Ellen Støkken Dahl and Nina Dølvik Brochmann are Norwegian doctors and authors of ‘The Vagina Book: everything you need to know and never dared to ask’ in which they state that “virginity is a sham”.
“In today’s popular culture there are many examples of the hymen myth: on television, in books. It is still believed that most women bleed the first time they have sex and that it is possible to tell a difference between women who are virgins and those who are not”, says Dahl.
Today’s Sin Recato question is: do you know what the hymen is? It is a thin, elastic, fleshy membrane located at the entrance of the vagina. Its function, to tell you the truth, does not exist. It is mainly the symbol that represents the ‘purity’ of women, according to society.
The hymen is formed during gestation and changes over the years. At the beginning it is very thick and then, as time passes by, it becomes thinner. It has different shapes and sizes and the most common one is crescent-shaped. The hymen allows the exit of menstruation in a natural way, but it does not happen in all cases.
- The hymen is not a closed membrane, during intercourse, it does not disappear. In most cases it remains open and is normal.
- The most common hymen is the normal hymen which has a hole that gives way to menstruation. It is comfortable when using a tampon or menstrual cup.
- The microperforated hymen has a closed tissue that makes it difficult for menstruation to pass through and, of course, makes it difficult to use tampons. For improvement, microsurgery is recommended to achieve normal size.
- The septate hymen has extra tissue, forming two holes in the vagina. As it hinders the outflow of menstruation, it also requires microsurgery.
- Imperforate hymen: the membrane completely covers the opening of the vagina and is not evident until the first menstruation because it hinders the exit. This condition can cause cramping and pain and requires surgery to remove the extra tissue.
- There are women who are born without a hymen and of course this situation can only be evaluated in a gynecological examination.
- The appearance of the hymen can vary like the clitoris, vulva or breasts of each woman.
Brochmann refers to the shape: “The hymen is more like a rubber band”, so it is far from being a delicate membrane covering the entrance to the vagina.
Marta Torrón, pelvic floor physiotherapist and expert in physiosexology, describes it in a particular way: “Most hymens are small pieces of flesh, very different in each woman. They can be two, three larger pieces or four or five smaller pieces, like little petals of the same color as the mucous membrane of the vagina”.
Experts confirm that there is nothing in its appearance that reveals a before and after, after having sexual intercourse, nor is there a medical test or procedure that determines whether a woman has had vaginal sex or not.
A 1906 study concluded that a sex worker’s hymen did not undergo any change upon intercourse and maintained a similar appearance to that of a young woman who had not had sex. A more recent study in 2004, in which 36 pregnant girls were analyzed, established that 3 of them kept their hymen intact, even though they were pregnant.
The WHO and the UN believe that the so-called virginity tests (vaginal examination to check if the hymen is intact) are a complete violation of women’s rights, and support their prohibition. However, they continue to be performed in at least 20 countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom.
Hymenoplasty, a surgical procedure that promises to ‘repair the hymen’, even though it does not break, is also still practiced.
Scientifically, virginity is a sociocultural concept that has been used to control women’s pleasure and sexuality. Women are not losing anything, they are just starting their sexual life.
Traducción del español: Catalina Oviedo Brugés.