What’s the first thing that you think of when you hear the word ‘hymen’?
Probably that it breaks the first time you have sex, yeah?
That’s the rumour anyway – that the first time a woman has penetrative sex, her hymen will break, she will bleed, and probably be in a mild to considerable amount of pain.
In some cases, the myth even goes so far as to suggest that the hymen disappears entirely once penetration occurs, making it the defining factor in determining whether a woman is a virgin or not.
But it’s not – and here’s why.
Health professionals Nina Brochmann and Ellen Støkken Dahl recently gave a talk at TEDx Oslo and they obliterated some of the most common myths about the hymen and virginity.
The first myth the women tackled was that the hymen “breaks” the first time a woman has vaginal intercourse.
According to Brochmann and Støkken Dahl, this is inaccurate because every woman’s body is different, meaning that every hymen is going to be different too.
It would make sense then that the feeling of being penetrated is going to be fairly unique to whoever is experiencing it.
“The hymen is a rim of tissue at the outer opening of the vagina. And usually, it has a doughnut, or a half moon shape, with a large central hole.
“But this varies a lot and sometimes hymens have fringes, several holes or it can consist of lobes.”
A lot of hymens (about 50 percent) are even elastic, meaning that the woman in question won’t bleed from penetrative sex at all.
Put simply, “some virgins bleed, some simply don’t.”
The second myth the women addressed was that the hymen becomes “lost” the first time a woman has penetrative sex.
Here, Brochmann and Støkken Dahl cited a study that examined the vaginas of 36 young pregnant women.
Only two of the women showed clear signs of penetration, which would mean that if the hymen myth is to be adhered to, the other 34 women were technically virgins.
Except they weren’t… because they were pregnant.
The women also used a giant scrunchy and a hula-hoop to demonstrate exactly what the hymen does and doesn’t do when it’s penetrated.
The hymen can often stretch enough to allow room for a penis without causing too much damage.
In other cases where the hymen is not elastic, it may tear a bit causing bleeding, but it doesn’t disappear.
And at the end of the day, virginity as a concept is becoming more and more irrelevant as time goes on.
What was once used to determine a woman’s worth through the state of her vagina can no longer be so readily applied to men who have sex with men, women who have sex with women, and women who opt not to have penetrative sex.
So, really, ‘testing’ for virginity is both impossible and pointless.