Thursday, June 16, 2011

Hymens

I'm pretty sure I broke my hymen with the dilators.

I'll ask the lady when I go to my next appointment, but I'm pretty sure.
And it didn't hurt.
And I'm furious.

Because now I understand why I got vaginismus. It did have a psychological factor. It was a psychological factor caused by poor instruction by kallah teachers and gynecologists alike.

It came from the following erroneous descriptions: flap of skin and breaking the hymen.

The hymen is not a flap of skin. Neither does one break through it.

The hymen is, in fact, a ring of skin/ tissue around the vaginal opening (which already exists). When a man's penis enters you, he is simply widening or otherwise stretching the opening. In doing this, he may tear it slightly so that your once perfectly circular opening now has a bit of a jagged appearance. But it doesn't hurt and it's nothing like the ordeal that I thought I would have to face.

You see, when people told me the hymen was a flap of skin or a flap of tissue, I literally believed it WAS a flap.

So I pictured a little square of tissue, kind of like flesh-colored saran wrap but a bit thicker. It was tacked over my vaginal opening, attached on top and attached on bottom. It wasn't attached on the sides, which is how my menstrual blood could leak out. And when I was told my husband would break my hymen, I literally pictured him powering through this supposed "flap" of skin or tissue with his penis, using a lot of force in order to break it. It'd be like piercing an earlobe with a needle, except he'd be piercing my hymen with his penis. And just like you bleed when the earlobe is pierced, I figured I'd bleed after he'd ripped through the flap.

Is it any wonder that I would seize up in totally terrified fear and pain when my husband would try to penetrate me? I had incredibly frightening thoughts of him having to pummel through my hymen at high speed in order to get up the necessary force to smash through and rip that tissue away. That flap of skin haunted my dreams.

Try as I might, I couldn't find it, though. I saw the opening, I felt the pain but I didn't see the "flap." So I just figured it must be somewhere deeper down than I could see. I also thought this more recently, when I was able to put my finger inside. I figured I can fit my finger in but I'm still a virgin, I guess that flap of skin must just be further down still (it's kind of funny in retrospect, I sort of conflated the hymen with the cervix). My gynecologist (the first one I saw, the one who made me feel like a freak) just added to my fear when she told me that it's better if the husband just bams on through because it's easier on the girls that way.

Please tell me: why in God's name do we use misnomers like "flaps" of skin or tissue or "breaking" through the hymen when that is simply not what happens?

There's a ring of tissue around the vaginal opening. That ring is the hymen. When the penis penetrates, it widens and sometimes tears that ring, causing the opening to now look a bit more jagged. The End. Not scary at all.

But instead I wasted a year and a half of my life being terrified with that terror just being added to by the gynos and first therapist I saw.

I found these pictures online of the hymen in different stages (as a virgin, when one has had some sexual activity, when one has had a child etc) and they're really helpful in terms of demonstrating how the hymen is a ring, not a flap.

Maybe I'm the only one who took what I was told really literally and envisioned a real flap of skin. Maybe I'm just particularly stupid. But I don't think it helps anyone when the educators themselves are using misnomers and erroneous terms that lead people to get a really wrong idea about stuff.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

So that's why it was less painful after the first kid!

Anonymous said...

That is why you shouldn't take what they say at face value. God has given all of us intellect, so we've to take the means to comprehend aspects. Maybe this will help you realize not to always take people's opinions, and not understand yourself first.

Janet said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Janet said...

I don't know why the above commenter is criticizing you. Your understanding seems perfectly logical to me. I've been quoted in national media on sexual initiation, but I've never needed to know the anatomy and I had absolutely no idea what the hymen looked like until reading your post.

Jenny said...

I'm a little horrified that I'm an almost 43-year-old married woman (with two kids!), and I NEVER KNEW THIS! I always imagined it just like you described, as a flap completely covering the area. And I had a public school education with a sex ed class, a very open mom, and access to a lot of books. Wow! Thanks for sharing this!

Boxed Whine said...

I have read Our Bodies, Our Selves and I did not know this!

Anonymous said...

I also thought it was a flap of skin and wondered how menstrual blood got through.

Anonymous said...

