Here’s What You Should Know About the Hymen

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Too many people – women included – don’t understand the female body well enough (or at all). The recent revelation that rapper T.I. asks his daughter’s doctor to check her hymen to ensure her virginity on a yearly basis is the (extremely disgusting and invasive and inappropriate) proof. And the fact that so many people support him makes a lot of women very uncomfortable.

In case you’re someone who would like to know more, or who would like to be able to educate other people who should know more, here’s some general information for all of us about a part of the female body.

First up, fact check: the presence of an attached hymen does not indicate whether or not a woman has had vaginal intercourse.



The hymen is a thin piece of membranous tissue that partially covers the vaginal opening. It’s usually half-moon shaped, but every body is different. The general belief is that when a woman has sex for the first time the hymen is “broken,” but in truth, it’s typically stretched and only sometimes torn.

Again, that doesn’t happen for everyone.


Not only that, but some girls are born with open hymens, some don’t have one at all, and others naturally stretch or tear their hymens through activities like gymnastics, exercise, or horseback riding – even using tampons, menstrual cups, and regular gynecological exams could cause stretching and/or tearing.

The idea that if a woman is a virgin she’ll bleed the first time she has sex? Also a myth, for the reasons mentioned. Also, even if a woman is a virgin, and even if she has a hymen, her hymen may not bleed if it gets stretched and/or torn.

The bottom line? No one should be examining a woman’s hymen or bedsheets for proof of her virginity, or in order to verify rape allegations – it is useless and can potentially cause physical and psychological harm.


The World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations (UN) condemn virginity testing for those reasons and because, in some countries, if an unmarried woman is determined to not be a virgin, she may be publicly shamed, beaten, and imprisoned. Not to mention she may be more likely to consider suicide – or even be murdered.

“The practice is a violation of the victim’s human rights and is associated with both immediate and long-term consequences that are detrimental to her physical, psychological, and social well-being. The harmful practice of virginity testing is a social, cultural, and political issue, and its elimination will require a comprehensive societal response supported by the public heath community and health professionals.”

Also, the concept of virginity itself might be a topic for another day, but this bears repeating: virginity is a social construct, and, in most cases, a holdover from a very different time. A time when women were controlled like property by the men in their lives, and a time before we had technology that could address concerns like paternity and inheritance.

Whether or not a woman has had sexual intercourse has no bearing on her value to herself, her family, or to society at large.

The sooner we all accept that and stop (literally, in some cases) poking our way into other people’s business, the better off everyone will be.