not normal and may be an indication of rushed or forced penetration, lack of lubrication or simply carelessness
Whats wrong with correlating the existence of a hymen with virgins?
For one, virginity does not require a hymen. Many people are born without hymans or do not have hymens as they can easily be stretched by participating in activities such as dancing, horse riding and gymnastics or by the insertion of an object such as a tampon.
Therefore a persons hymen may not be easily located even though they have not engaged in sexual activity.
Another thing to remember is that a person should never be dehumanised or seen as impure because they are not a virgin as sexual relations are personal choices. Nobody is ever obliged to disclose sexual history to any person other than a medical professional or when under oath in a court of law.
Does this mean that ‘virginity testing’ is pointless?
“Virginity testing” is an age old practice that does not belong in modern medical practice. At most a “virginity test” can prove that a person’s hymen is traceable.
Often, in sexist and uneven legal systems, virginity testing is wrongfully used against women in court or to withhold certain privileges from an individual and therefore does more harm than good.
But that’s for another blog post…