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10 Things I Bet You Didn't Know About Hymens

"Women [are] more than the status of their hymen or their dress size."—Penny Reid

Women's Health

Yeah buddy. I'm willing to bet a week's worth of groceries that you did not wake up this morning and think to yourself, "You know what would be cool to read about on xoNecole today? Hymens." But you know how we get down. If it's something that pertains to women, we are going to do our darnedest to write about it. And since hymens are something that we haven't covered yet, we thought—hell, why not?

Anyway, here are 10 things that I found to be interesting about hymens. If nothing else, chalk it up to being your "something new" for the day.

1. A Hymen Is a “Fringy Membrane”

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Let's begin with what the hymen actually is. It's basically the membrane that marks where the external part of our genitalia (vulva) stops and the internal part of it (vagina) starts. Aside from menstrual blood, it's very difficult for anything to (comfortably) enter or exit the vagina when the hymen is whole. It's also worth mentioning that the hymen is kind of like a fringe of tissue, that's located approximately 1-2 cm inside of the vagina; one that semi-loosely covers the vaginal opening instead of being a "lid" that is fully intact over the vagina. Some researchers say that the hymen is simply leftover tissue that came about during fetal development. One more thing—it's the same color as the inside of your vagina, making it close to impossible to see or even feel it.

2. The Hymen Comes from the Root of the Greek God of Marriage Whose Name Is Also Hymen

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While a lot of scientists claim that the hymen serves no purpose, a part of the reason why it's associated with virginity and religion is because the Greek god of marriage also has the same name. Do with that lil' coincidence what you will.

3. Cherries (Hymens) Don’t “Pop”, They Stretch

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Although a newborn female baby starts off with a hymen that is rather thick, they do tend to thin out over time. And while the phrase "pop the cherry" is a popular one, the reality is that many women do not bleed the first time they have sex. The reason why is because their hymen is usually already super thinned out or "dislodged" by a tampon or some form of athletic activity by then (which is why a partner cannot feel the hymen if they penetrate you with their fingers or their penis).

Now what can happen is you might experience some slight bloodshed if your partner happens to stretch or tear the skin that comprises of your vaginal opening. That has more to do with the entry to your vaginal walls and less to do with your actual hymen, though.

4. Virginity Exams Are a Joke

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Most of us can recall the T.I. ridiculousness last year when he talked about going with his daughter to the doctor to make sure she was still a virgin. I had that happen to me once; parents, don't do that. It's violating as hell and it's not something that we ever really "get over". Anyway, not only can this kind of doctor visit damage your relationship with your daughter, it's pretty much a total waste of time too. As we already discussed, a separated, dislodged or even outstretched hymen is not a clear indication that someone is no longer a virgin. Matter of fact, some women aren't even born with hymens, so basically, vaginal exams are a colossal waste of time.

5. You Can Get Pregnant with an Unstretched Hymen and Without a Penis Entering You

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Something that's always really important to keep in mind is sperm can swim like nobody's business. Because of that, yes you can get pregnant with your hymen still in place and yes, you can also get pregnant without experiencing any penile penetration. If sperm happens to come into contact with your labia at all while you are ovulating, while the chances are slim, sperm can spill into your vagina and fertilize one of your eggs. A good thing to know if you're one of those "abstinent dry humping" kind of folks.

6. Hymenal Tags Could Be the Cause of Sexual Discomfort

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Once the hymen stretches out or tears, there are oftentimes skin tags that remain known as hymenal tags. They aren't uncommon and are typically extremely small. However, sometimes the friction of your panties, masturbation or intercourse can irritate these tags, causing them to swell, making sex uncomfortable (if not flat-out painful) as a direct result. Sex, tampon use or any activity that involves straddling can cause these types of tags. A pelvic exam is pretty much the only way to detect them and, in many cases, with the help of cold compresses and ibuprofen, they heal in their own time without any type of medical intervention.

7. It Is Possible for the Hymen to Close Up Over Time

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I know someone who lied to her husband and told him that she was a virgin when she got married when she was absolutely not. I think about her every time I read about women who sign up for hymenoplasty which consists of either repairing a torn hymen or even putting one there that never existed so they can bleed the first time that you have sex. After all of the myths that we just debunked, for the life of me, I don't know why anyone would spend the money or put the energy into going that route (healthy relationships are based on honesty and trust and the right man can handle your sexual past).

Besides, if you haven't had sex in a while (a few years not a couple of months) or you're a postmenopausal woman who has never had a vaginal birth before, it is quite possible for your hymen to "tighten back up" anyway. It's not because it grew back. It's actually because, since nothing is there to stretch it out, it healed and repaired itself. Free of charge.

8. A Hymen Can Actually Withstand Childbirth

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As with labias and vaginas in general, no two hymens are the same. Not only that but some are super fragile and dissolve very easily while others are very thick and strong. So strong in fact that some are even able to remain in place, even after a woman has a vaginal birth (this revelation came, thanks to the book Virgin: The Untouched History by Hanne Blank).

9. If Sex Hurts, Don’t Automatically Think Your Hymen Has Something to Do with It

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Whether it's your first time having sex, you are "returning to sex" after a long hiatus or you're currently with a new partner, while sex can sometimes be a little uncomfortable (based on the size of your partner, the positions you are in or how tense you are), it really shouldn't be all that painful. If that's what's happening, especially on a continual basis, don't chalk that up to your hymen showing out on you. Consider other possibilities like you're not wet enough, you've got a urinary tract infection (or some other underlying medical condition), you're allergic to the lube or condoms that you're using or, your muscles aren't as relaxed as they need to be. Again, remember that your hymen is usually not super thick once you're at the point of having sex, so if the experience doesn't feel all that great, it's best to attribute what is going on with something other than it.

10. Certain Animals Have Hymens Too

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This last one, I'm just sharing because it's random as hell. Apparently, not only do women have hymens but so do certain animals. Horses, whales, elephants, moles and hyenas are just some of the animals that have them. Some scientists believe that whales have them to keep water from creeping in after mating while others say that mammal hymens help to keep bacteria out of the vagina.

Yeah, hymens are a bit of an enigma, no doubt. Still, your Creator made sure they existed for a purpose. If nothing else, they are one more thing that makes a woman a woman. That alone is a reason to be thankful for them. A moment of silence for all hymens, please…thank you.

Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:

7 Reasons You Should TOTALLY Be In Love With Your Clitoral Hood

15 Things I Bet You Didn't Know About Your Own Vagina

10 Things I Bet You Didn't Know About Your Clitoris

Why You Should Give Yourself A 'Vaginal Self-Exam'

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

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