Smart Sex: The Hymen

Taylor Price | Staff Writer

Roughly half the population has a hymen when they are born, yet most people don’t understand how the hymen works or what it is.

A lot of people talk about “popping your cherry” or “breaking your hymen” when referring to first time vaginal sex. When I was a young teen, I had never heard of a hymen. There were a lot of girls talking about how you could break the hymen while horseback riding or during hard physical activity. If you have ever heard similar things about the hymen, please promptly forget them because they are wrong. The hymen has a lot of speculation and false pretenses surrounding it. Many people think it is a thin layer of tissue covering the vaginal opening that is meant to be broken when penetrated. That notion is incorrect; it doesn’t need to be “broken” at all.

The hymen is about one or two centimeters inside the vagina. The vast majority of the time it does not completely cover the vaginal opening. As far as what it looks like, this is unique to each person. Some are a bit thicker and may have different colorings, sizes, and shapes.  Made up of folds of mucous tissue, thinner hymens are basically transparent or faint pink, but when they’re thicker, they can range from opaque pink to whitish. The hymen is generally very pliable and stretchy. In rare cases where the hymen does cover the vaginal opening, one might need to see a gynecologist to have it perforated in order to let out menstrual blood, insert tampons, or penetrate the vagina at all. It is unknown why the hymen exists, but it is likely just something left over from fetal development.

Knowing about the hymen is important because when it’s first being stretched, people should be careful. It may be stretched while inserting a tampon, penetration with fingers or toys during masturbation, or during vaginal penetrative sex. Some feel no pain at all, but others with larger hymens may experience discomfort. It is possible that there will be small tears in the hymen when doing these things, and slight bleeding might occur. If you are being too rough, going too quickly, or if things are too dry (don’t forget, lube exists) with a hymen that has never been stretched, then tears are a definite possibility. First time penetrative sex can be scary enough without worrying about pain or bleeding, so be cautious, take your time, and you can most likely avoid these issues.

Once the hymen has been stretched, it will stay in that position and won’t be something to worry about anymore if one is masturbating or having sex regularly.

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