From Finding Fanny’s “I’m a virgin” dialogue debate to real-life grooms and ladke wale asking about the bride’s “purity”, Indians are obsessed with virginity. The idea that hymen and virginity are related has been imprinted in many people’s minds, but you need to know that it’s not true at all! There has always been this misconception that you’re not a virgin if your hymen is stretched open. But if you do a little research you’ll get to know that this is false, the lack of sex education in India does not help with the spread of misinformation. This is why it becomes necessary for you to educate yourself as well as others. To understand better, take the help of a gynaecologist who will help you move ahead of all the lies and myths!
TC46 connected with Senior Consultant Obstetrician & Gynaecologist Dr Sonal Kumta of Fortis Hospital Mumbai to debunk the most common myths surrounding hymen and virginity. Here she shares the facts about the hymen and helps stop the spread of misinformation.
1. An intact hymen is a sign of virginity
Virginity has no medical definition. It is, in fact, a social construct that refers to a state of a person who has never engaged in sexual intercourse. However, besides penetrative intercourse, sex may include oral, manual or anal sex, and even use of sex toys, so an intact hymen is not a sign of virginity. This is one of the most common myths revolving around the virginity status of women.
2. You will bleed the first time you have sex if you are a virgin
Universally, there is no such established fact that every woman must bleed the first time they have sex. Some women’s hymen is thin and may stretch or tear with no indication of bleeding or pain. In some others, there may be slight bleeding or spotting. Few women bleed the first time they have penetrative sexual intercourse. The reason could also be due to a lack of lubrication, inexperience and even rough sex. In fact, the hymen tear might’ve happened way before while engaging in activities like horse riding, bicycle riding, sports, using tampons, and it is mostly unnoticeable when it breaks.
3. A gynaecologist breaks your hymen while giving you a physical examination
Not true at all. A gynaecologist examination includes a speculum exam and a per vaginal exam using gloves; it is all about health. The device, i.e. the speculum, helps to spread apart the vaginal walls, which allows the medical expert to inspect the cervix and walls of the vagina. It is done to detect infections and other gynaecological diseases. However, gynaecologists do not usually examine women who are not sexually active unless it is unavoidable; it is done after proper explanation and the patient’s consent.
4. A hymen is a physical seal on your vaginal opening
False. A hymen is a thin pinkish membrane, a mucosal tissue that partially covers the entrance to the vagina. It can be stretched or broken easily during any strenuous activity. A woman’s hymen can break or tear from something as simple as cycling. Although no particular function is assigned to the hymen, it prevents harmful agents like dust and microorganisms from entering the vagina. It is definitely not a physical seal; otherwise, how would the menstrual blood come out.
5. Using tampons and menstrual cups will affect your virginity
Not true. Going by the social definition of virginity, simply put, it refers to someone who has never had sex. Thus, using menstrual hygiene products can never affect one’s virginity. Inserting a tampon or menstrual cup may stretch the hymen, but it isn’t related to sexual intercourse, so it cannot affect your virginity.
6. Clitoral stimulation can break your hymen
The clitoris lies at the junction of the labia minora (inner lips of the vagina) much above the vaginal opening. It is the most sensitive erogenous zone in females responsible for sexual pleasure. So clitoral stimulation doesn’t break the hymen. Using sex toys or inserting fingers for masturbation may stretch your hymen, but it doesn’t necessarily break the tissue.
7. A doctor can know if you’ve been sexually active by examining your hymen
False. The thing the doctor can do is tell the status of the hymen, whether it is intact or stretched or absent. However, they won’t be able to know if you have been sexually active or not unless you willingly mention it. As mentioned previously, the hymen generally tears during rigorous daily activities, for example, sports, horse riding, using menstrual cups, tampons. So in no way can a doctor know whether one has been sexually active or not from examining their hymen.
8. The only way a hymen can break is if you have sex
Again a very wrong misconception, especially in today’s times. As mentioned previously, the hymen can break by any vigorous activity like horse riding, cycling, sports, a fall, or using period products like tampons and menstrual cups. So, thinking that hymen breaks only during sex is wrong, there are multiple other factors to consider.
9. Every woman is born with a hymen
Not true. Some women are born without a hymen. Every woman has a hymen of different shape, appearance, and the most common is the half-moon shape. In some cases, a woman may have a thick hymenal tissue or an imperforate hymen (which mechanically blocks the vagina). Imperforate hymen can block the menstrual flow and induce cyclical pain in the abdomen. This may result in vaginal infection, endometriosis, urinary retention and urinary infection.
10. You can grow back your hymen
No, you cannot grow back your hymen, but your gynaecologist can perform a surgical procedure called hymenoplasty. Sometimes, tissue from the vagina sides is used to suture the torn hymen. The process is done under anaesthesia to restore the original appearance of the hymen, but this too is not permanent.