The world is full of weird virginity myths and hymen misconceptions. Let’s talk through some of the most common ones and separate the facts from the bullshit.
Today I really wanna talk about the hymen, one of the most sensationalized but least understood bits of human anatomy. Particularly the things that people tend to get very, very wrong about it.
But before we get into that, let’s start by discussing what the hymen is. The word “hymen” originally came from the Greek word for “membrane” because that’s exactly what it is — a thin layer of tissue, usually just outside or inside the vagina, likely left over from fetal development. It generally forms the shape of a ring, but not always, because:
Myth #1: All hymens look the same.
What a worryingly large number of people think of as the typical hymen — a layer of tissue stretching all the way across and sealing off the vagina — is actually one of the rarest variations, only occurring in around 1 out of every 2,000 babies born with vaginas. The vast majority of people are born with either an annular or crescentic hymen, which leave the center of the vagina completely open.
But there are actually a ton of other really interesting, uncommon variations. Septate, cribriform, denticular, fimbriated, labial… In many of these cases, as with the completely covered imperforate hymen, surgery might be necessary to allow for things like menstrual blood and vaginal discharge to more easily get out and tampons, sex toys, body parts, or whatever else the person wants to go in.
Myth #2: The hymen must be broken to have penetrative sex.
Nope! Think of the typical hymen much like the plastic on a tissue box. It’s a very thin, flexible layer that stretches to allow easier access. That’s not to say that the hymen can’t tear or bleed or hurt the first time you have penetrative sex, but if you’re completely relaxed, aroused, well-lubricated, and you go sloooowly, it shouldn’t. Most of the stories you hear about the first time being a painful, bloody mess come from, I think, lack of communication. If the receptive partner isn’t completely turned on and comfortable, if the penetrative partner is going too fast or rough, if there isn’t enough lubrication.
Because so many people think the first time is supposed to break the hymen, supposed to hurt, supposed to bleed, it almost becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. But it really, really doesn’t have to. Listen to your body and pay attention to what it’s telling you. If penetration is causing a lot of discomfort or pain, that’s a signal to slow down or stop. Try something else for awhile. Maybe add more lube. Sex is supposed to be a pleasant experience and penetration is something you work up to; don’t rush it.
Myth #3: The hymen is an objective marker of virginity.
No. In adult or adolescent humans, the state of the hymen says little to nothing about that person’s sexual history. The hymen tissue naturally begins to thin and wear away as you grow up, and all sorts of non-sexual physical activities from bike riding to tampon insertion can accelerate this process. Even a professional gynecologist, when examining the vagina of an adult, would have a hard time trying to definitively determine whether or not that person had had penetrative sex just based on their hymen. This is an outdated, inaccurate, frankly misogynistic notion that needs to be laid to rest already.
So, those are the most common hymen myths I hear. If you know of any others or if you have any questions, leave a comment, let’s have a chat.
Thanks for watching, and I’ll see you next time!