Where is the hymen really?? (not graphic)First of all, the hymen is a membrane which is located OUTSIDE your vagina, where it can be seen quite easily with a mirror.
If you have never looked at your hymen before, the following is the best metaphor we could think of to help you understand it.
1. Imagine some cling film or kitchen foil. Now imagine wrapping a bit of that on the top of a long tube, to cover it.. (A bit like the thing you find on the top of a Pringles' tube, when you remove the cap!).
That’s your hymen standing at the entrance of your vagina.
Some women believe it’s inside the vagina but it’s actually right on the outside, it is what COVERS the vaginal opening, but NOT completely!
Basically, the hymen is a membrane with one little hole in the centre or few tiny holes all around it, which let fluids out, like blood for instance, when you have your period.
It also can be quite flexible so if you put something really small like a finger or q-tip or small tampon through it, it should get inside no problem without pain or tearing.
The actual shape of hymens can vary. As we described above, it could be a film covering the whole vaginal opening, with a few little holes here and there (CRIBRIFORM).
It can be shaped like a ring around the vaginal opening with a little round hole in the centre which lets blood out and which expands with gradual stretching(ANULAR).
It can have bands extending across the opening (SEPTATE).
Or it can be completely covering the vaginal opening, with no space whatsoever or very tiny, but this one is extremely rare in adolescent and adult women and it's called IMPERFORATE and often needs a small operation to cut it. More about this later.
So everyone's hymen (except for rare imperforate ones) will have at least one or many tiny cuts and that’s how menstrual blood will be able to get through and out or a finger in. In most cases, instead of many tiny cuts, the hymen will have one tiny little hole and that’s why for most virgin girls it is possible to insert a small tampon without any pain.
2. Now imagine taking a small cotton-bud and piercing through one of the little cuts/holes in the cling film and then stretch the sides by gently and slowly moving the cotton-bud right to left for a while.
That’s how your hymen can slowly pull apart and disappear in time!
3. If instead of gradual stretching, you should pierce the initial tiny cuts or small hole with a big object, then of course the whole foil would tear and since we’re actually talking skin and nerves here, there would be pain and/or blood. But that’s NOT how things are supposed to go.
Hymen pictures and drawings
Now, pictures of hymens can be quite messy, it is not easy to understand where they are, plus everyone is different and you may only get to see one kind or the picture could just be quite confusing cause we all have different vaginas AND different hymens configurations too.
SO, drawings are a better choice, though a bit less realistic.
If you want to look at drawings of hymens (both intact and stretched or totally gone), we recommend clicking on a link that will take you directly to very clearly illustrated Hymen Drawings Gallery, BUT, if you don't feel comfortable yet, keep reading first and then maybe get back to them.
Illustrations of the hymen in various statesThis shows the names of the parts of the vulva. The rest of the illustrations do not have labels.
This is a perfect annular hymen. It is called annular because the hymen forms a ring around the vaginal opening. As the hymen starts to erode from sexual or other activity, the hymen becomes less ring-like.
This is a crescentic, or lunar, hymen. It forms a crescent shape, like a half moon, above or (as in this case) below the vaginal opening.
The hymen of a female with some sexual or masturbatory (internal) experience is apt to look something like this. Note that it is much less ring-like than the annular hymen.
This is what the hymen of a female who has only had a small amount of sexual activity or object insertion would look like. Health professionals who examine hymens for signs of sexual abuse are usually most interested in the posterior part of the hymen, from the 3 o'clock to 9 o'clock position. This is normally where the hymen breaks when the vagina is first penetrated.
This is the vulva of a woman who has given birth. The hymen is completely gone, or nearly so.
One in 2000 girls is born with an imperforate hymen. A doctor will do surgery to create a hole in the hymen of such a newborn.
This is a rare cribriform hymen, characterized by many small holes. This type of hymen lets menstrual and other fluids out with no problem, but sexual activity and the insertion of tampons can be problematic.
This is a rare denticular hymen, so called because it looks like a set of teeth surrounding the vaginal opening.
This is a rare fimbriated hymen, with an irregular pattern around the vaginal opening.
This rare labial hymen looks like a third set of vulvar lips.
Some girls are born with only a tiny hole in their hymens. Surgery is also necessary for these newborns to create a larger vaginal opening.
This rarity is called a septate hymen because of the piece of hymen that makes a septum, or bridge, across the vaginal opening.
This is the rare subseptate hymen, similar to the septate hymen only not making a bridge all the way across. Doesn't this remind you of the view into your throat with the uvula hanging down?
On painful first-time sex and the 'myths' of horror stories
First-time sex should not be painful
Hymens are not supposed to break…
and not all are supposed to bleed...
We do not believe that nature or God or the Goddess created us women with such faulty bodies that half of the things which should come natural to us, such as first-time sex or menstruation etc, are often painful instead.
We suspect that men's ignorance and intolerance unfortunately brought a lot of unnecessary and unnatural pain to us and one is the pain a lot of girls still go through the first time they have sex.
