When we lose our virginity, who might have taken it? Is there a secret club for individuals collecting women’s virginity and saving them in treasure chests? Will they ever set them free? And could we ever find our virginity back if we looked close enough?
Such a heavy word with 4 light letters.
“Will I lose my virginity if I played gymnastics?”
“How about masturbation?”
“Are menstrual cups suitable for single women?”
Before we answer any of these question, it is essential that we define virginity and its relation –or lack of- to the hymen. The term virginity comes from the Latin term “Virgo” which means a maiden; a woman who is not yet married. It is a cultural concept, not a physical one. And for this reason in particular, our definition of virginity might differ between cultures and even individuals.
The concept of virginity revives around the idea that a man or a women have not yet had consensual sexual experience with another person. This definition is flexible among different cultures and individuals. We might find that in some cultures, alternative sex does not seem to weigh on virginity; therefore, individuals may lose their virginity only through vaginal intercourse and not through oral or anal sex. We might also see individuals who don’t see themselves as virgins once partaking in simple affectionate acts such as kissing or touching hands. Can you see how flexible this concept is?
Because virginity is a cultural concept, there is no physical way to prove its existence. Not even a “virginity membrane” like some cultures like to call the hymen.
The Virginity Membrane Myth
We at Niswa believe in the power language has in reclaiming our bodies as humans; therefore, we prefer not to use the term most common in the SWANA region, “virginity membrane” and opt for “hymen.”
The hymen tends to be more obvious in little girls, prepubescent. Then tends to stretch and tear naturally as time goes by as a result of growing, hormonal changes, and movement.
What’s amazing about the hymen is that it looks different in every body! Some women have elastic hymens, while others have thick ones. They might appear with a hole in the center, with a half-moon shape, with several holes or lopes all around. In some cases, the hymen is fully intact, a woman needs surgical interference to allow the blood to flow during menstruation. And if you haven’t heard, some women are born without a hymen from day one!
It’s interesting to know that virginity tests are still happening around the world, even though a Norwegian doctor had proved that there was no link between virginity and the hymen since 1906. This doctor had examined a sex worker who had a hymen that resembled that of a teenage girl.
Science has not yet to find the real purpose of the hymen, but there are many theories that state the main purpose of the hymen to be protection of the reproductive system from harmful bacteria, as the girl grows. We also know that teenagers are more likely to get an STI due to their immature exposed cervix before it’s fully mature 10 years after menarche (mostly).
So is the hymen’s role being to protect the reproductive system during childhood and puberty? Maybe. But what we know for sure is that the mere existence of a hymen does not prove virginity, and its tears and stretches does not tell us the woman’s sexual story.
The Bloody Sheet Myth
One of the most common and most disturbing myths around virginity is the need of a virgin to bleed after her first intercourse, due to tearing of the “Virginity membrane”. This idea is so alive in many cultures, and we see it manifesting in drama shows and movies with the husband coming out the room showing off his bloody sheets to his family and guests after his wedding night. That scene seems to bring a sense of assurance to the bride’s family as their daughter proved her “pureness” and a sense of toxic masculinity to the husband as intercourse had occurred from the first night despite his wife’s consent or emotional readiness.
The fact is, 50% of women will not bleed the first time they have sex, and that has a direct link to the type of hymen they have and how relaxed they were, not whether if they were a virgins or not.
Women who have less elastic hymens shared that it is preferable to take time and practice alternative sex “using fingers” before attempting intercourse. They pointed out that using the fingers to stretch out the hymen gently for a period on time was essential in their sexual relationship. That allowed couples a phenomenal chance to explore their bodies and their partners’’ bodies while creating a safe space and readiness to when they are both ready to take it further.
On the other hand, some sexually experienced women might bleed after rough sex or one where they were not prepared and have not taken the time to build their arousal, secrete an abundance of arousal fluids, and witnessing their clitoris grow in a similar fashion to a penis. Rushing intercourse can cause friction, tearing of the vaginal canal, and therefore seeing blood.
So is it possible for a virgin to bleed the first time she has sex? Possibly, especially if she has a less elastic hymen. Bleeding can be lessened or even prevented by taking the time to stretch the hymen gently using fingers. And for those women who have an elastic hymen, it’s anatomically impossible for them to bleed, as the hymen stretches, and never tears.
The connection between the hymen and virginity is not simple that we can just cross by and go on with our lives. There is a woman, somewhere in the world, being killed right now, and her killing is justified by honor and the way her culture defines virginity.
In Indonesia, women are to be checked in order to join the military. After the Egyptian revolution in 2011, several activists were forced to go through a virginity tests. Many men ask their fiancés to get checked in a hospital in order for them to get married. And the question is, have any procedures like these been in place to examine men’s virginity?
In the past 10 years, France had a surge in hymenoplasty surgeries in Muslim women before getting married. This raises the question of whether these women knew the reality behind their hymens. It is interesting as some women might have repaired their hymens to a state they never had before! Let alone families forcing their daughters to have a hymenoplasty to deceive a future husband, or even ordering fake hymens/fake blood to spill on the sheet.
One of the hardest moments in my life was watching a Syrian tv show as a child where the midwife preformed a virginity test on a young girl and came out to the family to say that she was not a virgin. This happened because the midwife conspired with the step-mother to get rid of the girl. The father was outraged, held his knife and ran in attempt to kill his daughter to “wash off his honor”. That scene is not a make believe. It is happening right now all around the world. Killing someone based on assumptions, and unreliable virginity tests is murder, no honor in it.
Virginity is not physical, nor can we lose it, in my opinion. I see that we move through it into a wider life experience. Our first consensual sexual experience is a phenomenal one. It opens doors to countless possibilities, as it’s a transformational stage to grow as individuals and partners. A chance to explore our bodies and the purpose of this flawless design. How can we lose something with such an experience?
People are no longer virgins once they have a consensual sexual experience with someone else. Virginity is not lost through gymnastics or horse riding. Just like we cannot test a man’s virginity, we simply cannot test it for women. Not through the presence of the hymen or bleeding once having sex. If you are curious whether or not a man or a woman is a virgin or not, ask them, and give them the space to choose how to answer.
The virginity fraud | Nina Dølvik Brochmann & Ellen Støkken Dahl | TEDxOslo
the Hymen By Nour Emam – غشاء البكارة لنور إمام
حكي صريح المفاهيم الخاطئة عن العذرية
How have we viewed female virginity?
What Exactly is a Hymen?
The humanization of Virginity: