For something that causes girls a lot of stress, the hymen is super mysterious. There are a lot of misconceptions about what it is, what it does, and what it really means. WTF is a hymen, anyway?! I haven’t even seen hymens labeled in my high school sex ed courses. No one talks about it! Why? As soon as you find out what sex is, everyone tells you that the loss of your virginity is marked by a penis entering your vagina and tearing your hymen (this is where the phrase “getting your cherry popped” comes from). Bam! Easy breezy. Done and done. Right?
WRONG! Super extra wrong. Not having a hymen does not equal non-virgin. And if we’re going to break it down even further? What even is virginity? A lot of people qualify penetrative heterosexual sex as being the clear, definitive marker of “losing your virginity,” but if that’s true, there sure are a lot of sexually active gay people who are technically virgins! I’m looking at you, everyone’s butt and mouth.
Newsflash: virginity is a made up construct to suppress women and keep us in line. So, why stress about it? If not having a hymen does not equal not being a virgin, what’s the big deal? Short answer: it isn’t a big deal, but it’s important to be informed about your body, like always. When someone wants to put you in a virginity pigeonhole and enforce all the violent imagery that comes with busting hymens open and making you bleed, you can bust their sex-negative backtalk with some cold hard facts.
If you have a vagina or if you have sex with vaginas, get ready to have your mind blown because the hymen isn’t what you think it is. Here are 15 things you absolutely need to know about your hymen.
#1. For starters, babe… YOU DON’T ALWAYS POP YOUR CHERRY!
Throw a damn party because that myth is completely false. Your body doesn’t have a before/after physical marker to indicate when you’ve had sex. The hymen’s main objective is not to be a virginity marker. Some girls tear their hymen their first time, others tear it at other times. No biggie.
#2. The hymen does not cover your vaginal opening
The big bad myth that comes with “popping your cherry” is that the hymen is a thin membrane that covers your vagina and breaks when you put a penis inside it. That’s weird, because how would your menstrual blood get out if your hymen is covering everything? How would tampons go in? There’s no freshness seal on that shit.
#3. Your hymen is a thin, stretchy bit that goes around your vaginal opening
As seen on your vulva. Get yourself a hand mirror and find it.
#4. Furthermore, it doesn’t get ripped and go away
Those things are lifetime commitments. Your hymen doesn’t violently rip or tear like people make it seem.
#5. Hymens come in all different sizes!
They can cover a lot or a little bit of territory of your vaginal opening, but never the whole way. It’s normal if you feel like you can’t find yours, it’s probably super small. Every body is different.
#6. The hymen is streeeeetchy
Go slow the first time you have sex. Your hymen isn’t supposed to break, it’s supposed to stretch. Your hymen isn’t here to make sex painful, it’s going to stretch.
#7. The blood from having first-time sex comes from not relaxing your vaginal muscles and going too rough
The hymen can tear a little if you go at it too rough or fast. Also, relax your vaginal muscles because being extra tense might also make the bleeding worse. Your body has got you covered.
#8. Hymens can also rip from living your life
Why do we think penises are SO POWERFUL that they’re the only things that can break your hymen?
Your hymen can break from many different things besides just sex. For example, masturbation (especially if you’re using some sort of sex toy), playing a sport, or exercising. Horseback riding, bicycle seats, and the splits are also big offenders. Falling and hurting your vag might do the trick. A lot of girls don’t even realize when their hymen breaks… or if they notice a little bit of blood in their underwear, they have no idea when it happened.
Also, interesting fact: this has always been known, and the requirement of a hymen to be considered a virgin is largely a myth. Consider this passage from 1861(!) sexual education book The Book of Nature:
This is called the Hymen; and in ancient times its presence was considered necessary at marriage to establish the virginity of the bride. (If in reality such proof was demanded, we think that very many brides must have been pronounced lewd, for there is scarcely one woman in a hundred at the present day who preserves her Hymen intact until she is twenty years old.)
In some, it is broken at the first menstrual flow — in others, any debilitating dis- ease of the parts destroys it — and many girls who constantly bathe and wash their private parts, unconsciously wash away this membrane.
If you feel very strongly about your hymen being intact, that’s your prerogative. But I don’t want you to feel like you’re not a virgin if your hymen breaks before your first time having penetrative sex. I don’t want you to feel like your first time will be any less special if you don’t bleed a little bit.
Related: How I restored my virginity with subliminal messages
#9. Your hymen is never fully gone!
Sexually active people can still have hymens because HYMENS ARE NOT INDICATORS OF SEXUAL ACTIVITY. They stretch and they’re with you your whole life, so get used to it being there.
#10. It can get stretched out when you get used to penetrative sex
So you don’t feel an uncomfortable “oh shit that’s my hymen tearing” pinch. Isn’t your body nice to do that for you?
#11. If you’re feeling nervous about your hymen tearing the first time you have sex, you can stretch it out beforehand
Fingers and dildos are your friends. Masturbating can get your hymen used to having things in your vagina and you can get used to navigating around it in a gentle way so it doesn’t rip.
#12. That being said, it can stretch back to it’s normal position
Even though being a born again virgin isn’t a thing
because virginity isn’t real, if you stop having penetrative sex or putting stuff down there a lot, your stretchy hymen will stretch on back to it’s default position in your vulva.
#13. Your body doesn’t have a built in virginity detector
Because why would evolution favor the patriarchy? Boys don’t have one. Why would we need one?
#14. Sex isn’t supposed to feel awful the first time you do it and hymens have a lot to do with that
If you aren’t breaking a layer of tissue covering your vagina, sex is less scary. What’s there to be afraid of?
#15. The myth and stigma surrounding hymens was designed by a world hell bent on keeping you in check, afraid of sex, and ignorant about your own anatomy
So f-ck that.
Related: “Virginity” is an outdated—and yes, white supremacist—concept
Which of these facts surprised you the most? What else do you want to know about hymens? Tell us in the comments.
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