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Hymen (Maidenhead)

Hymen (Maidenhead)


People who had no sexual intercourse are called virgins, and virginity is the name of this state.

In Latin, the synonym for virgin is “virgo” and it defines people who had no sexual intercourse before. The “vir” part in the word virgo means man or husband, and “Genere” is used as “belonging to him”. Thus virgo means: a “spouse belonging to a man”. In English and French, this word changed into “virgin”.

The hymen in women, is a structure that represents virginity. After the insertion of an alien object into the vagina or having sexual intercourse, the hymen tears from a specific point and usually there occurs a very small kind of bleeding and later the torn points heal by mending themselves. In the following sexual intercourses, the hymen flexes as to let the penis penetrate and there is no more bleeding.

The maidenhead is called the “hymen” in Latin. In English the same Latin word is used. Tearing of the hymen means the end of virginity, thus the person is no more a virgin.

Its History and Social Context

According to Greek and Roman mythologies, HYMEN is the son of Dionysus and Aphrodite and he is the “god of marriage and wedding”. As the first night is devoted to this god, the maidenhead is called in his name. The feature of this god is that he has wings and he carries a torch in his hand.

In certain cultures, virginity is extremely important and it has become the symbol of purity and innocence. Virginity has almost become the symbol of “Honor” (Namus).

For example before 19th century, in their weddings, girls used to wear “dresses most suitable for them”, in later years, this tradition changed into wearing “white wedding dresses” that connoted this purity and innocence.

Sometimes, although a girl does not fully experience sexuality with her boy friend, she can attain satisfaction through different ways. This situation is called “technical virginity”. Therefore hymen is actually not a stipulation for honor.

Although in our society (Turkish) the concept of virginity has started to lose its significance, in most of the islamic countries and in many social circles, it still maintains its importance.

Especially the tradition of “showing the bed sheet” still continues to exist.

In certain cultures virginity is not important at all and considered a step from girlhood to womanhood. Even the event can be easily discussed with the parents.

What is the function of the Hymen?

The hymen has no known physiological function. Thus, the hymen is accepted totally as a sociological concept.

In many criminal cases, hymen examinations carry significance.

(Schema 8) 1-Mons Pubis 2-Clitoris 3-Urinary Hole 4-Vagina 5-Anus 6-Small lips 7-Big Lips

Hymen is 1.5-2 mm thick pellicle formation, located right at the entrance of the vagina, inside the small lips by 1.5-3cm.

According to a person’s physical structure, the thickness of the hymen and how deep inside it is located may vary.

Especially with fat people, because of the thicker fat layer, the hymen is located deeper inside.

The hymen, which is structurally contained in the external genitalia, at its front part resembles skin and the back part of it, which that faces the vagina, is like mucosa.

The hymen does not totally close the vaginal space, with the space (hole) located at its center, it lets the menstrual blood to flow out. Thus, according to the types of this hole, different types of hymen are described. Most widely encountered type is (60-90%) the “circular ring” (annular).

If the hole located in the middle of the hymen is larger than normal, with the penetration of the penis, it may not tear. In this case there would not be bleeding. (“Hymen available for penetration” )

Sometimes, with the penetration of the penis, the hymen may flex and not tear, and also in this case there would not be blood. Among common people this condition is named “flexible hymen”.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is there hymen in animals as well?

Interestingly enough, the hymen, other than by human beings, is only possessed by “horses”.

Does the hymen always bleed in the first sexual intercourse?

No. Some of the hymen have large openings thus they are “available for penetration” and some have “flexible” structures and do not bleed after the first intercourse. In this case, anatomically the hymen is virgin and only after a normal birth giving it would tear. To have a flexible hymen, does not constitute any discomfort for the person.

Is there pain in tearing of the hymen?

No. Normally, in her first sexual intercourse, if the person does not tighten herself up, the intercourse will be very comfortable, without bleeding and without any pain. However, the prejudices and the unnecessary fears embedded in the subconscious cause the person to tighten up and have a lot of blood and pain.

Can hymen be torn by rubbing?

