Hymen and Virginity: A Social Humiliation


Nature discerns individuals of all the species enduring on the planet earth either as male or female who live together for a shorter time span or for a life time partaking in building up of a population by courtship and mating. Both male and female individuals are well-appointed with an exceedingly advanced reproductive system that becomes fairly intricate and condensed in females in comparison to males as females bear the child load in their wombs. Although females play a vivacious role in raising a child from birth till adulthood they face copious hardhips some are known and some unknown. In the human society life of a female undergoes incredible prompt changes since she is a little child. Life becomes radically multifaceted with every step as she grows further reaching adulthood. Her life experiences an abrupt turn right after marriage when her husband asks her “Are you a virgin?”.

Everyday millions of girls face analogous circumstances and at times conditions are so deteriorated that they are abused badly by their partners making the survival a burning hell. Nobody asks this question to a male who has slept with so many girls before marriage. Virginity is a very punitive social dishonor that has poisoned the minds of our societies throbbing the lives of girls. From where does this question of virginity crops up? The answer to this question is existence of a very elusive membranous structure “HYMEN” which is torn during sexual intercourse releasing a fluid allied to blood. Is it true that hymen makes a female a virgin? What if a female lacks hymen? Does it really breaks? There are plenty of such questions that frequently crawl in the minds of males and even some females. Inadequate knowledge, societal and cultural myths have actually hidden the truth lying between hymen and virginity.

The Hymen

The word ‘hymen’ is derived from a Greek signifying a membrane as well as the Greek god of marriage where science calls it a very gentle membrane covering the vaginal opening of a female that may or may not be shed off during the first sexual intercourse. Since times immemorial many cultures accentuate that a female experiences pain when during her first sexual intercourse as her hymen is broken. Some also believe that an examination must be carried out to detect hymen in order to ascertain whether a female is a virgin or not. However, many others believe bleeding occurs when hymen is shed off. It can be easily envisaged that new husbands are well pleased to see the bloody sheets right after having first sexual intercourse with their wives. From the scientific viewpoint hymen is not the key indicator of virginity of a female.

The anatomy of hymen exposes that it is an insubstantial tissue effusively or moderately adjoining the external vaginal opening creating a part of vulva forming altered shapes in different females but mostly crescentic in children. Sexual intercourse and parturition (child birth) contrarily affect hymen for instance, if hymen is elastic it may recuperate its original position while in other cases only fragments are accessible or it may also wane after recurrent penile penetration. A disease, an injury, medical examination, masturbation or any physical exercise may cast their undesirable shadow on this fragile membrane condemning the belief that it is pointer of virginity. Glaister Keen rod can ascertain the presence and degree of hymen rift.

Development of genital tract inaugurates from third week of gestation period to the second trimester where hymen conceals vagina of female fetus. Urorectal septum is formed separating the rectum from urogenital sinus in the seventh week. Müllerian ducts reach the urinogenital sinus forming uterovaginal canal joining the urinogenital sinus in the ninth week. During twelfth Müllerian ducts fuse together forming an aboriginal uterovaginal canal or unaleria and vaginal canal is finally formed during the fifth month where fetal hymen is poised of sinovaginal bulbs becoming holed before or shortly after birth.

Hymen of the newborn babies is pale pink, thick and redundant due to action of mother’s hormones which continues till the age of 2-4 years as infant’s body produces its own hormones making their hymenal opening annular. With further advancement of age hymen becomes thin, smooth, delicate as well as translucent becoming very sensitive to touch and liable to be ruptured. Later, diameter of hymenal opening amplifies approximately 1 mm every year which at puberty can be further inflated by tampon, pelvic examinations, physical activity or sexual intercourse. It is clear that once a girl reaches puberty the hymen becomes very elastic. A survey signpost that only 43% females underwent bleeding during first sexual intercourse signifying that hymen of majority of females is satisfactorily eclectic.

Hymenal opening procures different shapes in prepubescent girls proposing that it is austerely under hormonal control and life style where most common shape is crescentic. Estrogen and activity levels can make hymenal tissue thicker after puberty. In cases of rape or child sexual abuse, examination of hymen can be steered. Torn hymen heals hastily in younger children. After child birth vaginal opening often shows hymenal tags labeled as parousintroitus.

Hypoplasia, canalization defects, lateral fusion and failure of resorption cause various complications detrimental to the female reproductive system. Imperforate hymenal opening entails minor surgery if it fails to become perforated at puberty as it precludes escape of menstrual fluid. Cribriform or microperforate hymenal opening carries very small openings however, septate one bears countless tissue bands. Some cultures exceedingly value intact hymen at marriage as gage of virginity. Some women undertake hymenplasty to reinstate their dented hymen to verify they are virgins. Medical experts of the sixteenth century employed hymen as a tool to pinpoint hysteria. Many mammals like chimapnazees, manatees, whales and horses too hold hymen.

