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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 bookVirgin: 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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