It is a truth universally acknowledged, that the hymen is a partial barrier somewhere, you know, up there, that, er, must be broken when the woman loses her &c.
For a couple of entirely unrelated reasons I have been thinking lately about hymens and the deflowering of virgin maids. (For women are as roses, whose fair flower / Being once display’d, doth fall that very hour.)
I am a man, and it’s a well known fact that men (1) know nothing about women’s bodies, and (2) don’t want to read the instructions or ask for directions. Therefore, despite sex ed classes at school and a healthy curiosity about all things sexual, I must confess to being extremely vague about the hymen until yesterday.
At History Hoydens there’s a blog post by Kalen Hughes – Anatomy 101: The Hymen (revisited) – and the comments make for interesting reading.
Kalen Hughes said…
I’m just amazed by descriptions of intercourse where the guy is already partially inside her and THEN figures out somehow that she’s a virgin and “breaks” her hymen. WTF? Dude, if it needed breaking, you already broke it.
What the comments reveal is that it’s not just men who are clueless about the hymen, many women are just as ignorant, for example (one of many):
Honestly, I just heard this part about the positioning of the hymen last year. LAST YEAR!
(Maybe the original instructions were written in Japanese and translated using a pocket dictionary?)
Okay, so, if it’s not in the vaginal canal, where is it? What does it even look like?
Over to the experts. At HealthyStrokes.com there is a page with illustrations of the hymen in various states.
Oh! Ohh… Er.
And sometimes there is no hole at all? But what about menstruation? Is it possible that in centuries past girls may have actually died from having a hymen a little too intact? Do we know anything about the treatment of this in times past? Well, a little: see Scott’s A Woefully Incomplete History of the Treatment of Imperforate Hymen, which includes this:
The 1901 edition of Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine by George M. Gould and Walter L. Pyle there is a fair amount of discussion of cases where pregnancy occurred despite the fact that the hymen was not ruptured. Additionally, there are examples of women who gave birth without rupturing the hymen.
Gave birth without rup-
Hold on, I thought that was the whole point of checking for blood on a wedding night, because, well, you know…
Sigh… What have I learned in the past twenty four hours? That anyone who argues against sex education in schools really needs to get some themselves.