When it comes to your understanding of the female tissue known as "the hymen," most of what you have been told your entire life is actually wrong. Yes, you read this right. There happens to be a lot of false information out there about this particular part of the female body and I'm writing this to help set things straight. Ultimately, we can't really have a fair, informed conversation about women's bodies, female virginity, and sexuality without first understanding what the hymen really is, how it works, what it looks like, and why society is so obsessed with it. Without further ado, here are five things you probably didn't know about the hymen. And if you already did - congratulations, you're an educated individual.
1. Hymens are not an indicator of female virginity.Giphy
YEAH. Shocker, right? How could this possibly be true?
I know that this goes against everything you've ever been told about hymens your entire life, but hear me out for a second. I, too, was shocked when I first learned this stuff. Now get this: hymens have been proven to change over time, especially among girls ages 3 to 5 years old. Hymens have also been proven to come in different shapes, sizes, and resiliencies. With all of these facts combined, there is no way to truly judge whether or not someone's virginity is still intact based on a simple tissue.
With this in mind, we have to remember that the sole technique for proving a woman's virginity, across different cultures, societies, and generations, has been the presence of the hymen. The harsh reality of this is that all of the "proof" of virginity is speculation, and most of it is based on false information.
This is especially hard to process when you think about the hundreds and thousands of women in other cultures who have been shunned, punished, or killed for not being able to prove their virginity. When you realize that the information leading people to these conclusions is false, fake, and entirely cruel, it can be incredibly disheartening.
2. Hymens are not shaped the way we think they are.
I will say that if you get squeamish when reading about women's bodies, you might want to skip this one. One of the most common misconceptions about the hymen is the shape of the tissue. Because the hymen has always been introduced as a barrier or a wall that must be broken, many people truly believe that it works as a seal for the vagina. This is not true, although some women do have hymens like this and it's a medical condition. It's called imperforate hymen and it can lead to some major health issues.
The cool thing about the hymen is that it actually looks different for different women. For most women, it's roughly shaped like a doughnut. I won't go into detail but you can learn about differently shaped hymens here.
3. Some hymens are stronger than others.Giphy
While there is not a lot of research on the hymen out there (there is actually more research about athlete's foot in total), there is a decent amount that points out the varying resiliency of hymens. Some hymens are extremely fragile and will tear very early on in a girl's life, even before they have sex, while others are extremely tough and hold up for the majority of a woman's life. There are actually special cases where some women have given birth and still experienced an intact hymen.
Regardless of the strength of a hymen, this science further proves that hymens are not an indicator of kept/lost virginity in females.
4. Hymens change over time, on their own.
I already talked about this under the first surprising fact about the hymen, but I'd like to dive a little deeper into this concept. While most of us think that the only "change" a hymen experience is from penetration, it's actually been proven otherwise. Like I said before, scientific research has shown that the hymen changes in young girls from ages 3 to 5. The change that takes place during this age is typically the expansion of the gap in the hymen. Because most hymens come in the shape of a doughnut, think about this change in terms of the hole in the doughnut getting wider over time. It doesn't quite make sense why this happens, but neither does the widening of a doughnut hole.
5. Every woman's hymen is different.Giphy
If you starting researching what hymens look like, you probably know by now that most hymens don't look the same. While they all are a result of the vagina forming during infancy, and they are all relatively made up of the same tissue, many women have very different hymens than others. That's just life - a little variation.
So there you have it. Are you shocked? Did you expect to be so surprised by this information? DId you already know some of this stuff? And finally, what are you going to do now that you have the right information in your hands?
If I were you, I'd start having an informed conversation about female virginity, sexuality, and the importance of being educated on these sensitive topics.