The hymen is a thin membrane or tissue that usually or often covers some or all of the opening to the vagina. Hymen is one of the words in Greek mythology for the god of Marriage, and has its origins in Latin and the Greek word for membrane (hymēn, humēn, according to various online dictionaries).

There are many myths about the hymen including that it “pops” or always tears or breaks and bleeds the first time people have penis-vagina sex, that an intact hymen is a symbol that someone has not had penis-vagina sex, and that every person who has a vagina has a hymen.

There are several types of hymens and some people who have a vagina are not born with a hymen. A totally closed hymen has its own issues such as inability to allow menstrual flow. The presence of a hymen is not a test for virginity, but women in some cultures are subjected to these tests and face consequences for “failing” them.

Some hymens expand and don’t disappear during penis-vagina sex, and some hymens break without sexual activity. The purpose of the hymen is still unknown.

Foreplay and lubrication offer prevention of painful intercourse if someone is worried about “popping,” “tearing” or “breaking” their hymen the first time they have penis-vagina intercourse (see SexEd.net Topics Lubrication (Lube) and Foreplay), but always consult a medical professional with any concerns as pain may be a sign of other issues.

The sourced articles below should provide more information on the hymen.

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