Obsessed with your hymen? Ten myths about the hymen that may calm you down

Much mystery, as well as many myths, surround the hymen. In some cultures, its presence is believed to indicate chastity and purity. Deeply ingrained messages about “being careful not to break the hymen” can cause some anxiety when the time comes to begin engaging in sexual intercourse

In reality, the hymen is simply an annular (round) ring of tissue that surrounds the vaginal entry.  Here are ten common myths about the hymen.

  1. The hymen is a membrane that covers the entry to the vagina.

The hymen is not a membrane. It is mucosal tissue, which surrounds the entry to the vaginal canal. Every woman’s hymen is shaped differently. Some hymens are thin and elastic, and some are thicker and less stretchy. If it covered the entry, menstrual blood wouldn’t be able to flow through the vagina.

2. The hymen is located deep inside the vagina so if I put my finger in too far, the hymen will break.

The hymen is close to the entry, usually about 1-2 cm inside the vaginal opening. Once your finger is inside, it can reach clear until the cervix without injuring the hymen tissue.

3.  When I have sexual intercourse for the first time, my hymen will break

The “first time” is a myth in itself. For many women, the “first time” that full penile penetration occurs may actually happen only after several times of experiencing partial penetration. With each experience, the hymen stretches and eventually becomes flexible enough to easily accommodate the penis.

4. When I have intercourse the first time, my hymen will bleed

In some cases, a small tear might occur, but not necessarily the first time. Intercourse should take place when a woman is aroused, relaxed and lubricated and penetration should proceed slowly and gently when it’s all new. Under these circumstances, there will likely not be bleeding.  If penetration is forceful, it is more likely that the membranous tissue will tear and bleed. Some women may bleed anyways, however, because their hymen is not as flexible, but many women do not bleed at all.

5.  After my first time having intercourse, my hymen disappears

Hymen tissue does not generally disappear. The hymen generally stretches and thins over time.

6. If I insert something into my vagina, it will break my hymen.

Hymens don’t break, but inserting something very wide, like a penis- sized vaginal dilator or a dildo, could cause stretching and mild tearing the same way a penis might.  Generally, tampons or a finger, or that applicator that comes with the yeast infection cream, are too narrow to affect the hymen tissue.

7. If my hymen breaks by inserting something, I am no longer a virgin

Virginity refers to not having had experienced PIV (penis in vagina) sexual intercourse and not to the status of your hymen. Virginity is a loaded concept and means different things to different people.

8.  If my hymen doesn’t break, I can not get pregnant

If you are not using birth control and your partner ejaculates near the vaginal entry, the sperm cells can make their way through your vaginal opening.

9.  Riding a horse or bicycle can break my hymen

It is highly unlikely that pressure on the perineum, (the area between your vulva and anus) or on the vaginal opening will affect the hymen in any way. The pressure that needs to be applied to the hymen for it to stretch or tear is internal.

10.   Bleeding from first intercourse proves that I am a virgin and not bleeding from first intercourse, means I wasn’t a virgin

See #4 and #7. No one can really “tell” if you have had penetrative sex or not. Every woman’s hymen is different and reacts differently. Sometimes a woman has had isolated penetrative experiences but the hymen is still completely intact. Other women will never have had intercourse, but the first time she attempts penetration, it goes easily with no pain. 

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