The Hymen: Breaking the Myths

By Christine |

The value placed on virgin brides in some cultures led to much talk this year about “reconstructing” virginity (see: hymenoplasty) and the legal relevance of virginity (see: “essential quality” for marriage). So it seems only fitting that we should end with an inflated device designed to fake virginity by mimicking the “breaking” of the vaginal tissue known as the hymen.

According to the product description, once inserted the device “will expand a little and make you feel tight. When your lover penetrate [sic], it will ooze out a liquid that look [sic] like blood not too much but just the right amount. Add in a few moans and groans, you will pass through undetectable.”

Putting aside the issues of why someone would consider this a necessary product  — and the looming question: what do they use to make the fake blood and do I really want it in my vagina?? — let’s take a step back and discuss the hymen and what really happens to this misunderstood body part.

For this we turn to Carol Roye, a nursing professor at Hunter College and a nurse practitioner who specializes in adolescent primary and reproductive health care. Roye recently wrote an an article on the hymen that was published at Women’s eNews (and reprinted at Our Bodies Ourselves).

First off, contrary to what girls are often led to believe, “the hymen is not a flat piece of tissue covering the vagina, which is punctured during intercourse. If it were, girls would not be able to menstruate before they lose their virginity because there would be no outlet for menstrual blood,”

“Usually, the hymen looks like a fringe of tissue around the vaginal opening,” adds Roye. “It is not an intact piece of tissue draped across it. Some girls are born without a hymen, others have only a scanty fringe of tissue. Moreover, for all its fabled mystery, the hymen is just a body part.”

Furthermore, while hymens can be torn during sex or other physical activity, they don’t “break.” These torn areas can bleed, but it doesn’t always happen.

Some of Roye’s patients ask whether using tampons or riding a bicycle can affect their hymens (and their virginity), or if they are “de-virginized” if a partner inserts a finger into the vagina. Roye also deals with parents who ask her to determine if their daughters are virgins.

“Of course, in New York (and many states) teens have a right to confidential care so I cannot tell the mother anything unless the teen gives me permission to do so,” Roye writes. “But even if I am allowed to talk to the parent frankly, I often can’t give the yes-no answer they want. It is not so easy to tell whether a girl is a virgin, because hymens are so varied. If there is not much of a hymen I have no way of knowing what happened to it. Was it a boyfriend or a bicycle? Or, perhaps, this girl did not have much tissue there to begin with.”

Back to the virginity question, Roye states that she believes “virginity is what the individual thinks it is. It certainly is for men, who bear no tell-tale signs of lost virginity.” She adds:

The concept of virginity has an emotional connotation. It is more than just the physical disruption of hymenal tissue.

If a young woman has had a sexual relationship with her partner, and she feels that she has lost her virginity, then she has, regardless of what actually happened to her hymen during the encounter. There are ancillary issues that each woman must answer for herself.

Well said.

Interestingly, “hymen” is the most popular internal search term at the Our Bodies Ourselves health resource center. (In case you’re wondering, orgasm, abortion, yeast infection and vagina round out the top-five searches.) This self-guided tour is very useful in helping you to find your hymen, if remnants remain.

P.S.: If you enjoyed Carol Roye’s article, there’s more to look forward to — she is currently working on a book about reproductive health policies. Excerpts can be read at her website, Women’s Health is a Family Value.

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12 Comments

  1. Fanila says:

    My question..I was married for more then 15 years before divorce. In the last few years we had no sex or so rare-don’t remember. Within year after divorce, I saw my ob/gyn who informed me she thought my hymen was still intact. Is this possible after all those years? (guess it is I’m an example); I’m currently in another relationship for 3 yrs now and still find sex painful, is it poss that this may be due to hymen not being torn? and if I were to see my ob/gyn, is there anything they can do to correct this? (assuming it’s reason for painful sex)?

  2. Lauren says:

    Suppose someone had a thicker hymen that hadn’t broken even after a few years of intercourse and tampons and what have you…it didn’t really get in the way, it was just there… Well, it breaks…tears completely in half. What happens to those halves…do they just hang out there?!

  3. chelsea says:

    if one had a seperate hyme (because I think I do), and tore some of it but not the rest would the rest strech to the side or is there something that needs to be done about it?

  4. Hope says:

    Pls help me.i am a virgin 28yrs old and and husband is 30yrs of age. Both of us have no sex experience before.since we are together i always feel pains when i want to sex that i cannot stand or endure it. What can i do.our marriage is 4years now.

  5. segni bikila says:

    i have wife when i married she have virginity 100%. but for the first time when we contact shes virginity do not break.in 2 time also but after a few month sheshavent hymen mean’s when we do sexual intercourse its get in her vagina.we dont see any bleed. i am sad and i cant trust my wife.b/se may she do sex with another guy but she said i donot done sex without you ido no this action,she said. but itrust my wife we are christian.belong to jesus. please helpme how this can made. no break no bleed how?

    • Lisa says:

      Segni Bikila, if able please read article “The Hymen, breaking the myths.” In the article you question is explained … sometimes the hymen tissue does not cause bleeding when disturbed. The hymen is not a barrier, it is tissue (body part) near the vaginal entry. In some cases a women’s hymen has been disturbed by exercise, illness, or she had little or none to begin with, etc. The fact is that bleeding upon first intercourse is not an indication of virginity. You claim to be a Christian … doesn’t the word of God teach to trust one another — does this not include you wife?

    • Jasmin says:

      Some women are born without a hymen. Without a hymen there would be no bleed even if the woman is a virgin.

    • glass says:

      Sometimes the hymen does not bleed, instead it stretches to accomodate. If it stretches and is well lubricated it will not bleed during the first sexual intercourse experience.

  6. Agyeiwaa says:

    I have never had sex in my life but just recently i was able to insert my middle finger in my vagina.there was no blood and it is possible that i have lost my virginity?

    • elahe says:

      Hi.
      I have a very important question and none of the website answered me.
      I’m 18 years old.
      Last year I had sex BUT, we sexed just with the head of the penis, not completely.just the head of the penis.
      I didn’t see any blood and I had alittle pain.
      Now I don’t know,that I lost my hymen or not.
      Please help me.it’s very important for me.thanks