Anita Hoffer brings us the latest information on the hymen. We're born with hymens but they break open at puberty when estrogen kicks in. Fascinating:
So here’s what I learned so far. The Scarleteen article that you referred to in your recent article saying that the hymen is a myth, is based on a pamphlet recently published by the Swedish Association for Sexuality Education (RFSU).
The Swedes wrote as follows:
“In an attempt to correct some of the myths surrounding the hymen, RFSU last spring published an informational pamphlet on the female reproductive organs which featured a new term for the hymen, namely “vaginal corona“, or something shaped like a circle.
RFSU hoped the new term would displace the traditional Swedish word used for the hymen, mödomshinna, which translates literally as “virginity membrane” and led to misconceptions about female sexuality, according to RFSU. They reasoned as follows:
They felt that the old Swedish term indicated that there is a membrane covering the vaginal opening that needed to be broken. It was portrayed as the boundary between guilt and innocence……some girls have been raised to protect their hymen, not to run, jump, ride horses or even use tampons or masturbate. But in reality there is no membrane; rather there are folds of mucous membrane which form a crown around the vaginal opening.”
Susan Chasson, who is President of the International Association of Forensic Nurses, cited a study at ISSWSH stating that all women are born with hymens. In one study, over 2,000 newborn girls were examined at birth and they all had hymens.
Paul Joannnides describes hymens in his “Guide To Getting It On” (chapter 8) and emphasizes that hymens do exist and change shape as puberty approaches due to the effects of estrogen. He writes “By the end of puberty, the hymen no longer drapes across the opening of the vagina, but becomes more like an O-ring or collar allowing a penis or tampon to have full entry. The hymen tissue has estrogen receptors in it just like the walls of the vagina. With estrogen, the walls of the hymen become thicker, shorter and more elastic….. Nature seems to have made the hymen ready for intercourse by changing it during puberty.”
A colleague who regularly examines little girls says “There is, in fact, something called a hymen. It is rarely a complete membrane that covers the entire vagina (although some girls are born with an anatomic anomaly such as an "imperforate" or "microperforate" hymen, in which case the vagina is, in fact completely or almost completely covered, and nothing can go in or out without a surgical procedure). In a "normal" vaginal anatomy, the hymen is a thin tissue ring around the vaginal orifice, and it is tighter or looser in various girls.
Betty, I think the important issue here is one of balance – namely there is an acknowledgement by the Swedes that the concept of a hymen as a gateway between guilt and innocence, or good ‘pure’ girls vs bad ‘sexually active’ girls is destructive and sex-negative and not healthy. And I totally agree. But that doesn’t necessarily translate into that the structure does not exist.
Just my 2 cents…
Looking forward to our next date soon!