It is believed by many women and men that hymens will HAVE TO ‘break’ during first-time sex and that pain and/blood will be a common experience.
Now, we are NOT saying that it is a myth that for many young girls first-time sex will be a horror story and painful experience with blood, pain and discomfort. We know that those myths aren't myths at all. Unfortunately painful first-time sex does happen, those horror stories aren't fiction, they are vivid recollections of a traumatic experience.
And it happens way too often than it should.
So that is not the myth we are referring to in our title. What is a myth is that this HAS to happen.
What we are saying is that it is NOT natural at all for things to go that way...
THINGS SHOULD NOT GO THAT WAY.
The myth is the wrong belief that some young girls hold, that it will be up to chance or luck only whether or not their first time sex will be painful or not, and whether or not their hymen will break bloodlessly or not break at all.
It is not up to luck! Or it shouldn't be..!
That is the myth we are trying hard to break..
So the truth (compared to the myth) is that:
IF there was better information about first-time sex NOT having to hurt
IF there was more information for girls on how to stretch a hymen painlessly
IF boys were raised differently about sex and STOPPED thrusting as soon as things got discomfortable or painful for the girl they are having sex with for the first time
IF more women were taught about their hymen
If there was more information on vaginismus
then sex would NOT be a horror story or a painful experience the first time EVER.
Of course some women will experience a little pain, no matter what, and many will feel a twinge. It is, after all, a pretty big physical adjustment. But we should distinguish between feeling a little soreness or feelings of "stretching" and real pain. It should not be excruciating.
Beware of those who say you HAVE TO put up with some of it. There is NO reason you should put up with ANY pain!
Or is there? Why would you want to put up with pain or a man want you to put up with pain?
Ask yourself if you are under any pressure there and how you feel about it. If you were the man, would you want your partner to experience a lot of pain during your first sexual encounter ?
Plus, it could and does cause vaginismus to put up with pain during sex ( first time or not), so why risk it...?
We believe that no partner who is there with you should have you put up with any pain if he's a 'real man' (whatever that means..) and that you shouldn't just put up with him to show him you're a woman either. If there is pain, the boy/man should stop. Period. It means you are not ready yet evidently..
Plus, if there is pain, there may be other issues which again shouldn't be ignored. For instance:
the woman isn't lubricated enough her first time? Well, there's no reason that needs to happen. If she doesn't lubricate enough naturally there are artificial lubes which work just as well. If she isn't lubricated enough because she isn't aroused enough, well, then why is she having sex at all?
Sex is not a rite of passage or certainly shouldn't be.
Sex doesn't turn a girl into a woman or a boy into a man, how could it ?
Love probably does... Compassion, empathy, responsibility, consciousness, knowledge.. Not intercourse..
How to avoid painful first-time sex and the truth on 'breaking the hymen'Now, one one way to avoid this is simply that of stretching the hymen yourself (or with the help of your partner) little by little, until it’s all gone.
It doesn't mean you have to use dilators, your hands or your partners' hands can be all that you need and it can be a beautiful, gentle, loving, erotic experience for both of you too.
Now, for some young girls, the idea of using a dilator or even her finger to stretch her hymen will sound unappealing.. But why? why not try using a dilator before you have sex for the first time? It's your vagina, why shouldn't you explore it in as many ways as possible before you share it with a partner? If it were ever suggested that a boy should keep a part of his body completely mysterious to himself and unexplored until his first sexual encounter with a woman, because it was a "rite of passage", it would be rightfully treated as backward nonsense.
Many girls would be uncomfortable about the idea of experimenting with any kind of penetration before intercourse, and many will be terribly afraid of no longer having a hymen because their whole reputation is based on whether or not they are virgins and marriagable in some countries, but that's because they've been raised to view their bodies as something they need to keep untouched for a man, which is what all these notions of "purity" and "virginity" are really about.
But a woman's body belongs to the woman!
She can and should be encouraged to explore it on her own terms. We are repulsed by the idea that first-time sex should be about "gritting your teeth" and bearing it, and until more people start seeing the flaws in this type of thinking and start teaching girls properly, it's going to keep on being about that.
As we have seen, there are a lot of misconceptions and much ignorance about the hymen and this can understandably become a cause of primary vaginismus because the muscles around the vagina will in fact clamp anticipating a painful first insertion. So if you heard horror stories about first-time sex, we hope reading this and the following links will reassure you and this may prevent vaginismus, so spread the good news! :)
Hopefully the next explanations and advice will help you clarify some doubts.
If not, but you may find the pictures too graphic there, so you are warned.
Ok, here we go:
There is wide range of experiences among women with their hymens so there could be exceptions to the following general descriptions.
In general, most hymens can be gently and gradually stretched with dilators or fingers until they (painlessly) widen. A lot of women find that their hymens pull apart so easily that they don't even notice it happening. No blood and no pain whatsoever…
If you gently stretch it yourself, a little bit at a time, (over days or weeks too, not necessarily in one session!) and if you do it with your smallest finger or your partner's smallest finger, you won’t even notice how it disappears. It's not dramatic at all and shouldn’t be. It's a gradual process.
