A.K.A your “cherry”
Hymens are often referred to as a sort of barrier that locks you from penetration. But that’s not the case at all, says Fahimeh Sasan, doctor of osteopathy. “If someone has tissue that covers the whole opening, that’s called an imperforated hymen,” she says. There are other similar abnormal variants, too, where openings in the tissue are too small, but most often, your hymen is a thin tissue just at the bottom of the vaginal opening. It’s also designed to wear away the older you get and the more your body develops, to accommodate you and your *ahem* needs.
Sigh. It’s time to get the story straight. Here, the hymen facts you never knew you needed in your life:
Abnormal Hymens Can Require Surgery
If your hymen is imperforated or separated (where there are two small holes in the tissue), you may need to have a minor surgery, says Sasan. In fact, an imperforated hymen is actually a medical condition – you’re getting your period but don’t have the physical discharge because it can’t pass through, she says. “In a truly perforated hymen, a young woman may say, ‘I’ve never had a period, but I feel like I get cramps.'” The minor surgery can fix the issue.
Read More: 3 Ways To Keep Your Vagina Healthy
Experts Aren’t Sure of Its Purpose
Your nose helps you smell, and your urethra is where you pee – but the hymen doesn’t appear to serve any major purpose. “Physiologically, it’s there – but from a medical perspective, it’s akin to the foreskin of the penis: We’re not sure why it’s there,” says Sasan.
Read More: Is It Possible To Have Two Vaginas?
It Doesn’t Always Break the First Time You Have Sex
You’ve heard that when you lose your virginity, you also lose your hymen. “One of the big myths is that whether or not someone’s hymen is detached is a sign of virginity,” says Sasan. “That’s not true.” Why? Because there are other ways you can tear it besides sex. Rigorous exercise, gymnastics, horseback riding, cycling, using large tampons, manipulation with a finger, or a pelvic exam are all possible (but not sure-fire) ways to tear your hymen, she says.
You Might Not Know When It Breaks
When you break your arm, you know the moment it happens – that’s not always the case here, says Sasan. If the tissue does tear during sex, you may find intercourse painful and experience bleeding, she explains. But if the tear occurs during gymnastics or from wearing large tampons, for example, you may not even be aware of it. “Someone might say, ‘I bled after gymnastics,’ but might just think it’s spotting from her period,” says Sasan.
Once It Tears, You Never Really Deal with It Again
Remember: The hymen is a very small fragment of tissue, says Sasan. And if you do notice it break, it just goes off to the side or sloughs off never to be dealt with again. “In a woman who’s had a baby, you can’t even tell where it would have been,” she says.