Why the Hymen Myth is False

Let’s talk about the notorious hymen. For centuries, the tearing of the hymen was considered essential to the process of “de-virginising” people with vaginas, often tainted with shame. However, recent research has debunked the existence of the hymen altogether. So why does the myth persist?


The Myth Of The Hymen

The traditional definition of the hymen is a “thin crescent-shaped to ring-shaped fold of mucous membrane partially closing the woman’s vagina. During the first sexual act (defloration), the hymen is usually torn with bleeding. Complete destruction of the H. occurs during the first birth.” The definition is still present in many dictionaries todaySex education at school and in teen magazines often echoes similar statements. However, doctors have never seen this notorious body part in this form. Interestingly, it has been clear that the hymen does not exist this way. The concept of a closing skin is a socio-cultural construct that has a deeply sexist origin, driven by morality and a desire to control people with vaginas and their lust, instead of biological research. We want to look at the reality behind this myth.

Origins Of The Myth

The concept of a hymen can still be found globally and is present in various world religions. The chastity of people with vaginas has been a recurring theme for millennia, often associated with purity and enforced by societal norms and patriarchy. Many religions, including Catholic Christianity, emphasise people not having sex before marriage. As it was assumed that people with vaginas have hymens that tear and bleed during their first penetrative sexual experience, this blood was used as a way to check and control virginity.In some cultures (to this day), a blood-stained sheet is held out the window of a new couple after their wedding night, to publicly display the deflowering of a person with a vagina. The absence of blood on the sheet became extremely problematic for people with vaginas. In the past, however, AFAB people were married off very young to much older male-identifying people. The difference in anatomical development often led to injuries and bleeding.Even today, hymen reconstruction surgery is offered as a means for people with vaginas to prove their chastity. This procedure is not standardised in many countries, including Germany, making it extremely dangerous. In some countries, it is legal but must be paid privately, often for a lot of money—around 3,000 Euros—although the operation could be performed for as little as 100 Euros. Any error during the procedure could result in genital mutilation.It is also important to mention that even after undergoing the procedure, people with vaginas aren’t guaranteed to bleed during penetrative sex. However, the prevalence of such operations, or the use of other methods to prove “chastity” reflects the social pressures imposed on people with vaginas.

What Is the Hymen?

The hymen is neither a skin nor a breachable membrane that closes the vagina. Rather, it is a mucous membrane (or rim) that frames the entrance to the vagina and is stretchy like a scrunchie. It can appear in various forms, with approximately 80 per cent being ring-shaped (a single round opening in the middle), about 19 per cent being fringed (having several elongated openings), and around one per cent being either sieve-shaped (with several smaller openings) or divided in two (with two openings). In very rare cases, the entire hymen may have grown together or have openings that are too small, a condition known as vaginal atresia, which requires medical treatment.Initially, the vaginal entrance is closed in fetuses in the womb to allow for the development of sexual organs without the influence of amniotic fluid. Shortly before birth, however, the entrance opens. Before puberty, the hymen is somewhat firmer and less stretchy. With the onset of puberty and the associated hormonal changes, lactic acid bacteria are formed. These bacteria serve as protection for the vagina, and the mucous membrane becomes softer and more stretchable, losing its functional purpose.

Hymen Factcheck


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