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What Is a Hymen? 9 Info About Hymens And the Idea of Virginity

The idea of “virginity” for folks with vaginas has an advanced historical past, and has typically been (incorrectly) linked to the hymen breaking. Bleeding after sexual activity was (additionally incorrectly) considered proof of an unbroken hymen, and thus, proof that an individual had not had intercourse earlier than.

That is, in fact, a deeply heteronormative mind-set about intercourse, and the fact is that the state of your hymen could don’t have anything to do with sexual exercise. Sadly, intercourse training within the U.S. leaves lots of people with vaginas uncertain of their very own anatomy. It’s under no circumstances unusual — years into being sexually lively, even — for folks to marvel: “What is a hymen, actually?”

With the assistance of Jessica Shepherd, MD, MBA, FACOG, a board-certified OB-GYN and Chief Medical Officer at Verywell Well being, and Mackenzie Piper, MPH, CHES, a well being and intercourse educator with Wholesome Teen Community, we will separate hymen reality from fiction. We’ll reply some widespread questions concerning the hymen, like “what’s a hymen” and “how does it break”? And we’ll additionally unpack its difficult relationship with the historic idea of virginity. So, learn on for 9 information it’s essential find out about this tiny tissue.

On this article, you’ll discover solutions to:

What’s a hymen?

The place is the hymen?

What does a hymen appear like?

How are you aware in case your hymen remains to be there?

Hymen and virginity information

What’s a hymen?

Within the easiest phrases, the hymen is “a skinny membrane that surrounds the opening to the vagina,” explains Dr. Shepherd. It’s simply tremendous, stretchy tissue left over from the way in which vaginas type within the womb, and it doesn’t actually serve a function. The hymen has no recognized organic operate and it doesn’t, in any means, point out whether or not or somebody has engaged in sexual exercise.

Regardless of the outsized position that “cherry popping” performs in the way in which we speak about virginity, it ought to be famous, too, that some folks with vaginas are born with no hymen within the first place. For others, their hymen could also be so small that, as Dr. Shepherd put it, it’s “probably not impacted the primary time they’ve penetrative intercourse.” Hymens come in several sizes and shapes (extra on that beneath), and penetrating the vagina with one thing like a penis, fingers, or tampons can — however gained’t essentially — break it. That’s as a result of the hymen is tremendous elastic — some folks like to match it to a hair scrunchie!

The place is the hymen?

The hymen surrounds or partially covers the opening to the vagina. (For a small variety of folks with one thing referred to as an imperforate hymen, it should cowl your entire vaginal opening, however this happens in solely about 0.05 to 0.1% of individuals with vaginas.)

Though they differ in form and measurement, hymen location is fairly constant — you’ll discover it “simply inward of the vagina,” Dr. Shepherd stated, or about one to 2 centimeters inside your vaginal opening. And in case you’re questioning “how deep is the hymen?” — it isn’t. Although this skinny piece of tissue could mark the beginning of the vaginal canal, it doesn’t prolong within it.

What does a hymen appear like?

Hymens, identical to vulvas, are usually not one-size-fits-all! “No two hymens are alike,” Piper stated. “Some could have a half-moon form, some could have a hoop form. Some are thicker, some are thinner… identical to different physique elements, hymens are completely different for everybody.” For the overwhelming majority of individuals, hymens are usually not “seals” that cowl your entire vaginal opening; they’ll have one or a number of holes that permit for interval blood — and for issues like tampons, fingers, a penis or a intercourse toy — to cross via, typically with out disrupting the hymen.

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