The hymen, or "maidenhead," is a thin, fleshy membrane that in some girls and young women is found at the opening to the vagina. The hymen has a central perforation, which can be round or elongated, through which menstrual blood will flow.
For a long time, it was believed that an intact hymen was evidence of a girl's virginity, as the hymen posed a barrier to sexual intercourse.
In many cultures, a girl’s virginity until marriage is considered a critical virtue. Consequently certain fanfare may accompany the display of "proof" on her honeymoon. In some countries, the blood-stained sheet is still hung proudly outdoors following the wedding night.
Fact: Some girls who are still virgins have no hymen at all.
Girls who do have a hymen can "break (or pop) their cherry" in a number of differerent ways, sometimes without even knowing it. Some of the non-sexual ways in which a hymen will tear are:
- Through an accident or injury
- Horseback riding, bicycling, high jumping, or gymnastics
- Insertion of finger or instrument by doctor during pelvic exam
- Tampon insertion
- Overzealous douching
Sexual methods of "deflowering" a girl (another euphemism for rupturing the hymen) include:
- Inserting a finger deeply or roughly into the vagina
- Masturbation with a phallic-shaped vibrator or other such tool
- Sexual intercourse
Since an intact hymen can be stretched and split by an erect penis during sexual intercourse, a woman may feel momentary discomfort and/or bleed. Should either persist, a consultation with a doctor is in order. On the other hand, there may be no blood or pain involved at all when the hymen is torn.
Restoring the Hymen
In some backward countries, the absence of blood after first intercourse still casts questions on a bride's virginity. To protect themselves from violence and even death, some engaged women in these places arrange for hymenorraphy, which is surgery to repair the hymen. It is also known as hymenoplasty.
Typical hymen repair surgery can cost several thousand dollars, involves stitching what remains of a torn hymen together. Before intercourse, a gelatin capsule that contains a blood-like substance can be inserted.
Who was Hymen?
According to sources, the hymen is named after the Greek god Hymenaeus. Son of Bacchus and Venus, Hymenaeus earned his reputation as the god of marriage and weddings.