Part of growing up is realising that what you thought you knew, you actually don’t. You may think you know your body and how it works, but you really don’t. That’s why knowledge is power. Growing up means unlearning so many things, debunking myths that have been passed down to us for eons, mostly just shoved down our throats without consent.
There’s so many things to learn, relearn and unlearn, especially as women and our bodies. As Africans we have a culture; different communities and different belief systems. These traditional beliefs and values ultimately shape us into who we are. As you grow up, get an education, see the world, interact with different people and open your eyes you realize that a majority of these beliefs that we clung onto so dearly are very toxic and sexist.
The most common myth sorrounding women and our bodies is the virginity/hymen myth. In the previous patriarchal societies, they opinned that a woman must be a virgin on her wedding night. Which was honestly ridiculous and sexist because why only women? So the man can hoe around all he wants and his price is a virgin bride?🙄 So unfair!
It was common for blood soiled bedsheets to be paraded for everyone to confirm the bride’s purity, and that would deem her a good and worthy wife.
So we grew up believing that there’s some kind of wall in our vaginas that must be broken by a penis during the first sexual encounter. And that it hurts, and you will bleed to confirm your morality. What a load of trash!
The first thing you need to understand about sexuality is that virginity is a social construct. The word virginity doesn’t even have a medical definition and a scientific basis. Because people are different, and we have different believe systems based on where and how we have been raised. There are so many forms of sexuality. The act of sex itself is subjective. But the acceptable and common definition of virginity is abstinence from sexual intercourse. Being a virgin means that you have never had sexual intercourse. Breaking your virginity means a man penetrating your vagina. And that’s where there’s a problem.
Case in point: People have sex differently. Imagine those who have anal only, or receive/give blowjobs, or fingering alone. Imagine someone who solely practices these acts of intimacy, does it mean they are still virgins? Or even a lesbian that has always known that she’s lesbian, never had any intercourse with a man, they experience sexual contact with a fellow woman, does it make her a virgin all her life? Since we are basing our definition of loosing virginity by a male penis penetrating a woman’s vagina?
The hymen is a thin stretchy ring of tissue at the opening of the vagina. It’s an ultra thin membrane, not really seen with a naked eye, or touched as it resembles the skin of the vaginal walls. It’s not a block of tissue that has to be punctured during intercourse and lead to bleeding. It doesn’t block entry to the vagina. If it did, women would never be able to experience menstruation until they have intercourse. Think of it as a hair scrunchie; very stretchy and elastic when it’s new, but wears out over time.
How the hymen is formed:
In early foetal life, the vaginal canal is first formed as a solid tube. Over time, the inner portion of the tube disintergrates so it becomes a hollow tubular structure. At the lower end of the tube, a thin membrane remains (hymen). Often, it ruptures on its own on the first few days of life, it may remain as a thin membrane around the vaginal opening or it may remain as a membrane with one or more small openings, or rupture and partially cover the vagina.
Just like an appendix, a hymen has no known or defined biological function. Although scientists might argue that it’s useful during the first stages of a baby’s life to help keep bacteria and faecal matter from contaminating the vagina. Nobody knows. Maybe it’s just one of those things that was forgotten, does not do any harm and we have to live with it.
The size of a hymen varies, though the diameter is generally described as smaller than 6mm in young girls. It’s appearance also varies and can be distinguished by presence of polyps, tags, ridges, bands and notches. Now, did you know that there are types of hymens? All ranging from normal to extreme. Extreme cases are classified as disorders. Did you also know that there are women born without one?
The common shapes of hymen are: Annular (circumferential), crescentric (like a crescent moon) and fimbricated (finger-like projections)
The extreme cases/disorders are:
*Imperforate- This one covers the entire vaginal orifice. It needs immediate surgery to avoid complications and to allow for menstrual blood to flow out.
*Septate- This means there are two openings with a band of tissue between them
*Cribiform- The hymen has multiple openings
*Mictoperforate- It means the hymenal opening is extremely small
All of these disorders require immediate medical surgery to avoid further complications later in life.
There is no such thing as ‘breaking’ a hymen. It’s a membrane. It can only get torn, suffer minor injuries or get torn off completely, or get stretched out. Minor injuries on a hymen means it can repair itself. However, if it’s torn completely, it does not regenerate.
So, the key words are ‘torn’ ‘stretch’ , not break. It’s not a ceramic cup🙄
Loosing your virginity has nothing to do with your hymen. Nothing at all. Primarily, before you have sex you get really turned on. For a woman, the vagina naturally lubricates itself and it’s muscles relax to allow ease of penetration. This happens to all of us, even virgins.
Bleeding during or after sex shouldn’t be gaged as a measure of virginity lost. As discussed earlier, there are different types and shapes of hymens. There are women born without them. There are cases of women going into labour with their hymens still intact. Plus; rigorous activities like horse back riding, intense exercises, fingering, sex toys, inserting sharp objects into the vagina, certain surgical procedures and even accidents can tore a hymen. So the by the time a woman has her first vaginal penetration, it’s not always 100% chance that her hymen is intact, or if it’s present at all. I wonder what would happen to the women who did not bleed on their wedding night🤔 They must have suffered shame and humiliation for lack of information and knowledge of their bodies. They must have felt like there was something wrong with them.
Blood soiled sheets should infact be a cause of alarm. It means there is an underlying problem because it’s not normal. The only fluids allowed to come out after coitus are semen and female genital fluids. Cum. Not blood.
Because the truth is, a hymen has a few blood cells that if torn is not enough to soil sheets. It usually doesn’t happen. What happens is that women have been conditioned to believe that the first time must hurt, and it will be bloody. So they go into it with panic and fear. These feelings can hinder enjoying the act. And if you get a partner that doesn’t care about arousing you and is very vigorous, it means the penetration is forced. This causes lacerations on the vaginal walls hence bleeding.
Bleeding during sex could also mean underlying serious medical conditions like vaginismus, endometriosis
American rapper, TI, made headlines sometime last year when he announced live on air that he takes his daughter to a gynaecologist every year to determine if she’s still a virgin. Of course, he faced uproar and backlash all over social media, especially from women. The virginity test has always been practiced by our ancestors, and even up to date. You would think humans have evolved and become open minded but no. There are still cultures and religions that believe a woman must keep herself pure till her wedding night. That virginity is a gift to her spouse. In extreme settings, the groom’s father is allowed to do the testing (usually finger testing) to determine if the hymen is still intact.
If you want to protect your daughter, let her be her own person. Trust her. Inform her. Guide her. Don’t degrade her by subjecting her to a painful and pyschologically distressing test to boost your ego. It is actually a violation of her rights as a woman and a human being, since she does not consent to it. It has been condemned by human rights and world health organizations.
An examination of the hymen is not an accurate or reliable test of sexual activity, or even sexual assault, as there are many factors that affect these tests, both genetic, developmental, endocrine, spontaneous and external influence
*You don’t have to bleed during your first sexual penetration
*Bleeding is not a sign of a ‘broken’ hymen
*A hymen doesn’t get broken. It gets torn or stretches out
*Virginity tests are scam. They don’t prove virginity or sexual assault. A doctor can’t tell you’re a virgin by looking at the hymen
* virginity tests, or other medical tests and inserting tampons do not affect virginity because they have nothing to do with sex.