The hymen seems to be a matter of legends. In many cultures, it’s a lure-a woman’s most treasured prize that she will give to her husband on their wedding night. The ignorant emphasize on the “hymen” to equal virginity shows how little women, men, and society actually know about this body part.
What is the hymen?
The word hymen comes from the Greek word for membrane or skin1. Hymen was also the name of the Greek god of marriage(1).
Hymen: a thin membrane that surrounds the opening to the vagina(2). It is not an intact piece of tissue draped across the vagina. Shockingly enough, all hymens are not created equal and some women are born without one. They vary in size, shape, and thickness like many other body parts. Pictured below are a few variations that can occur(2).
What does it mean to be a virgin?
The hymen has and continues to be associated with being virgin. Contrary to popular belief, the hymen is NOT a flat piece of tissue covering the vagina that is punctured during intercourse. If that was the case, girls would not be able to have a menstrual period before losing their virginity. When the hymen is disrupted either by play or intercourse, some pieces of it get torn, causing some bleeding but not always. Many women who have never had intercourse do not bleed during first intercourse because their hymen has already been disrupted(3). Activities such as horseback riding, biking, gymnastics, using tampons, fingering, and masturbation, all lead to tearing the hymen without ever having sex.
The hymen does exist in most women, in whatever size, shape, and thickness you were born with. However, there is no accurate or reliable examination of the hymen to confirm any previous history of sexual activity.
Avoid relying on the status of the hymen as a form of validation of one’s virginity
You can be a virgin and have an intact or non-intact hymen.