Bleeding after sexual intercourse was incorrectly thought to be proof of an unbroken hymen, and thus, proof that a person had not had sex before.
The reality, however, is that the state of your hymen has nothing to do with sexual activity. With the help of Dr. Jessica Shepher a board-certified ob-gyn and a spokesperson for Paragard, and Alexandra Eislera health and sex educator from Healthy Teen Network, we're going to separate fact from fiction and explain what a hymen is, how a hymen breaks, and its complicated relationship with the historical concept of virginity. Read on for 9 facts you need to know about this tiny tissue.
But first, let's get our definitions clear:. The hymen is just a portion of the vaginal canal that really doesn't serve a purpose.
It has no known biological function and it does not, in any way, indicate whether or someone has engaged in sexual activity.
The hymen can be broken in a variety of ways. Sexual activity including penetration, oral sex, fingering, and masturbation can break the hymen, yes, but so can the insertion of a tampon or even exercising.
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It's also worth noting that you can break your hymen without even knowing it. Shepherd explains that it's entirely possible to disrupt the hymen during a weight-bearing exercise and not feel a thing.
It's also possible to notice a bit of bleeding and tenderness. It's different for everyone. It is possible to engage in sexual activity without breaking the hymen.
It's very possible that the hymen could not be broken during fingering or oral sex, explains Dr. It's even possible though uncommon to have intercourse without breaking the hymen.
It bears repeating: the presence or absence of a hymen does not prove or disprove whether someone has engaged in sexual activity.
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If you try to look at an intact hymen, it may be difficult to pinpoint. If you do want to go exploring, though, it's located about about centimeters inside your vaginal opening. Hymens are not one-size-fits-all.
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There are actually five types of hymen which are medically classified as:. Imperforate, microperforate, and septate hymens interfere with menstrual flow and tampon use.
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In these cases, you can have a minor surgery called a hymenectomy to remove the extra tissue and open up the hymen so period blood can flow through. This is performed by a gynecologist.
According to Eisler, virginity is a social construct, not a medical condition. So you likely have a definition about what virginity entails based on your friends, what your parents have taught you, and whether or not you have specific religious beliefs.
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