The Hymen is a myth

We started a petition! 

Hy-men, BYE-MEN. The definition that a hymen breaks after sex must be broken. The only thing that SHOULD remain in tact is the FACTS. The dictionary definitions looming on the internet have been socially constructed by the patriarchy and not by medical facts. 

A hymen SHOULD not close or block a vagina, this is a medical concern, a normal hymen is one that is a thin moon shape at the bottom of the vaginal opening. 

A hymen has no biological purpose. It is a thin and elastic piece of skin that sits at the bottom of the vaginal opening or a membrane with no blood vessels that disappears over time during normal activities, it should not block the vagina.

So why are our dictionaries still wrong?

Oxford: a piece of skin that partly covers the opening of the vagina in women who have never had sex. 

Oxford: a membrane which partially closes the opening of the vagina and whose presence is traditionally taken to be a mark of virginity. 

Collins: A hymen is a piece of skin that covers the entrance to a girl's or woman's vagina and breaks, usually when she has sex for the first time.

The Government have released a paper that confirms a Hymen has no bearing on sexual intercourse.

We were in the middle of creating a post about the Hymen on Instagram community Va Va Womb and noticed the majority of dictionary definitions (LISTEN BELOW) of the word hymen is ​contributing to the suppression and shaming of women and people with vulvas. Changing the definition when someone googles "Hymen" is one more smaller step to bigger change. 

The definition of a hymen must be changed across worldwide dictionaries to eradicate the idea that a hymen protects a girls "virginity".

A hymen has absolutely no relation to the social construct of virginity and no relation or determination of whether or not a person has had sexual intercourse and therefore all definitions of the Hymen must reflect this. At this present moment definitions across dictionaries still reference these false meanings:

  • The hymen covers or closes the vagina - False
  • When the hymen breaks, it means someone has had sex. False
  • The hymen breaks or ruptures causing bleeding after sexual intercourse- False
  • The hymen being in tact means someone has not had sex- False
  • The hymen not being in tact means someone has lost their virginity. False 

The truth is:

  • Not all female babies are born with a hymen
  • The hymen is a thin membrane which may partially cover the vagina, but if it closes or covers it completely this a medical condition called "Imperforate Hymen" which needs attention as this could block menstrual blood and cause further complications.
  • The hymen does not have enough blood vessels to cause bleeding after sexual intercourse, bleeding would usually be from lack of lubrication.
  • Every hymen (membrane) is different, some are near enough absent and the thin membrane is a tissue surrounding the vaginal opening and others partially cover, as above any complete cover is a medical issue which is rare.
  • Hymens do not break or pop, they reduce and disappear over time and during normal activities from a young age, even if someone is not sexually active. 
  • A "normal Hymen" is in fact portrayed as one that least covers the vaginal opening.
  • A hymen should not cover the vagina

The social construct of virginity is a myth in itself, additionally controlling women and subjecting them to believe the hymen not being in tact stops them from being a "virgin", when in fact any female baby could be born without a hymen. (Sex is also not just penetration!).

Definitions of Hymen which need changing:

  • Oxford: a piece of skin that partly covers the opening of the vagina in women who have never had sex. 
  • Oxford: a membrane which partially closes the opening of the vagina and whose presence is traditionally taken to be a mark of virginity. 
  • Collins: A hymen is a piece of skin that covers the entrance to a girl's or woman's vagina and breaks, usually when she has sex for the first time.
  • Referenced in Collins: hymenin British English
    NOUNanatomya fold of mucous membrane that partly covers the entrance to the vagina and is usually ruptured when sexual intercourse takes place for the first time
  • Referenced in Collins: hymenin American English
    NOUNthe thin mucous membrane that closes part or sometimes all of the opening of the vagina; maidenhead
    Webster’s New World College Dictionary
  • a fold of mucous membrane partly closing the external orifice of the vagina in a virgin.
  •  Merriam Webster Definition of hymen
     (Entry 1 of 2)
    : a fold of mucous membrane partly closing the orifice of the vagina
  • The hymen synonyms.
    Maidenhead: The condition or quality of being a maiden; virginity
  • Webster's New World College Dictionary: The thin mucous membrane that closes part or sometimes all of the opening of the vagina; maidenhead: an intact hymen is traditionally associated with virginity.
  • THE AMERICAN HERITAGE® DICTIONARY OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE, FIFTH EDITION by the Editors of the American Heritage Dictionaries: A membranous fold of tissue that partly or completely occludes the external vaginal orifice.
  • Segen's Medical Dictionary. © 2012 Farlex hymen
     A mucosal membrane which partially blocks the vaginal introitus (opening), the integrity of which is regarded as a sign of female virginity.

More definitions: 

The linked "synonym" across all dictionary platforms is "maidenhead" and "virgin" 

This definition should have no connection with the terms and words: Virginity, Maidenhead, Virgin, Sex, Sexual intercourse. 

Descriptive words such as Covers, Closes, Occludes, Blocks, Ruptures, Break are also misinterpreting the facts. 

Help us make this small change which could educate at least one more person and contribute to the wider government changes to breaking the myth of the hymen.

Learn  more about Hymenoplasty:

Hymenoplasty and virginity testing can be intertwined as women may be subjected to surgery after failing a virginity test to adhere to the cultural belief that a woman should be a virgin upon marrying.

Hymenoplasty is driven by a cultural expectation. It is a wider indication of a very patriarchal and culturally dominant society over women. Read more about Hymenoplasty here:

See Independent Government Report released December 2021 here

The fact that Hymenoplasty does not fall within the legal FGM definitions is already being considered by the U.K. government: 

“The government therefore announced that it would convene an expert panel to:

consider the clinical, legal and ethical implications of hymenoplasty
make recommendations to the government as to whether hymenoplasty should be banned”

Hymenoplasty does not fall within the legal or diagnostic definitions of female genital mutilation (FGM).

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