Essays

Myths about Virginity

If we had been better educated in the past with medical facts instead of scary myths, we would probably have approached the first time very differently.

By Anne Lomberg on December 19, 2023

Also available in German
Mythen über Jungfräulichkeit

Almost all girls have grown up with the idea that there is a delicate membrane in their vagina that tears during the first sexual intercourse. And this idea is no accident; no, it was taught that way, whether at school, in church, among relatives, or in movies. The Introduction is as follows: As soon as the girl is penetrated by her partner, she loses her sacred hymen. From this moment on, she is no longer a virgin (hence the misleading and misrepresented word), which is considered impure in some cultures, so that a bloody bed sheet must be presented to the family members on the wedding night as proof of one hundred percent virginity.

Today we know that the hymen does not exist as such but is actually a fold of skin or a corona (vaginal corona). Nevertheless, many cultures cling to this myth in order to deny women their sexual self-determination and, of course, to continue to follow patriarchal values, namely that only a man can take a woman’s virginity with his powerful spear. However, in this article, I explain why it is high time to counter this misconception with medical facts and finally put an end to the link between virginity and the supposed hymen.

Vaginal Corona, not Hymen

The term hymen is as wrong as it can be and should no longer be used. Firstly, it incorrectly describes the state of virginity, aka innocence, and secondly, it is not a skin that closes the vaginal canal. If it were a skin, no menstrual blood would flow out. The correct term is “vaginal corona“, a technical expression that the Swedes have already adopted and thus successfully abolished the hymen. The vaginal corona is a ring-shaped fold of skin that differs from woman to woman; it is part of the female body and remains throughout life and doesn’t disappear after the first sexual intercourse.

Let’s get to the bottom of the issue of blood. As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, in some cultures, it is still common for blood on the bed sheets on the wedding night to serve as proof of virginity. A myth that has fatal consequences for these women, at least if no blood can be found. The fact is that because no skin exists, let alone tears, it does not necessarily have to bleed. If there is blood, it is often due to cramping of the vaginal and pelvic floor muscles or hardly any lubrication due to agitation or external pressure. The vaginal corona can also be damaged, resulting in bleeding.

Product of the Patriarchy

Virginity is a socially constructed image that is deeply rooted in patriarchy. The concept of the hymen manifests a seal of innocence that appears almost like a product and can only be broken by a man’s hand or cock. It is primarily about control and power to restrict women in their lifestyle. While men should have as many sexual experiences as possible, the opposite is true for women, which is confirmed by the myth of the hymen.

In cultures where women are only seen as objects, various tests are used to check virginity. These virginity tests have no basis whatsoever, as the vaginal corona says nothing at all about sexual activity. Fathers or future husbands are, of course, responsible for these painful and shameful procedures.

The first sexual intercourse doesn’t have to hurt or bleed

Let’s just think back to how the misinterpretation of the hymen has made itself felt in our minds and also in our bodies. We immediately associate this term with discomfort, pain, and anxiety, which is clear when talking about a membrane tearing through penetration. Movies where the partner tries to reassure with the words “I hope I don’t hurt you” are of little help.

If we had been better educated in the past with medical facts instead of scary myths, we would have approached the first time very differently. Knowing that there is no hymen, we would probably have experienced it much more relaxedly. Then we wouldn’t have waited in awe that something may be tearing inside us that we may even feel it. Then we wouldn’t have tensed and wondered when it would finally end. The first time would have had a completely different meaning for most women. It wouldn’t have been directly associated with penetration or the understanding that it necessarily requires a man.

When you think about it, the myth of virginity has done enormous damage, and the legend continues to be happily spread to make women feel uncomfortable and controlled. That’s why it’s so important to address the female anatomy itself, make the term vaginal corona socially acceptable and banish the hymen from our vocabulary once and for all.

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