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“Hymen” derives from the Greek for membrane. Hymen was also the Greek god of marriage. These two facts summarize the conventional wisdom about this widely misunderstood tissue, that this fabled membrane covers the vaginal opening, and is “pierced,” “broken,” or “torn asunder” when women wed and have intercourse, presumably for the first time.

For thousands of years, many cultures have believed that “breaking” the hymen caused pain, hence the belief, still current, that women experience—in fact, should experience—pain on first intercourse. In addition, some cultures have believed that if questions arose about a young woman’s virginity, an examination could determine whether she was or wasn’t. An intact hymen demonstrated her virtue while anything else proved she’d already been deflowered. Many cultures have also believed that “piercing” the hymen caused bleeding. In these cultures, shortly after weddings, new husbands were expected to produce bloody sheets to prove they’d (1) married virgins, and (2) consummated the marriage.

There are many myths that misrepresent the widely misunderstood hymen. Here’s the truth.

The Hymen: A Membrane Widely Misunderstood

In this article:

What is the hymen?
Cultural Myths vs The Truth

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