It can only be understood by a hymen examination. Unless an alien object, hand or penis penetrates enough, hymen is not easily broken. Masturbating the clitoris from the outside, again, does not harm the hymen.

Can there be pregnancy without the hymen breaking down?

Yes.  Although it is very unlikely, there is such risk. Sperms poured on to the vagina entrance, by their ability to swim, can reach the tubes and by fertilizing an egg ovulated by the ovaries, can start a pregnancy. Thus, a virgin girl or a woman suffering from vaginismus, although the chances are very slim, can get pregnant without full sexual intercourse.

Does bleeding occur after every tearing?

No.  In some cases, although there may be tearing, there might not be bleeding at all.

Can there be bleedings in the sexual intercourses after the first one?

Sometimes, yes.  Sometimes, after there is blood in the first sexual intercourse, in the following ones, slight bleedings may continue in a gradually decreasing manner.

Is there a lot of pain and bleeding in the first sexual intercourse?

No.  In the first sexual intercourse, if the person does not tighten up but relaxes herself, bleeding and pain would be minimal. Or, as it is explained above, with women who have a flexible hymen or a hymen available for penetration, which is the case in one of every three women, then there would not be any pain or blood after the first sexual intercourse.

However, if the spouse of a woman, who tightens herself up, is also very intolerant and despite the experienced pain continues the intercourse insistently, due to the ruptures in the vagina and the hymen, there may be more than normal pain and bleeding. These cases are very rare and in healthy relations, where couples trust and support each other, would never be encountered.

Is vaginismus a hymen or vagina problem?

No, vaginismus is usually not a hymen or vagina problem. Vaginismus is actually a problem of the “subconscious”. It is a problem that manifests itself as “worrying and anxiety (depression)” formed as a result of the wrong and exaggerated information planted into the subconscious causes the vagina to contract and this makes sexual intercourse very hard or impossible.

However, there are certain exceptional cases here. In very rare cases, due to the anatomical structure of the vagina and the hymen, there may be problems in the sexual functions. Among the most frequently encountered cases of these are the ones in which the hymen is higher edged and has a harder tissue than normal (rigid hymen) and the one where vagina has congenital abnormalities. However, despite what is generally expected, these kind of abnormalities are very rare and seen in very few of the women who suffer from vaginismus.

(Photo 1) Urethra (Urinary Hole)

In the photo besides, is the hymen of a patient who has had 8 months of unnecessary therapy due to the vaginismus problem.

This patient who had no results from her therapies, applied to us and after the examinations conducted, as it was diagnosed that she had a high edged hymen; hymenotomy (cutting of the hymen) was carried out on her. After her treatment that lasted for a few sessions, she was able to get into a sexual relation with her husband.

When else can hymen removal operation be carried out?

In very special cases related to vaginismus and dyspareunia, the hymen removal operation (Hymenotomy) can be carried out. Among these situations, other than rigid hymen (hard and thick hymen),are vulva vestibulitis syndrome and imperforate hymen (the opening in the hymen is congenitally nonexistent).

Does the removal of the hymen help the vaginismus problem?

No.  Unfortunately the widely and wrongly executed hymen removal operation (hymenotomy) by the gynecologists does not solve the vaginismus problem, on the contrary it makes it more unsolvable.
As it has been stated, vaginismus is usually not a problem of hymen or vagina. Only in very special cases that are mentioned above, can the hymenotomy operation be executed.

How is the hymen examination (virginity examination) done?

The hymen examination (virginity examination) comprises of the visual observation conducted by the gynecologist on the gynecologist chair, by pulling the outer lips by hand to the sides and observing the inside. After an examination that lasts about 10-15 seconds, most of the time, it is possible to say a definite result. On the other hand, sometimes it may be hard to pass a definite judgment.

Does the hymen examination harm the hymen which has not been torn before?

No. This examination, pulling the outer lips to the sides and observing the inside, gives no harm to the hymen.

Can a report be given after the examination?

According to the law, the private clinics and doctors are forbidden to give written report papers to the concerned people about their hymen examinations. For such reports, it is necessary to apply to the “forensic medicine institutions” with a petition.

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