In so many countries and cultures globally, this skinfold is considered not just an indicator of virginity but of sexual purity but of virtue. Is this opinion right or wrong? It’s time to talk about the hymen.

Although there is a huge discrepancy between medical knowledge of the role of the hymen and it’s cultural interpretation. In this post, we’ll attempt to examine and to answer the question ‘what is the hymen? We will also explain the meaning of a hymen, and debunk myths once and for all! 

Those who do not know the hymen are a thin, fleshy tissue located at the opening of the vagina. There’s a lot of confusion and misinformation about hymens.

Many people believe that the hymen completely covers the opening of your vagina until it’s stretched open, but that’s not always the case. Naturally, hymens have an opening wide enough for menstrual blood to come out most of the time and for you to easily use tampons.

Some individuals are born with so little hymenal tissue that they appear to have no hymen at all. People have hymens that cover the entire vaginal opening in rare situations, or the hole in their hymen is very small.

For a minor operation to remove the extra tissue, they will need to see a doctor. Just like other parts of our anatomy, for everyone, hymens are a little different.

The first time you have vaginal intercourse, your hymen will be spread open, which could cause some discomfort or bleeding. But it’s not happening to everyone.

And there are other ways to stretch a hymen open: riding a bicycle, playing sports, or putting something in your vagina (like a tampon, finger, or sex toy). Hymens once stretched open can’t grow back.

Does having a hymen mean you’re a virgin?

Some people say that if your hymen is stretched open, you’re not a virgin. But it’s not the same as having a hymen and becoming a virgin.

With hymens that are naturally open, some individuals are born. And, besides sex, several other things will stretch your hymen. So from the way their hymen looks or sounds, you can’t say whether anyone has had sex.

5 Facts About the Hymen

  1. The whole vagina is not covered by the hymen

What is the significance of the hymen? The hymen is a tiny patch of skin located inside the opening of the vagina. The hymen is derived from the Greek word meaning membrane.

The hymen is not, contrary to its name, a total membrane that covers the entire vaginal opening. After all, before we first had penetrative sex, menstrual blood and even discharge could pass through the vagina.

For what’s called an imperforate hymen (that means a hymen without any openings), a very limited number of women are born with thus – this could involve minor surgery so that menstruation may move through.

However, the hymen is ring-shaped like a doughnut with a hole for most of us (or in some cases, several holes). This takes us to our next

2. All hymens do not look the same

Just like a vulva, not all hymens look the same. Some may be bigger than others, others may have fringes, and others may be lobed-shaped.

Some have circular holes, and others have half-moon shaped perforations. When it comes to what hymens look like, there is not a ‘natural’ standard. In fact, as we’ll cover later in this article, the idea that a hymen should look a certain way is especially harmful.

You should take a look at yourself at home with a hand mirror and a flashlight if you’re interested to see if you’ve got a hymen or what it looks like. If you separate the labia into your vulva and look inside the vaginal passage, the hymen should be clear. If you can’t find your hymen, don’t be concerned.

3. The hymen doesn’t break; instead, it stretches. 

We also talk about breaking the hymen when we first have sex. However, the hymen is already perforated – since we already know that without the hymen “breaking”, blood, discharge, tampons, and fingers will move through the vaginal passage.

So he first time we have penetrative sex, the hymen doesn’t disappear, the hymen can only stretch.

Most of the choice of words used around this conversation that we’re familiar with as we speak about virginity contradicts this. In fact, nothing physical is lost, and although having sex for the first time might be important for many of us, our bodies do not undergo any biological changes.

4. Not everyone has a hymen and it is okay.

Some people are born with a very tiny hymen or no hymen. This is completely safe and does not mean that something is missing or that medical treatment is needed.

Our hymens can be extended for many of us long before we have penetrative sex, whether it’s from sports, self-exploration or using tampons like menstrual items.

Again, if you should search, and discover you do not have one you shouldn’t be alarmed. You are not missing out on anything, and that doesn’t make you less or more of a virgin.

Of course, you should still speak to your health care doctor if you have questions about your reproductive health.

5. Virginity exams are not medically recognized.

A statement was issued in 2019 by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists claiming that they do not have guidelines on virginity testing.

This is because by just looking at her vagina, you can’t say whether a woman has had sex or not. As covered earlier, every hymen looks different, so there is no set criterion for finding proof of penetration.

This notion that when we first have sex, the hymen breaks has also contributed to a perception that our first time should be painful. In fact, pain is more likely to occur from anxiety or from sexual inexperience during penetration than from stretching the hymen.

Although there is no medically specific virginity test, some cultures continue to conduct ‘virginity testing’. The World Health Organization calls the checking of virginity a violation of human rights.

Although we may feel isolated from activities such as compulsory testing of virginity, this is a global issue that can impact women and girls everywhere. A perfect way to counter misconceptions and confusion is to consider our own sexual health.