How could you have possibly believed it completely covered your vaginal opening when menses passes through it? How could that have logically made sense? If it was a sealed flap then why would you have to progressively increase dilator side?

You've watched porn but you had not looked at pictures of hymens until this point?

Commenter Abbi said...

You mentioned this in one of your first posts. When I responded mentioning your fear regarding sex, you insisted you weren't afraid of sex and you had very positive feelings. But clearly, you had some fears, at least with regards to the hymen. It's good you came to this realization on your own.

Abandoning Eden said...

hey glad to hear you had a break through! (literally and mentally lol!). :)

And by the way I never knew that it wasn't a 'flap' either, and that's how I always pictured it too, crazy! And I do professional research on sex and fertility...so I think you aren't the only person who had that misconception.

so have you tried to have sex since breaking your hymen and figuring out that it's not a flap? (Or are you a niddah now or something?) Do you think you will be more relaxed now with this knowledge?

Soul Comfort said...

Well, I did know that it wasn't a "flap" because I knew that I went through menstruation.
However, although my first night wasn't painful at all, I did bleed a LOT. (and I mean a lot! - it went through two pillows!) So I guess something does tear.
(I did not write this to scare you. As I said, it wasn't painful. I was just shocked that nobody had told me how much blood there would be)

Anonymous said...

To the naysayers and ne'er-do-wells, I think this happens a lot throughout history whenever scientific information becomes mainstream. How could we have not seen it? How could our fears or misconceptions have been so irrational? But thankfully, the process of collective discovery and awareness always have, and will always continue to, change our collective mindset. I had similar misconceptions, but I have simply no defense for why I didn't work it through logically. Just like I can't understand why, when I was a kid, I really never did wonder where babies came from (before Mommy's tummy) until someone raised the question.

Anonymous said...

oh my goodness, i have been in fear of it for years, i am married almost 2 years and we have tried having sex but i freeze with fear about him popping a thick bit of skin-so i thought the hymen was, now i went and looked down there and i COMPLETELY understand what it is now, i can even see the hymen! its so annoying and ridiculous that people say its a thin piece of skin covering the entrance, cant they just say it is THE entrance just not having big things go up there!!! i thought it was weird when i tried putting my finger up and it went and i didnt feel any hymen! pff im so mad right now! thankfully im going on holiday today, hopefully i will get on with sex and not feel like an unsexy, dumb-about-sex woman!!! thank u so much for this!!!!

Anonymous said...

I found a link for your blog from a comment, after reading a web article about how republicans in Utah are trying to give pass a bill that will give school administrators the right to decide whether or not the schools can teach sex education, or choose to teach "abstinence."

I am a full supporter of sex ed. I think teenagers should be given all of the information about anatomy, intercourse, diseases, and parenthood. Otherwise, we end up with half the information, and misconceptions on the rest.

I sadly admit I too thought the hymen was a flap of skin that was covering my vaginal opening. When I was younger, I didn't use tampons, thinking the pain it would cause to pierce through the hymen was not worth using them. It never occurred to me that I should take a mirror and look for myself.

My first sexual experiences were horrible. It took 4 times before "my cherry was popped," and each time I had intercourse before then, I wondered what all of the excitement was about. How could anything be so enjoyable with the amount of pain I was in? By the 4th time, I realized I wasn't in pain anymore, but that it started to feel good, which was when my hymen "popped."

I started reading your blog in chronological order, and haven't reached your most recent entries yet, so I don't know where you are in this journey. Good luck, I hope it all works out.

Aurie said...

Thank you so much for the link to the illustrations. Even with in-depth biology and anatomy lessons,and sexual experience (both alone and with a partner), no one has ever illustrated to me that the hymen isn't a Saran wrap type cover, I too always pictured it this way. With this mental image of a hymen, I couldn't understand how a woman's hymen could be stretched enough to allow penetration. That idea brought about thoughts of a seal of skin stretching to the length of a condom. Knowing now that it is merely a ring around the rim of the vagina makes so much more sense. It also explains how women who do a lot of physical activities, like sports or horseback riding, can "tear" their hymens with no penetration at all. Thank you so much for clarifying this! It also saddens me to think of the women and girls who were murdered or tortured because someone declared them to not be virgins and somehow worthless.