7 Myth-Busting Facts You Probably Don't Know About The Hymen

Get the facts about this widely misunderstood part of the female anatomy.

7 Myth-Busting Facts You Probably Don't Know About The Hymen Park Street on Unsplash

Ah, yes. The hymen. That tiny little membrane that supposedly covers our lady parts.

Rapper T.I brought the rarely seen, but often discussed tissue located in a most special section of the female anatomy into the spotlight recently, when he told Nazanin Mandi and Nadia Moham of the "Ladies Like Us" podcast that he accompanies his 18-year-old daughter to the gynecologist on her annual visits in order to make sure her virginity is still intact.


"We have yearly trips to the gynecologist to check her hymen," the rapper stated. "Yes, I go with her."

T.I. later joined Jada Pinkett Smith on her Facebook Watch show "Red Table Talk", hoping to clear up what he said had become a "false narrative" about his comments, insisting he does not enter the examination room with his daughter, that his wife does, that his daughter was only about 15 or 16 at the time, and that it was all for her protection.

"In the age, or the time, when our women, black women, are the most unprotected, unattended, disregarded women on the planet. I'm being criticized because I'm willing to go above and beyond to protect mine," T.I. said. "And I'm talking about all of the little slimy, grimy, chubby-fingered little boys who want to just come and defile and destroy the sanctity that I have ..."


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So now, let's discuss the other false narrative present in that room and in this "news" story — the centuries old myth that a hymen and virginity have anything at all to do with one another.

You might have grown up believing that whole urban legend about the hymen ripping or breaking during sex, and as a result, you expected some major pain involved in your first time.


Turns out that just isn't the case, folks.

There's actually a lot many of us don't know about how our bodies work, so let's clarify a few things for T.I. and anyone else out there who's still confused, shall we?

Check out these 7 eye-opening facts about the hymen.

1. What is a hymen, where is it located and what does it look like?

The hymen is described as "a thin piece of mucosal tissue that surrounds or partially covers the external vaginal opening. It forms part of the vulva, or external genitalia, and is similar in structure to the vagina."

No one really knows why females are born with hymens. All we know is that they are (usually).

At birth, the doughnut-shaped membrane, which has no nerve endings is prominent and thick, but that changes pretty rapidly. In children, it is typically crescent-shaped, but that varies widely.


As girls go through puberty, increasing estrogen levels cause the hymen to grow more elastic and change shape.



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2. Hymenal tissue is usually worn away by adolescence.

During the early years, the membrane thins and widens as a result of athletics, self-exploration, cleansing and even activities as simple as walking.


A little of the tissue may remain around the opening of the vagina, but that's usually it.

Which means ...

3. Pain experienced by some women the first time they have PIV intercourse isn't due to the hymen breaking.

That urban legend you've most likely heard about is actually a big old myth. Most of the membrane is already worn away when a woman finally has intercourse and plays little to no role in discomfort.

Many girls believe their initial sexual experience is inevitably unpleasant because that is what they've been told, so it is. It makes sense when you think about it.

When we think something will hurt, we feel anxious and tense which ultimately gives way to pain.


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4. Those "bloody sheets" aren't because the hymen tears, either.

Most young partners are not experienced love-makers. Those first times are usually less skilled and sensual, and more trial and error.

Hurried, a poorly lubricated vagina or rough sex can cause sensitive vaginal tissue to bleed, but not hymenal tissue to break.

5. Intact hymenal membrane doesn't cover the whole vaginal opening.

If it did, girls who still had bits of the hymen left at puberty would not be able to menstruate properly.


6. About 1 in 200 women have an "imperforate" hymen.

That means around 0.5 percent of hymens don't wear away normally and have openings too small for tampons or erections to comfortably enter the vagina.

These days, those cases require a fairly simple surgery to snip away some of the membrane. Hooray for modern medicine, right?

7. Historically, people have gone to great lengths to prove that the hymen broke after marriage.

In old cultures, families expected newlyweds to hand over bloody sheets after the wedding night to confirm that the hymen had ripped, make sure the woman was a virgin and check that the two had consummated the union. A little nosy, don't you think? Many brides didn't even risk it, they would simply cut the inside of their thighs with a sharp fingernail to soil the sheets — just in case.


All that fuss for centuries over a totally wrong idea?! Sigh. We're glad the myth has finally been put to rest.

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Jenna Birch is a freelance writer whose work has been featured in publications like Girls' Life Magazine, MSN Glo, The Grindstone, AND Magazine, Front Row View, Truth in Aging and Wet Paint. and more.