Two years ago, I opened Emily Nagoski’s book, Come as You Are. Within the first few pages, it transformed my life.
As a woman, I gained the knowledge that I have been misinformed about my own sexual well-being. This new knowledge caused me to seethe in rage and inspired me to share what I’ve learned.
Today we’ll be exploring virginity, the hymen, the effects of misinformation, and the science behind the hymen.
The Fascination With A Woman “Losing” Her Virginity
Throughout history, there has been a deep concern with women’s virginity. This ‘concern’ has led to some romanticism surrounding the subject. Also, some cute little pet names for it, such as her maidenhead, popping her cherry or being deflowered.
History has built it up as the most crucial part of what a woman is. It is our virtue, purity, dignity, honor, and evidence. If we misplace it, we are less then. That is the message we grow up to believe.
Women (and men) grow up still believing that when a woman loses her virginity, she will bleed and feel pain. Due to the fact her hymen, her seal of chastity, has been broken. If she does not bleed or feel pain, then she is not a virgin. If she claims she’s a virgin and doesn’t bleed, then she is a liar or has done her family dishonor. She will then have to deal with the consequences, both mentally and physically.
I can hear the but on your lips. Let me stop you there. Things have changed, yes. But to say this concern is gone in this modern age is ignorance speaking. There are still cultures and families that believe in the importance of virginity. Women are shunned, beaten, killed, shamed, and pushed to the boundary lines of their mental well-being. We also must deal with the modern remix. If a woman has lots of sex, she’s a slut. If she has no sex, she’s frigid. We are judged if we do, damned if we don’t.
A woman loses nothing by having sex for the first time; she just gains a new life experience. Virginity is not real. It’s an archaic notion that should have died a death long along.
Reversing The Misinformation
The story goes that there’s a “seal of chastity” sealing over the entrance of the vagina. Sealing away her purity, honor, etc., for a handsome Prince to claim (after marriage). Upon having sex, for the first time, the “seal” is broken, and she has lost something.
This is all bullshit. The hymen is not a seal and does not break.
I have a question for you.
If the hymen is a seal over the entrance of our vagina, how does our menstrual blood flow out? Why doesn’t it just get trapped?
When I found out the truth about the hymen, I asked myself this question. Suddenly everything I knew about the hymen made little sense.
And then I asked myself, why didn’t I question this before? The answer is I never knew I had to question it. I didn’t know I was misinformed. But now I do.
Okay, so if the hymen is not a “seal” across the entrance, then what does it look like?
The hymen is interchangeable. It can change from a smooth, doughnut shape with a hole in the middle in pre-pubescent girls to crescent-shaped at the end of puberty. The hymen can be wrinkled and indented; they can look like Ø or like a sieve (with lots of little holes).
A small majority of women have been born with a hymen that covers the whole entrance of the vagina. It causes these women a lot of trouble as their periods would build up inside them, causing them pain and may require surgery. There is also no single way a hymen should look, just like there is no single way a woman should look.
So, it doesn’t break?
Not exactly. The hymen is based at the narrowest part of the vagina. It should be able to expand, like how the vagina expands when giving birth.
It is elastic, like a rubber band, but sometimes it might not be elastic enough for sex. It can tear, bleed and bruise, but also heal after the event. If you have a Ø the hymen may break because of the extra strip, it may not.
It all depends on the person because we are all different and amazing creatures.
Why did I bleed then? Why did I feel pain? Does that mean I have a Ø shaped hymen?
There are several reasons why you might have bled or felt pain during your first time.
This may or may not be because you have a Ø shaped hymen. It might be because your hymen is not very elastic or unused to stretching. It might be because your nervous or have a lack of lubrication. It might be because you enjoy slightly rough sex.
If it doesn’t prove a woman’s virginity, then what is its purpose?
Nothing. The hymen is a by-product of how we are shaped in the womb, much like male nipples are. Both the hymen and male nipples are there, but that doesn’t mean there’s an actual use for them. Some women can even be born without a hymen!
Is Virginity A Profitable Business?
Wait, what? Virginity as a business? That is not a real thing.
