The hymen is a structure that gets attention all out of proportion to its function, which is – nothing. For centuries it has been regarded as a barometer of chastity – guardian of purity – sentinel at the gates of Venus. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is possible for a woman to have sexual intercourse twenty times a day, give birth to a dozen children, and still have that flag of virtue, the hymen, waving at the vaginal portal. It all depends on the kind of hymen she is born with.
To understand the hymen’s relative position in the genital area, it helps to have a model. If one makes a circle with the thumb and finger is the hymen in its usual position. Ordinarily, during the first sexual act, the penis pushes through the hymen, tearing it in several places. Repeated intercourse continues to erode the membrane, leaving only a few shreds to mark its former position of glory. In some cases the hymen is flexible, and instead of breaking before the penile assault, it merely bends. It is forced down towards the vaginal floor and allows the penis to glide over it. At childbirth the same thing happens in reverse. The child’s head pushes the hymen outward without tearing it. A prostitute with a stretchable, if she plays her cards right, can make a fortune by surrendering her maiden state several times a night, at premium prices. Certain of the more swinging establishments in European cities make the ceremony into quite a production. It requires a man (not a regular customer) with a penchant for virgins. The lady of the houses chooses her specialist – the one with the flexible hymen – and arranges for the two to meet – at triple the going rate. The lucky couple occupies a room fitted with a dozen peepholes – admission is charged. The performance is always a sell-out to the men (and ladies) who enjoy this kind of thing. Accompanied by appropriate shrieks and squeals, the ravisher has his way. Virginity loses again. Thirty minutes later, after a hot bath and a little massage, the hymen is back in position ready to do its bit keeping its mistress in the upper tax brackets. Now a question arises – what about the bleeding when the hymen is really broken? And the answer is yes. But the professional virgins also bleed. Careful analysis might reveal that an hour earlier the blood flowed in the veins of a chicken, but then most customers are not interested in probing that deeply.
In the Eastern world, the hymen is a big deal. It is considered the symbol of virginity and for some explained reason most normal males want to make love with a virgin. In some community, a newly married couple’s bed sheet is always white for the first three weeks to make sure the new bride was a virgin before marriage. During the period of virginity test, every morning, the husband checks the bed sheet. I think I don’t have to tell you how he finds out whether his wife was a virgin or not.
But an intact hymen is not a reliable indicator of virginity. And a tattered or absent hymen doesn’t mean the young lady has dispensed her favors freely. Some women just don’t have much of a hymen. Others lose what they had by vigorous exercise. Sliding down poles and climbing trees are not exactly designed to keep a tiny tab of delicate tissue in place. Another old enemy of the vaginal gatekeeper is masturbation. Introducing a finger into the vagina is tough on any hymen. The vaginal tampon to absorb menstrual flow, is also an easy way to say goodbye to this fragile membrane. The only reliable sign of a virgin vagina is what the doctors call an imperforate hymen, and they are rarely seen by anyone but doctors. This type of hymen closes off the vaginal entrance completely. It is rarely noticed until menstruation begins – more precisely, does not begin. Usually if a girl does not start to menstruate by the age of sixteen or so, her mother becomes anxious and takes her to the doctor. After a quick glance at the vaginal orifice he makes the diagnosis. The opening is completely sealed off by a bulging hymen. Actual menstruation may have begun six months ago but instead of draining to the outside, the fluid has backed up into the vagina. A few nicks with the scalpel and the problem disappear. So does the hymen.