Those who know me know I'm used to sitting out on a limb when it comes to Homo sapiens sexuality concepts which are assumed to be true but are simply not supported by biological facts. Well this topic may be the tenderest (pardon the pun) limb of them all. I'm starting this discussion a step too far in for most people who've never considered this topic. I'm not going to list all the readings I did, there were hundreds, with many many hours spent at my college and municipal libraries. What I present here is merely a template for discussion, in order to distinguish between the various issues at stake.

 

My background

I started inserting things in my vagina around age 7-8, back in the 70s. Not once was there any pain or blood. So failing to have any personal experience with any hymen concept, I always viewed it in the same light as god talk, NO evidence, NO GO. Of all the women I've known in my life, only 1 has attested to bleeding upon first copulation. And what the heck is first copulation anyway? You mean to say no finger (or tampon) ever went in before a penis?????? The first time I had actual sexual intercourse was just after the end of highschool, with my oh so handsome track coach. I was a little inebriated, and thought, oh, that's it?? LoL He was 2 years older than me and took charge of the action. I had no task to accomplish, which was a novelty, considering my previous sexual partners. So the years roll by and frankly, since those teenage years, I never once discussed any hymen. I was also a teaching assistant at college and university, during my biology studies, in compared anatomy and compared vertebrate anatomy, histology, and others. I led hundreds of lab dissections, in different schools, in two languages. Never once was a hymen part of the curriculum.

 

New Millennium

A few years ago, two Swedish researchers proclaimed high and loud "There is no Hymen". (I'm unable to trace that particular study at the moment) and I thought HUH??? of course there's no hymen! So I started to investigate the topic, and the first insult to intelligence was found on the hymen Wikipedia page, which shows a very old Gray's Anatomy pencil drawing of a vulva, with a little line pointing to where the "hymen" is supposedly located.  The Swedish Wikipedia page has also gone through some major transformations, and you'll notice a great difference in tone, and notoriously no lead image. Three years ago, the English language Wikipedia page did mention the Swedish study, but the page has now been cleansed by religious zealouts. And we're back to the good old "membrane covering vagina" line, except it's now been modified to accommodate "partially". So I started a Wikipedia brawl, and in the process had to learn about the vagina's embryonic development, forensic analysis of rape victims, various anatomy and embryology reference manuals, and sociological implications.

 

In the end, I lost the debate on Wikipedia (well about 80% loss), because sometimes on Wikipedia, no matter what the truth of the matter is, no matter the references, the contributors with the most time and doggedness will prevail. Three years ago there was zero science on that hymen page, now there is at least a little science.

 

The hymen myth suffers from two main challenges:

1-The god myth... religious people want us to prove the hymen does NOT exist.

2-In rare instances, due to incomplete embryonic development, possibly congenital, medical anomalies, the vagina is deemed 'imperforate'.

 

Abrahamic Faiths

The hymen is rationalised by the presence of blood upon first copulation. The Virgin Mary is a major component of Christianity and virginity assessment is a like an OCD for religious people.

 

The Wikipedia debate

Began with the "god does not exist" challenge. The drawing that is still used to show a hymen simply does not show one. So the most obvious course of action was to remove the useless outdated drawing and find a new drawing, or better yet, photograph, showing a hymen. Well, nobody could produce one, not in a healthy young girl.

 

Anatomy manuals

Gray's anatomy in the old days had a paragraph on the hymen, with a drawing. Today's GA has a one-liner, with a vulva drawing, the same stupid drawing which does not actually show any hymen. The smallest entry in the entire book. Other anatomy manuals do no better. Upon comparing manuals one gets the distinct impression that publishers/editors just keep on repeating the same old wives' tale. In rare instances where hymen believers produce actual photographs of healthy women's vulvas (vs rare medical anomalies), they point to an unexpanded vaginal opening, and blindly state: "this is the hymen". So what we see in the picture is nothing different than any 50 y/o women's vaginal opening, in reality, it ain't open unless you open it.

 

Medical anomalies

In very rare instances, girls who reach puberty experience a menstrual flow problem, no flow, or only in drops, because the vagina is not sufficiently open. Various estimates for this occurrence vary from 0.1% to 0.01%

 

Rape Forensics

Provide the strongest case against the existence of a hymen. I spent a couple of weeks at our law library, reading various rape forensics reports. The conclusion was: EXAMINATION OF THE VAGINAL OPENING (looking for a torn hymen) OF A YOUNG RAPE VICTIM NEVER PROVIDES PROOF OF RAPE. VAGINAL EXAMINATION IS INCONCLUSIVE. Unless the vagina walls were torn in cases of "rough" rape. Otherwise, vaginal openings are variable in nature, even during infancy (yep saddly there are infants who are raped, rollseyes), that one can look at a 6 month old female infant and find a perfectly open vagina, some have vaginal tabs, some are less open. Forensic scientists specialising in rape seem to be the only scientists who've had a real good look at young vaginas, beyond gynaecologists oddly enough.

