The Hymen – Myths and Legends Unravelled

In several cultures, a woman’s ‘chastity’ is determined by her hymen. Here we have a compiled list of myths on the subject – uncovered and debunked.

Know your hymen
So what is a Hymen? It is a thin membrane that surrounds your vaginal opening. It may be of different shapes – sometimes moon-like to allow that menstrual flow to pass through. Yet, it is misinterpreted as a sign of virginity. The term ‘virginity’ is an artificial construct to imply ‘purity’ and is a highly contested subject.

Many cultures believe that a ‘broken’ hymen is an indicator that a woman has had sex, so much so that in some orthodox cultures, ‘hymen tests’ are prescribed before marriage. That can be far from the truth. So let’s get to know this vital piece of tissue better, ultimately it’s a part of you!

Here are some myths, busted:

An intact hymen equals virginity: As one grows up, activities such as walking, sports, using tampons etc. can cause the hymen to tear. So a hymen can tear due to various factors other than sexual intercourse. Hymen and sex are tagged together, though there is practically no correlation. In reality, the hymen thins out till adolescence and may not even be part of some anatomies.

The first time: You may have heard horror stories of first-time sex pain and discomfort, thanks to the hymen ‘tearing’. The pain may come due to lack of lubrication and friction while having intercourse, so it isn’t fair to blame it on that poor tissue. About 1 in 200 women have an “imperforate” hymen. That means around 0.5 percent of hymens don’t wear away normally and have openings too small for tampons or erections to comfortably enter the vagina.

Bleeding: Sex and bloody sheets do not go hand in hand, but many women experience bleeding, the first time they have sexual intercourse. However, there are also women who have not bled the first time they had sex. Hurried, poorly lubricated sex can result in tearing of the vaginal tissues and cause bleeding, but not necessarily the tearing of the hymenal tissue.

Let’s move beyond societal constructs of purity and understand our bodies better.

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