So far we have received almost three digits worth of questions, but I’m greedy, and I want more! Ask us your anonymous questions here!
I have heard a lot of misinformation about hymens in the past. Why is it there? Why does it tear? If it’s torn, does that mean I’m no longer a virgin? (Virginity will be covered another day.)
Allow me to educate you about hymens.
The purpose of a hymen: doctors are uncertain, but they have postulated some theories. Leftover skin from embryonic development, protective layer to help prevent germs and dirt from entering the female infant’s vagina and causing infections, and to help prevent accidental insertion of objects when the girl is young.
The life cycle of a hymen: The hymen appears (and sometimes disappears before birth) during genital development (but sometimes there won’t be one at all). By the time of the girl’s first period, there should be an opening, or else the menstrual fluid will back up inside the vagina, causing problems. A doctor should be seen if there is a case of imperforate, septate, or microperforate hymen! The natural degradation of the hymen will vary depending on the girl. What is left over is called the hymen ring, and is made up of scar tissue.
“Breaking” or “tearing” the hymen: Rigorous activity such as horseback riding, dancing, etc can break or tear the hymen, and the girl may not even notice that it happened. (Or, in my case, you can be pulled, badly, into the pool. I noticed.) However, some hymens are flexible, and even after penetration by tampon, menstrual cup, etc, may not break or tear. Breaking or tearing happens because the hymen hasn’t degraded “fast” enough. For example, a girl with a hymen that still partially covers her opening decides she would like to use tampons during her period. The tampon tears the hymen a little upon removal. She doesn’t really notice, because the hymen doesn’t have many nerve endings, and any small amount of blood mixes in with her menstrual blood.
Why do I keep hearing about “pushing past the barrier” and “the breaking of the hymen” with regards to sexual intercourse?
Great question. This brings up the cultural concept of virginity, which is a whole post by itself (and more of an opinion than factual at this point) and that the first time a husband penetrates his wife there should be pain and blood. Sounds horrendous.
To quickly answer this question, this comes back to communication with your partner about sex. If the woman is anxious about having sex, her body is more likely to be tense, which will make intercourse painful and might cause bleeding (and possibly tearing of the hymen). This can happen the first time, the second time, or even the fiftieth time she has intercourse. The physical barrier in this case is muscle, not the hymen. The attribution of bleeding and pain to the breaking of the hymen is a myth that can sometimes become true, like a self-fulfilling prophecy.
UNLESS the woman has a imperforate, septate, or microperforate hymen! There will likely be pain when inserting a tampon, let alone having intercourse, and they should go see a doctor immediately. They will help you.
My opinion (not fact) on this matter: We have been culturally trained to believe that the women’s first time having intercourse will be painful. We have also been told that women traditionally don’t enjoy (or aren’t supposed to enjoy) having intercourse. (Thank goodness this opinion is changing.) We are also taught to believe that any blood is from the tearing of the hymen, which we are told will be painful. A woman who is about to have intercourse for the first time has all these thoughts/beliefs running through her head. What do you think she might be feeling? Anxious and nervous! She thinks her first time will be painful, and she’s mentally preparing herself for that, and her body is tensing. There is a physical, as well as an emotional, barrier in place. (Again, assuming she has a normal hymen. If she has any of the other types, she should see her doctor.)
Let’s look at the male now. It is entirely possible that this male knows exactly what to do to put the woman’s mind at ease. He may know how to get her to relax physically. But what if he doesn’t? It’s likely he’s nervous, too. He’s been told the same things about the woman’s first time being painful. Presumably, he doesn’t want to hurt her, but he doesn’t necessarily know how to help her, either.
On top of the woman being nervous about pain, we’ve now got the male being nervous about causing her pain. If she doesn’t relax, and he isn’t gentle, then yes, the first time she has intercourse will have been painful, fulfilling the prophecy that women’s first times are painful. And the cycle continues.
How do we break this cycle? Educate yourselves! Learn about not only your own body, but that of your partner. Relax and trust your partner. And communicate with each other!