Unfortunately, it is a real thing.
In most countries, there is such a thing as virginity testing. This is where a frightened young woman or a “concerned” parent asks the doctor to check if their hymen is intact. For this service, women are asked to pay £150 to £300.
Those who must lie about losing their virginity in fear of being shamed or shunned can “repurchase” their virginity on the internet (FYI—we’re not linking to this because it’s fucked up). You can buy everything from Artificial Hymen Repair Kits to Hymen Blood Capsules at a bargain price of £41.60.
If that will not do, there are even more drastic measures. You can have a Hymenoplasty to restore your virginity. This will come to the cost of up to £2,213.
So, yes, virginity is a profitable business.
So, We’ve Been Misinformed. Is It That Big Of A Deal?
In everyday life, women live with the judged if you do, damned if we don’t mentality. Which can lead to mental health issues, self-esteem issues, and so on. But everyday life for each woman is different. We all live different lives, and we are all in different environments.
In the 1990s, a school principal in Turkey instructed a student to have a virginity test. This student later took her life because of the traumatizing effects it had on her.
Turkey may seem far away to you and may spark the it wouldn’t happen here answer. But there are 21 clinics in the UK alone that virginity test. Rapper T.I. said he brings his daughter to be tested.
Virginity testing happens everywhere.
If a woman loses her virginity or fails her virginity test in Afghanistan, it could mean death for her. If a woman “dishonors” her family, it may lead them to commit an honor killing.
For two centuries, wayward women of Ireland were sent to institutions, such as the Magdalene Laundries, for their sins. Many women died in these institutions, and many had their children taken away from them. The last Magdalene Laundry was closed in 1996.
Being misinformed is dangerous. This virginity issue is not just an issue of long ago or in places far away. The problem is present everywhere.
You are not a bad or stupid person because you have believed in the misinformation. It is not your fault.
The fault lies at the educational systems’ feet around the world that don’t teach women properly about their sexual well-being or correct untrue facts. The responsibility lies with the patriarchal system that that has had its hold on the world for centuries. This system found ways to control and limit our sexuality and our ability to make our own decisions about our bodies.
I know the word patriarchy is a big, uncomfortable word to use. But it is a system that has led to many oppressive issues throughout the centuries and affecting our world today. It is a man-made system; it is not natural. The game was rigged from the start. Now we know a little better, we can move forward.
How can someone tell if I’m a virgin?
They can ask you, listen to what you have to say, and believe what you say.
What if I want to save myself for marriage?
If that’s what you want to do, then do it. You make the rules of your own body.
What should I do with this new information I now have?
Now that you have this information allow yourself to absorb it. It’s a lot.
If you feel rage, allow it to flow. If you feel grief, feel it. Whatever you feel right now, accept it and let it be. You have every right to it.
You may have known this information before… allow yourself to feel the rage, grief, or whatever other feelings you feel. Allow yourself to heal; this could involve talking about it, vlogging about it, and writing about it.
In their book, Burnout, Emily & Amelia Nagoski talk about ending the stress cycle. They share an exercise that will help you complete the stress cycle regarding the patriarchal system of oppression.
The exercise goes as follows:
Think of your something larger. The thing inside you that makes you feel powerful. It could be reading poetry, writing something, coding, anything. Then ask yourself how you can use your something larger to smash the patriarchy. Then ask yourself the question ‘I’ll know I smashed some patriarchy when…’ This exercise is to help you remember that you are not helpless. You can do your little bit.
Next, share the knowledge to stop the flow of misinformation. Read up on it. I suggest Come as You Are, by Emily Nagoski and The Wonder Down Under, by Nina Brochmann & Ellen StrØkken Dahl as great places to start.
We have been misinformed. Many of us grew up believing that the hymen could pop and we would bleed our first time. We believed that a small membrane could prove our virginity. There are many women the world over who live in danger because of this misinformation.
Now is the time to stop the flow of misinformation, stop the shame and the “concern” over women’s virginity. It’s time to learn, listen and respect a woman by believing what she says. It’s the time for change.