Universal Myths

Abundant myths exist in different cultures portraying hymen as the icon of spotlessness obligatory to be cracked at the first night of marriage but the reality discloses it as a very subtle mucosal tissue lining the vaginal opening procuring different shapes and may be thin, elastic, thicker and less stretchy. Flow of menstrual blood from the vaginal opening is actually allowed by this fragile membrane lying 1-2 cm deep inside vagina and putting a finger inside vaginal canal easily infiltrates the cervix without damaging it.

Some females contemplate that this tissue must break at the first penile penetration but this ‘first time’ belief is a myth as in many females full penile penetration ensues after several partial penetrations where hymen only expanses becoming bendable enough so as to accommodate penis. In some females a small amount of this tissue may break out but this may not necessarily happen for the very first time. Sexual intercourse must occur when a female is aroused, relaxed, lubricated where the penetration must be done slowly if it is the first time as in such cases question of bleeding can be ignored. Forceful penetration may upshot in bleeding however, some women bleed due to non-flexible nature of their hymen.

According to one myth hymenal tissue vanishes after having sexual intercourse but truth forecasts that this tissue never wanes but simply stretches becoming squeaky as time moves on. Inserting something into vagina will break hymen as a myth elucidates but in reality stretching with slight tearing occurs after introducing any entity analogous to the wideness of penis like a dilator or dildo but it never breaks. However, tampons or applicators with yeast infection are too constricted to cast their effect on hymenal tissue. Some cultures state that if hymen is spoiled before marriage the female is no longer a virgin but such belief is sternly a myth and has no correlation with virginity. Virginity is not having experienced penis in vagina (PIV). Some women believe that if their hymen is intact they can’t become pregnant but any female can conceive unless and until she is not using any birth control measure, her partner ejaculates near or inside vagina and she is free from any reproductive system malady.

Physical exercise like riding a bicycle can cause pressure of the perineum or the vaginal opening and may affect hymen but it is also not very true as the pressure needed to rupture hymen must be internal. Some females think if they will not bleed during first night they will not deliberated as virgins but no one can tell whether any female has experienced penetrative sex or not. Every woman’s hymen reacts differently as in some it remains intact event after penetrative experiences while in others first penetration is very easy without pain and bleeding. Some cultures treat females very bad if they do not bleed and such practice is inhuman. There ascends a need of shift from narrow mental level to reconnoiter the verity as females too have a right to live, express and soar high.

Myths Wrecked, Reality Exposed


Carol Roye, a nursing professor at the Hunter College and a nurse practitioner specialist in adolescent primary and reproductive health, recently published an article on hymen in the Women’s eNEws, also reprinted at Our Bodies Ourselves dooming all the myths about this tissue and sturdily commends girls to alter their thinking of bleeding at first night. Hymen is not a flat piece of tissue casing vagina as if it were the case girls would have failed to menstruate but it surrounds vagina. Some girls are even born without this tissue while some have a negligible piece therefore; bearing in mind that it is a critical body part is a myth. Roye explains that hymen can be torn during sex or any dogged physical activity but never breaks and torn areas may bleed but not necessarily. Some of Roye’s patients raise questions like whether riding a bicycle or use of tampons or if a partner inserts a finger inside the vagina can harm their hymens making them de-virginized whereas some parents ask to check whether their daughters are virgin. She simply tells them that it is not easy to tell whether a girl is virgin or not and no one can actually tell whether the girl was born with hymen or not. She believes that virginity is actually a state of mind and how an individual takes it.

Time to Break out The Cocoon

The concept of hymen still holds an emotional support demanding a change. Virginity has nothing to do with hymen but it is only a mental block that needs to be extricated. Some cultures treat females ruthlessly if they fail to bleed during first intercourse and such coldhearted violence against females must be clogged. It is therefore, entreated to males as well as females to come out from their narrow belief that hymen is the dial of virginity as some females are born without hymen and if present it never breaks but simply stretches during penile penetration with different responses in different individuals. As long as we are committed to this social stigma we will never be able to think on a broader perspective of living.

Dear males quit asking “Are you a virgin?” to your brides but love them, understand them and care for them so that you can live happily as well as make this earth a healthy and cheerful place to live because God has crafted every individual in His own image and has given the freedom of living.

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Navodita Maurice


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