We don’t much talk about the hymen. In fact, our recent poll of 100 people from Hong Kong & Singapore revealed that:
have never spoken about it with their friends.
couldn't correctly name where it sits in the anatomy.
Our collective lack of knowledge about the hymen is concerning when you consider that the existence - or lack therefore - of this thin piece of tissue continues to subjugate women across the world.
But before we begin busting the hymen myth, take a look at our handy vulva guide and get to know your way around!
The belief that virginity is policed by the hymen and that our ‘cherries’ exist to be ‘popped’ during first-time sex is prevalent across Asia and the world. But this belief is a misguided one, stemming from deep-rooted cultural ideas around virginity and anatomical misinformation about our bodies. And it has many negative consequences.
I used to get so nervous when i'd go for my regular body check-up. I dreaded the vaginal examination, thinking my physician could take one look and determine whether I was ‘pure’ or whether I’d had something - from my period or from sex - up my vagina. ”
- Natasha, team LUUNA Hong Kong
Zoe Chan, the founder of our social impact partner, FreePeriodsHK, put it perfectly when she told us:
Your vagina is not the lid of a bubble tea. Your hymen doesn’t necessarily get ‘popped’ when you stick something in it for the first time.”
- Zoe Chan, Founder FreePeriodsHK
We repeat, your hymen is not made to be popped like the lid of a bubble tea!
Let’s break this down, Sisterhood:
Our hymens come in all different shapes and sizes, just like our other physical features. Check out the dazzling array of hymen styles below - yours could be any one of these beauties!
Hymens can also break, tear or stretch on varied activities and experiences, such as riding a bike, a horse, and gymnastics. Some of us may even be born without hymens and this is totally fine.
Because of this, we can’t use hymens as ‘proof’ of our sexual status; a sexual status which, by the way, is no one’s business but our own.
Society's attachment to our hymens and the association of them with losing our virginity is both anatomically illogical and totally shameful for women. Frankly, sisterhood, we're over it.
Common Hymen-related Myths:
1. Women bleed when they lose their virginity:
- This myth manifests to varying degrees in cultures across the world. Many of our community attest to being shamed when they didn't bleed during first-time sex, with their virginity being called into question if they didn't. This of course, is based on the belief that something will always be torn or broken when a penis enters the vagina for the first time. This shame alone is bad enough but in some cultures, the fear of not bleeding during first-time marital sex comes with such terrible consequences, including even death, that women resort to having hymens surgically created in a process known as re-hymenization / surgical re-virginization.
2. Virginity is only related to heterosexual sex:
- The belief that a person with a vagina will always break their hymen during first-time sex de-values intercourse outside of heterosexual sex. Essentially, it's saying that virginity can only be lost when P goes in V when in fact, neither a penis nor a vagina are totally necessary in order for someone to lose their virginity...or have amazing sex!
3. Products like tampons and period cups can take your virginity:
- This myth stigmatizes using period products like tampons and cups because it creates the fear that these products may take their virginity away. Although period products like tampons and cups may break or tear the hymen, it does not mean you lost your virginity to a product. Your virginity is up to YOU to define.
With so many deep-rooted attitudes dictating how we feel about and treat our bodies, we know it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. But we can all be part of shifting these outdated misconceptions by following a few simple steps:
Next time you’re at dinner with your friends, ask them what they know about the hymen and what they think about the concept of ‘virginity.’ Sure, they might be shocked at first but if you can’t talk about this stuff with your pals, who can you talk to? Sparking open conversations about taboo issues is a powerful way to ignite change.
Exploring our bodies is an amazing way to empower ourselves and shift outdated attitudes towards womanhood. Try new period products, like tampons (organic cotton only please!) and menstrual cups, a new sex toy or just uncover new areas of your body with your hand or a partner.
Understand that every time you empower yourself to better understand and love your body, you are sparking a shift for the global Sisterhood. We’re all in this together, after all.