If you're in control of the stretching, it can be done very gently.
Other hymens may be a bit thicker instead and when they pull apart, sometimes you may experience a tiny, sharp pain and you may see a tiny drop of blood coming out but very small numbers of women bleed more than that. If you stretch gently and constantly, bleeding is not at all common (but if it should happen, don’t worry, it happens to some).
The myth that hymens will break and that it will be very painful and bloody is certainly one of the causes of primary vaginismus for many young girls, so if we want to prevent vaginismus from happening to women in the future generations, or to avoid many future hymenectomies or painful first sexual experiences, we can help them by spreading the truth about hymens and teach our daughters, sisters, best friends etc. how they can stretch their own hymen painlessly over time.
It can be a beautiful empowering experience.
Boys too will need to hear that girls’ hymens are not made for them to break them… They are fine the way they are and already have 'holes'. They will just need to help their partners dilate gradually with a clean finger, (cut the nails!) to the point the woman is comfortable with inserting a penis, but for NO reason they should think that it WILL take a bit of ‘aggression’ and some tearing or that that's the NORMAL thing to happen or that the young woman will HAVE TO put up with some pain.
Again: we think there is NO reason you should put up with any pain at your first sexual experience!
Too many young lads grow up thinking that’s what’s supposed to happen… Only an inexperienced, rough boy coupled with a girl who does not know much about her hymen or who has a pretty thick one would make for a painful first time sexual experience.
With more knowledge and more compassion, thankfully in the future women won’t have to be afraid of their first time anymore or have terribly shocking first wedding nights...
Hymens, Hymenectomies and VaginismusFor most women, hymens are perfectly fine the way they are and will not be the cause of vaginismus nor the obstacle to having painfree i/c or to dilate.
It is very rare for hymens to be totally closed (imperforated hymen) and that is usually detected very early on in life, cause it leads to an inability to menstruate. Estimates of an imperforated hymen frequency vary from 1 case per 1000 population to 1 case per 10,000 population.
So if you menstruate or have managed to insert a tampon or finger or anything in your vagina at least once, it is very unlikely that your hymen will need to be surgically opened, as you clearly have some kind of space there, so it may just need a bit of stretching instead, rather than an operation.
We found in our experience that gynecologists seem too eager to cut every hymen that's even a little bit problematic and they may not tell you that by no means is the surgery an instant cure for vaginismus. Also, the surgery isn't exactly comfortable, so you may associate pain with your genitals, which can complicate matters more.
There are a lot of misunderstandings about hymens and these can have caused you a lot of anxiety and lead you to require or accept a hymenectomy without careful considerations.
For instance, you may be terrified of tearing the hymen yourself, you may fear that it could be so painful that you would not be able to stand it. So with the hymen gone, you may think you’ll be able to insert dilators and a penis without that extra fear. But remember that even with the hymen out of the way, you will still have the PC muscle to contend with. Unlike the hymen, these muscles are located inside the vagina, about an inch or two around the vaginal entrance. They can still clamp in anticipation of pain so you will still need to gently retrain them in most cases, by gradual dilating,.
So, before deciding whether or not to go through with a hymenectomy, just make sure you don’t have the wrong expectations. We suggest you get to check the section on the Vulvar Anatomy too, that's very important to get comfortable with the whole area, so you will get to know your hymen well first and then see if it can really just need a little help from you.
Clues that you may really benefit from a hymenectomy to solve vaginismus
Remember: in MOST cases, a hymenectomy does not really seem necessary and we heard from many women with vag. who after that operation still had problems inserting dilators or having sex. As we explained, that's because the muscles could still clamp. However:
*If you have no fear or anxiety regarding sex and penetration and you feel as relaxed as can be during foreplay, yet you or your partner can’t get past the hymen, maybe your hymen may indeed be more to blame than your muscles, so a hymenectomy could be a good idea.
**If you are an athlete, you may have a hymen ‘band’ , basically you will have a regular small hole in your hymen, but the rest of the hymeneal skin around it may have become inelastic and quite rigid and you may find it impossible to insert a tampon.
**If you or your gynaecologist could not insert a q-tip, during her/his attempts at examination, or if that hurt a lot, and if they diagnosed you with “introitus-stenosis”, then you may benefit from this operation.
***But the best deciding factor is probably the level of pain you feel. If your hymen is really tender, thick and painful when you try to insert the smallest dilator or finger in it, or when you try stretching it, then it wouldn't be so good to put yourself through a lot of agony.
So you may first give yourself some time to think about it and in the meantime you could try and see if your hymen will slowly pull apart with some gentle stretching..
If you still believe that the surgery would be helpful to you, and if you are aware of the expectations you may have about it, then go for it by all means but remember that it’s not an immediate treatment for vaginismus.
Also, since any surgery with anaesthesia is not to be taken lightly, we advise you to first get a second opinion.