If you are a girl and you have hit puberty, you’ve most likely have been told numerous times by now that your virginity is a sacred matter, and that you should never give it away before marriage. Such tales of caution are usually reserved for girls only. Boys are rarely advised of such things, and in most households, parents think that it’s the girl that needs to be careful, that needs to save herself, that needs to remain ‘pure’.
The myth of the hymen as a sign of virginity goes back decades, if not centuries! There are many cultures to this day that have practices based on this myth. It’s a story as old as time: On her wedding day, a woman must bleed after her first night with her husband. Her husband must then take the sheets she bled upon and show it off to his groomsmen as proof that he married a virgin. This is the way that men verified that their wife is ‘pure’.
These and many other cultural practices have cemented the hymen as a sign of virginity. Parents teach their children this myth, as well as many religious organizations. When we look at the facts, however, the hymen can’t be the end-all sign of virginity. It’s merely tissue that partly covers the opening to the vagina. Actually, it doesn’t even cover enough to make a dent! If it did, menstrual blood would have an extremely difficult time flowing out of the vagina. Which is actually a type of hymen that can be found, it’s called closed hymen and if that’s the type of hymen you have you would need to go get medical help. Because of this and many other reasons, the hymen being considered the all-end sign of virginity is a flawed concept at best and so it’s extremely frustrating that even in today’s times, people still rely on it “breaking” to prove a woman’s first time having sexual intercourse.
It’s unclear when exactly the hymen started being regarded as a sign of virginity, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. The hymen is an elastic piece of tissue that covers the vaginal opening partially and it comes in different shapes and sizes. Your hymen can easily break doing absolutely anything! Most girls (if they even have a hymen, to begin with) can break it during sports or physical exercise, inserting a tampon- the possibilities are endless. For some people, their hymen can break during a form of self-pleasure or sexual act called ‘Fingering’, where a finger is placed into the vaginal canal.
For details on the different types of hymens, we encourage you to look into our anatomical fact sheet here on our website. For a quick rundown:
- Some girls are born without a hymen at all
- Hymens break easily
- If you in fact have a closed hymen, it’s a condition you need to get treated for altogether.
- Some women don’t even bleed when their hymen breaks.
It is true that you could lose your hymen without even knowing it. Some people may report a small amount of bleeding or pain, but most women don’t even feel a thing. A lot of stories have come out over the years about women from various religious backgrounds having to prove their virginity upon marriage. If they don’t their husbands can ‘return’ their wives back to their families. Imagine, you settle down to marry the love of your life, and the first night with your husband, he tells you that he can’t continue this marriage or doesn’t believe you just because you didn’t bleed after having sex.
It’s sad that these myths can ultimately ruin a foundation or trust. In the health community, it is our job to put information out there to break the stigma surrounding hymens and virginity. Our virginity shouldn’t signify our value or importance as women. We are complete – whether we have a hymen or not.