9 myths about the hymen you need to stop believing
The hymen made out to be a symbol of virginity and purity when all it really is, is a part of your body.
The hymen is largely misunderstood - not only by men but also women all over the world. It’s made out to be a symbol of virginity and purity when all it really is, is a part of your body.
Medically speaking, having a hymen (or losing it) doesn’t make any difference to a person’s health. But the social pressure (in some cultures) to have an intact hymen at the time of marriage can have a negative impact on mental health.
Myths surrounding the hymen are largely to blame for this social pressure. Here’s a look at the top 9 myths, and the truth about them.
Myth 1: The hymen is a barrier and it “breaks”.
The hymen is a membranous tissue that does not cover but surrounds the vaginal opening. Think of it as a curtain more than a wall. It has a small opening in it already - which is how menstrual blood and vaginal discharge comes out. So your hymen does not technically “break” but it can stretch.
Myth 2: The hymen breaks the first time you have sex (Or, hymen = “virgin”).
The hymen can stretch or even tear during many intense physical activities like cycling, swimming, horse riding, etc. Use of tampons and inserting something in your vagina (fingers, sex toys, etc) can also stretch the hymen. By the time you have sex for the first time, your hymen might already be thin enough for it to not be affected at all.
Myth 3: You can’t use a tampon or vaginal suppositories if your hymen is “intact”.
Your hymen does not cover the entire vaginal opening. This means there is room for tampons and vaginal suppositories to go through. In the rare case of an abnormal hymen (one that covers most of or the entire vaginal opening), surgical opening can be explored.
Myth 4: Masturbation breaks the hymen.
Penetration (with fingers or object) can stretch the hymen. But one can masturbate without any penetration as well. Clitoral stimulation is one of the best ways for women to achieve orgasm. External masturbation won’t cause your hymen to stretch at all.
Myth 5: A gynaecologist can tell if you have a hymen or not (and whether you’re a virgin) during a physical exam.
Just like vaginas, every hymen is unique. Some are smaller and thinner, others are bigger and thicker. It could be visible, or it couldn’t be. Its appearance also changes with age. There is no hard and fast rule here. Therefore, a gynaecologist can’t tell if you’re a virgin or not by doing a physical exam because of the variation in different hymens and also because the absence of a hymen isn’t an indicator of sexual activity.
Myth 6: Every woman is born with a hymen.
Not every female is born with a hymen. As it plays no physiological role, this isn’t harmful at all.
Myth 7: When the hymen stretches/tears, it hurts and causes bleeding.
The stretching of a hymen does not necessarily cause pain - in fact, it can occur without your noticing it at all. Pain during sex isn’t always caused by the hymen “breaking”, it can be a combination of inexperience, anxiety and inadequate preparation.
Myth 8: Hymen can grow back.
Unlike the vaginal opening, once stretched, a hymen does not return to its former shape or grow back.
Myth 9: Examining the hymen can indicate whether a sexual assault took place.
The hymen may or may not be damaged during the rape - and therefore, an examination of it cannot confirm sexual abuse. Lacerations on the hymen from abuse can not be differentiated from natural changes. A full physical exam should be administered for gathering evidence of an assault.
For more information, please read our article on Vaginal Bleeding.
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