Not necessarily. As Bry’onna Mention of The CSPH (the Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health) explains, defining virginity as having an intact hymen is limiting, excluding those who were born without a hymen or who tore it before ever having sex, whether by falling on a fence post, masturbating, or inserting a tampon.
Now, this may shake your world, but did you know that the hymen is something that stays with you (that is, if you have a vagina) your whole life? It is not something destroyed during your first sexual experience.
The following article explains that inside the tangled misconception of female virginity lies inaccurate beliefs about the hymen. Bry’onna Mention sets the record straight and explains just how diverse hymens actually are. Some people are born with a hymen that covers the opening of the vagina fully or partially, but these are considered rare anomalies and necessary to repair with surgery.
Take a look at the first steps to debunking the myth that virginity is an actual, quantifiable thing. It all starts with our misconceptions of what is the hymen.
The first lesson of debunking the “virginity myth” was originally publish by Bry’onna Mention of The CSPH.
BY THE CSPH | theCSPH.org
“Shiny and new, like a virgin, touched for the very first time.”
Gee, Madonna, that sounds an awful lot like change or some other inanimate metal object. But, virginity is not about newly minted money, no. It’s about having sex for the first time!
Sex (as well as sexuality) is extremely important to our existence on this planet. Without sex, none of us would be here. And not unlike embarking on any new experience, having sex for the first time is kind of a big deal. So important in fact, a term for those who haven’t had sex was created: virgins.
According to Merriam Webster, virginity is the state of never having had sexual intercourse. Now this minimal definition, is actually quite inclusive, and encompasses all gender types and sexual orientations. However, the historical concept of virginity and the etymology behind it (which we’ll discuss in detail in Lesson 2), mostly meant the virginity of cis women, hence the problem.
Yes, concept. Before moving forward, first things first: virginity is a social construct.
Ed Note: The CSPH knows that not all women have a vagina and not all vaginas belong to women. This lesson talks about the social construct of virginity, which is rooted in a hetero- and cis-normative understanding of the world.
Inside the tangled webbed concept of female virginity, lies an inaccurate understanding of the hymen. This misunderstanding of the hymen is perpetuated by society’s lexicon and it’s approach to the hymen. Phrases like “popping the cherry,” “loss of virginity,” or “deflowering” leads us to believe that once sexual intercourse occurs, the hymen is destroyed or compromised in some way. This is not true.
The hymen is a very thin, elastic membrane that rests either outside of the vagina or just inside of it. During sexual intercourse, or the usage of tampons, fingers, etc. the membrane (hymen) is simply stretched, due to the elastic nature. However, if one or their partner is too rough, too fast, or if not amply lubricated, the membrane can tear. This can cause a sharp sensation outside the vagina and it can cause bleeding. So, ultimately the hymen stays with one, their entire life!
Different Types of Hymens
Hymens and vaginas, not unlike snowflakes are not all the same.
Average hymen (or The Sailor Moon hymen)
This hymen has a thin membrane that surrounds the opening to the vagina. It can come in different shapes. It is the most common hymen in vulva owners. It is shaped like a half moon. This shape allows menstrual blood to flow out of the vagina.
Imperforated Hymen (or The Tuxedo Mask hymen)
This hymen is extremely rare, but does exist. An imperforate hymen is a thin membrane that completely covers the opening to the vagina. Menstrual blood cannot flow out of the vagina. This usually causes the blood to back up into the vagina which often develops into an abdominal mass and abdominal and/or back pain. An imperforate hymen can be diagnosed at birth. Rarely, the diagnosis is not made until the teen years. Fortunately, there is a form of treatment for an imperforate hymen. It is a minor surgery to remove the extra hymenal tissue and create a normal sized vaginal opening so that menstrual blood can flow out of the vagina.
Microperforate hymen (or the Sailor Chibi Moon)
This thin membrane almost completely covers the opening to a vagina. Menstrual blood is usually able to flow out of the vagina but the opening is very small. This hymen usually will not be able to get a tampon into and the owner will mostly like be unaware of the tiny opening. This hymen can also be treated by a perforation surgery.
Septate hymen (or Sailor Uranus)
The thin hymenal membrane has a band of extra tissue in the middle that causes two small vaginal openings instead of one. Owners of this hymen will also have trouble inserting and removing tampons. Again, a minor surgery to remove the extra band of tissue and create a normal sized vaginal opening can be done.
Now that you know the truth about vulva owner virginity:
tw: mention of rape
Here, in less than 3 minutes, Alyssa combats any and all arguments regarding the “Virginity Standard.”
Make sure you come back next Sunday for Lesson 2! We’ll further dissect the historical concept of virginity and it’s present standing.
The CENTER for SEXUAL PLEASURE and HEALTH (The CSPH) is designed to provide adults with a safe, physical space to learn about sexual pleasure, health, and advocacy issues. Led by highly respected founder and director, Megan Andelloux, The CSPH is a sexuality training and education organization that works to reduce sexual shame, fight misinformation, & advance the sexuality field.