 

Embryology manuals

I spent less time in these, but they do provide an additional argument, without stating it outright, against the existence of a hymen in normally developed females. The vagina develops from other embryonic structures, the upper half before the lower half. In the beginning, the vagina is a complete non tubular mass of cells. In the third trimester, the cells differenciate and the canal starts to appear. At the cellular level, there is no distinction between the lower vaginal wall cells and the cells at the vaginal opening. Specifically, there are no such thing in science as hymenal cells. The cells of the vaginal tabs are also the same cells as the vaginal wall. By the time of birth, 90% of female infants have open vaginas, and the majority of the remainder will find their vagina opened by age 1.

 

Today

At the beckoning of a member, I at first resisted going in to the whole debate AGAIN, because it tires me as much as debating with religious people. But after a couple of searches, I've noticed that what was considered completely outlandish only three years ago, has started to make its way into popular culture.

 

What we were calling vaginal tabs, or hymenal tabs, three years ago are now being addressed as the 'corona'. Scarlateen, a well known blog discussing the realities of sex now states:

Often known by the established term “hymen,” the vaginal corona is the subject of many myths and misunderstandings. The most important of these is the notion that a woman’s vaginal opening is covered by a membrane that ruptures with vaginal sex. This is incorrect. There is no such membrane.

 

Other blogs  and forums have now jumped on this new scientific understanding. This is a huge change from three years ago when nothing of this sort existed on the internet.

 

Let us be clear, this new scientific understanding is not coming about by a single bit of 'new' evidence, it is based entirely on debunking historical false religious interpretations and imaginings of missing evidence due to religious bias among scientists. Is it possible that such ridiculous myths were started because fully developed vaginas did not get/need medical attention whereas incompletely developed vaginal openings did get medical attention and so doctors assumed they were the norm? who knows, the reason for the myth is impossible to pin down for sure.

 

Sexology and Repercussions for society

The perpetual misunderstanding of women's vaginas is so embedded in our society that women have been expected to bleed upon first copulation. In Quebec, covered under national healthcare, Muslim women can now get a artificial hymen manufactured from the vaginal wall tissues in order to bleed on their wedding night. Manufacturing a 'hymen' in order to bleed for your husband is no more acceptable to me than circumcision or FGM. Yet in the USA, it is a cosmetic surgery which is also gaining in popularity, not only among Muslims but among Christians as well.

 

Let us be clear, bleeding upon first intercourse is an uncommon occurrence, and most sexologists now attribute bleeding for normally developed women to two degrees of physical unpreparedness:

1-Lack of life preparation (chronic)

Girls raised in cultures where virginity is still valued (rollseyes) are told to hold back from sports like cycling and horseback riding, and other rough sports, in case they should "break their hymen". These girls are also told never to masturbate and to not use tampons, all of which could all 'break the hymen", as if!!! Conversely, one can easily imagine that a young girl who never opened her legs, never once spread her lips, never once poked around, never did any rough sport, yes one could imagine that she'd be slightly dysfunctional!!!!!

2-Lack of immediate preparation (acute)

Girls and boys who haven't received appropriate sex ed (whether parental, school or peers) simply do not know how to go about sex. Any un-prepped female who is inexpertly penetrated by a dry penis (or fingers) can bleed, at any age, no matter one's sexual experience. It is sensitive skin and should be treated lovingly and cherished.

 

As for girls who are unfortunate enough to fall into the "incomplete development' category. They have challenges, through appropriate sex ed, in order to not experience trauma at first intercourse, they need to make a an additional effort at knowing their vagina, and training the remaining encroaching corona to give way. This is the same as for boys with phymosis. If one waits until adult life to correct the situation, one will experience problems. In very rare cases where the vaginal opening is so incompletely developed as to impede menstrual flow, there is a need for medical intervention. In such girls, if penetration is attempted, and the vaginal opening is injured, there can be significant blood loss.

 

As we meander through the literature on this topic, of course the word hymen will retain predominance for several years. But as better un-biased knowledge is spread, the occurrence of the word will diminish.

 

Let's here it for the Corona! One small step for science, one giant leap for women!

 

Views: 1034

Replies to This Discussion

Yeah, anything that happens to a woman who's over 40 or so doesn't have any impact on evolutionary fitness of the species.  Sucks, but the genes don't give a damn.

 

And a neutral mutation won't necessarily spread like that, but there's a chance for it.  If it's attached to anything at all useful (genes often do multiple things or are on the same chromosome as something good and get carried along for the ride) then the odds in its favor become much better.

Where it not for the "Virgin Mary" myth, I suspect humans in general would spend very little time even pondering that question :)

First copulations among animals are not ritualised and I envision a future where first copulation in humans is de-ritualised.

