I am twenty-four and I only discovered the truth about hymens a year ago. I watched Laci Green’s video about ‘The Hymen Myth’ and I was a) amazed and b) annoyed that I had been misled. Sex education taught girls at my school that their hymens would ‘break’ the first time they had sex. We were also taught that it would hurt and that we would probably bleed afterwards (I think most of us crossed our legs and vowed to become Nuns at this point.) As Laci Green explains in her video, the word ‘break’ is laced with negative connotations: it is not an appropriate or accurate term to use when describing hymens to adolescent girls. Hymens are not ‘popped’ or ‘broken’, they are stretched throughout a girl’s lifetime, adjusting to accommodate whatever is being placed inside them (tampons, fingers, penises etc.) This means that absolutely nothing is ‘broken’ or taken away from a girl the first time she has sex. This knowledge is so empowering and quite frankly, relieving, that I am embarrassed to be a twenty-four year old who has had sex, and has only just realised this.
So, if you feel as misled as I do, watch Laci Green’s video and take a look at the information below. I’m not just spouting vaginal propaganda, I have found another source of information that supports the breaking of the hymen myth too:
- ‘“Hymen” derives from the Greek for membrane. Hymen was also the Greek god of marriage.’ The very term used to describe the membrane is corrupted with social meaning. No wonder women often feel shamed by having casual, pre-marital sex. Language has told us, implicitly, that the hymen is a barrier, a barrier that must be broken by marriage and not the supposedly God-awful alternative (being single, sexy and FABULOUS.)
- ‘Most hymens are doughnut shaped and open in the centre.’ It is not a solid barrier that needs ‘popping’ or ‘breaking’. Everything seems less scary when it’s shaped like a cake product.
- ‘Because of the mythology surrounding the hymen, many (most?) women expect first intercourse to hurt, which may become a self-fulfilling prophecy.’ One of the reasons it hurts is because, well, we are told from the beginning that it will. Expectation + Anxiety + Reality = pain or discomfort.
- The hymen may tear slightly during intercourse, causing some bleeding, but it will not ‘break’. Bleeding has become so synonymous with hymens and virginity, because young brides were often instructed by their mothers to ‘file a fingernail to a sharp point and on their wedding night, cut themselves on the thigh, producing enough blood to stain the sheets and satisfy tradition–and the mythology surrounding the hymen.’ As if there wasn’t already enough to deal with, now we’re adding self-harm in to the equation too!
The social importance placed on the hymen is ridiculous, but it can be overcome with more accurate explanations of the membrane, and better emphasis on its insignificant role in the loss of female virginity. Ultimately: hymens: are a piece of cake (they’re donut-shaped, remember?)