The mere thought that some women feel the need and/or are pressured to lie about "virginity" has always astounded me. Given Homo sapiens opposable digits and handiness with 'tools', no woman should be a "virgin" by the time of first copulation. We should all be popping our own cherry!

Somewhat in response to Anette's ('somewhat' narrow minded attitude) replies.

There was recently a program (Swedish television) about these two Swedish scientists which made me look this up. In the program they state that because of the belief in the hymen, that it's something that is ruptured, many women will tense up the first time they have sex. And as they also explain in the program, when a woman tenses up and expects pain, that will inhibit the widening and lubrication of the vagina (and thus the corona).
And what happens when a penis penetrates a dry and narrow vagina? It hurts. And sometimes you bleed. The corona might have ruptured (rupturing of the corona is also something they explain).


I had myself never taken an interest in this question about the hymen before I saw this program, and I'm a little stoked as to what impact this might have on religion.
One thing I'm a little uncertain about though. I have been told that the bible texts about 'virgin' Mary are mistranslated or misinterpreted (perhaps both) and that the Hebrew texts says nothing about virginity, in the sense of never have had any sex, in this case.
And anyway, how would they know if she really was a virgin? They couldn't have known.
Regarding the "virgin" Mary, I also heard several years ago that it was simply a faulty translation and that the correct translation should have been 'young lady'. Of course references on this topic are quite contradictory!

Indeed, and it's quite hard to translate as the words seem to mean a lot of different things in the old Greek language it was written. Perhaps they chose to write it in that language so that it would be open for interpretation...

I looked it up a little and found that the sentence, where Mary supposedly says she has never had sex with a man, contains lots of words that have up to 20 different translations to English.

I don't know about the "young lady"-part, but it would seem logical that it's as hard to translate or understand properly as this one.

But it doesn't seem worth the time to try to undermine the myth about Mary. It's not really that vital to a Christian as for example.. the belief that god regards life as holy.

I beg to differ, virginity and servitude of women to men is a huge part of a 'Christian' lifestyle, the marriage, the procreation, the monogamy, the obedience... Were it not for a 'virgin' Mary Christianity would not be recognisable. And this is for North America... in South America, the Virgin Mary is practically the main iconic figure! From your home page I see you are from Sweden, I think Swedes live Christianity quite differently than North and South Americas.

 

It may not make sense to waste time on a debate for which researchers could never agree on, but that's a different argument, sort of like lazy science... let's not research it because it's too hard? Personally, I'm not fond of theological studies, I prefer biological sciences, but I certainly hope atheist theologists continue the research in this matter.

Yes that's probably true. But I still don't see how the whole virginity-thing makes it so special. It would have been almost the same if she had sex with her husband before and after that being told she was not to conceive her husband's child but God's instead.

There is a lot about how women should be and behave in both of the testaments that is not aimed at Mary specifically, wouldn't that still be valid had Jesus just been beamed down to Earth?

 

Well, it does seem like a futile area to research. Scientists could do so much more than to just unprove all myths and beliefs that has ever existed.

I believe, or hope, that educating the people will strike a more serious blow to religion than any archeological or logical (etc.) evidence could ever do.

Still if there are people interested in unproving this, then I guess they have a right to do so. However, religious people will always find excuses and they will continue to interpret their 'holy' texts in the way it pleases them. So if the goal is to eradicate misunderstandings, I think a better way is to bring understanding, not to try and destroy the foundations of their beliefs.

Actually, the scientific damage seems to be coming mostly from religious groups, like the Templeton Foundation.  Every valid, scientific test they've done, such as their one for the effects of prayer, has come up with a big, negative result.

Ah.. you got me. Forgot about that. And then we have one of the biggest blows of all: the placebo effect. That one is quite amazing. But religious people still find a way to explain that, saying it's because god cannot give all the time, or "god moves in mysterious ways", or "god is testing you". And I guess that's only a few embarrassing explanations.

However the amount of proof that goes against religion is massive. And any reasonably intelligent and educated person that knows about this can't truly be religious without lying to him-/herself. So, even if we double the amount of testing against religion we will probably not see a drop in the numbers of religious people until they are educated about what evidence that's already there.

I'm not saying it's wrong to continue disproving religions, I'm merely saying that maybe education is the larger issue.

Yup, that's the problem.  Religious types never run out of pathetic excuses.

I didn't get any bleeding and/or pain my first time either. Or any other time after with my first partner. And truthfully I was more disappointed than confused (not about the bleeding :P) because I thought you were supposed to feel at least a little pain your first time.

 

My second partner was a different story. However, I'm more than sure that's because he was very well endowed and our first time together had more to do with driving each other sexually crazy while he was off in another state until he got back.

Well something bled a lot the first time I had sex.  Hurt like a fucker too.

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