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Encyclopedia > Hymen
Hymen shown in a drawing from Gray's Anatomy
Hymen shown in a drawing from Gray's Anatomy

The hymen (also called maidenhead) is a fold of mucous membrane which surrounds or partially covers the external vaginal opening. Its name comes from the ancient Greek for "hymenaeus," which means "vaginal-flap." It was also the name for the Greek god of marriage, later also the Greek god of membranes; "Hymenaios."[1][2] A slang term is "cherry", as in "popping one's cherry" (losing one's virginity). It forms part of the vulva, or external genitalia.[3][4] The most common formation of the hymen is crescentic or crescent-shaped, although several other formations are possible.[5] After a woman gives birth she may be left with remnants of the hymen called carunculae myrtiformes or the hymen may be completely absent.[6] An illustration from the 1918 edition Henry Grays Anatomy of the Human Body (or Grays Anatomy as it has more commonly become known) is an anatomy textbook widely regarded as a classic work on human anatomy. ... The mucous membranes (or mucosae; singular: mucosa) are linings of mostly endodermal origin, covered in epithelium, and are involved in absorption and secretion. ... The vagina, (from Latin, literally sheath or scabbard ) is the tubular tract leading from the uterus to the exterior of the body in female placental mammals and marsupials, or to the cloaca in female birds, monotremes, and some reptiles. ... Nicolas Poussin, Hymenaios Disguised as a Woman During an Offering to Priapus, 1634, São Paulo Museum of Art In Greek mythology, Hymenaios (also Hymenaeus, Hymenaues, or Hymen; Ancient Greek: ) was a god of marriage ceremonies and later also the god of membranes, inspiring feasts and song. ... For other uses, see Cherry (disambiguation). ... The vulva (from Latin, vulva, plural vulvae or vulvas; see etymology) is the region of the external genital organs of the female, including the labia majora, mons pubis, labia minora, clitoris, bulb of the vestibule, vestibule of the vagina, greater and lesser vestibular glands, and vaginal orifice. ... This article does not cite any references or sources. ... Parturition redirects here. ...


The hymen has no known anatomical function. In societies which value chastity, the greatest significance of the hymen is a traditional belief that an intact hymen indicates a state of intact virginity. However, it is not possible to confirm that a woman or post-pubescent girl is not a virgin by examining the hymen.[7]. In cases of suspected rape or sexual abuse, a detailed examination of the hymen may be carried out; however, the condition of the hymen alone is often inconclusive or open to misinterpretation, especially if the patient has reached puberty.[8] Allegory of chastity by Hans Memling. ... Virgin redirects here. ... Puberty refers to the process of physical changes by which a childs body becomes an adult body capable of reproduction. ... Bad Touch redirects here. ...

Contents

Types

There are several different formations of the hymen, some more common than others. In about 1 in 2000 females, the hymen fails to develop any opening at all:[9] this is called an imperforate hymen and if it does not spontaneously resolve itself before puberty a physician will need to make a hole in the hymen to allow menstrual fluids to escape.[10] A hymenotomy may also be required if the hymen is particularly thick or inelastic as it may interfere with sexual intercourse. The menstrual cycle is the periodic change in a womans body that occurs every month between puberty and menopause and that relates to reproduction. ... A Hymenotomy is a minor medical procedure involving the surgical removal or opening of the hymen. ... It has been suggested that Duration of sexual intercourse be merged into this article or section. ...


The shape of the hymen is easiest to observe in girls past infancy but before they reach puberty: at this time their hymen is thin and less likely to be redundant, that is to protrude or fold over on itself.[11] A human infant The word Infant derives from the Latin in-fans, meaning unable to speak. ...


When describing the shape of a hymen, a clock face is used. The 12 o'clock position is below the urethra, and 6 o'clock is towards the anus, which is based on the patient lying on her back.[12] A clock face is the part of an analog clock that tells time through the use of a fixed numbered dial or dials and moving hand or hands. ... In anatomy, the urethra (from Greek ουρήθρα - ourethra) is a tube which connects the urinary bladder to the outside of the body. ... This article is about the bodily orifice. ...


Most common forms of the hymen:

  • crescent-shaped, crescentic, or posterior rim: no hymenal tissue at the 12 o'clock position; narrow band of tissue starts at 1 or 2 o'clock going clockwise, is at its widest around 6 o'clock, and tapers off at 10 or 11 o'clock
  • annular, or circumferential: the hymen forms a ring around the vaginal opening; especially common in newborns[13]
  • redundant; sometimes sleeve-like: folds in on itself, which sometimes causes it to protrude; most common in infancy and at/following puberty due to estrogen levels;[14] can be combined with other type such as "annular and redundant"

Less common forms:

  • fimbriated or denticular: an irregular edge to the hymenal orifice; more likely at an age when estrogen is present
  • septate: the hymen has one or more bands extending across the opening
  • cribriform, or microperforate: the hymen stretches completely across the vaginal opening, but is perforated with several holes
  • labial, or vertical: hymen has an opening from the 12 to the 6 o'clock positions and can look similar to a third set of vulvar lips
  • imperforate:[15] hymen completely covers vaginal orifice; will require minor surgery if it has not corrected itself by puberty to allow menstrual fluids to escape

The hymen is torn or stretched by penetrative sex, and more so when a woman gives birth vaginally.

  • parous introitus refers to the vaginal opening which has had a baby pass through it and consequently has nothing left of its hymen but a fleshy irregular outline decorating its perimeter; these tags are called carunculae mytriformes

Hymens in other animals

These animals all have a hymen: This is an incomplete list of animals with hymens. ...

This article is about the animal. ... This article is about the herbivorous mammals. ... This article does not cite any references or sources. ... Distribution of frogs (in black) Suborders Archaeobatrachia Mesobatrachia Neobatrachia - List of Anuran families The frogness babe is an amphibian in the order Anura (meaning tail-less from Greek an-, without + oura, tail), formerly referred to as Salientia (Latin saltare, to jump). ... For the band, see Lake Trout (band). ... The Dalmatian is a breed of dog, noted for its white coat with either black or liver spots. ... The Labrador Retriever (also Labrador, Labby or Lab for short), is one of several kinds of retriever, a type of gun dog. ... Budgerigar Parakeets A parakeet is a term for any one of a large number of unrelated small to medium sized parrot species, that generally have long-tail feathers. ... Look up robin in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... Genera Periporphyrus Saltator Caryothraustes Parkerthraustes Rhodothraupis Cardinalis Pheucticus Cyanocompsa Guiraca Passerina Spiza The Cardinals or Cardinalidae are a family of passerine birds found in North and South America. ... “Chiroptera” redirects here. ... Binomial name Felis catus Linnaeus, 1758 Synonyms Felis lybica invalid junior synonym The cat (or domestic cat, house cat) is a small carnivorous mammal. ... Type species Simia troglodytes Blumenbach, 1775 distribution of Species Pan troglodytes Pan paniscus Chimpanzee, often shortened to chimp, is the common name for the two extant species of apes in the genus Pan. ... Genera Amphiprion Bloch & Schneider, 1801 Premnas Cuvier, 1816 Clownfish and anemonefish are fishes from the subfamily Amphiprioninae in the family Pomacentridae. ... Trinomial name Canis lupus familiaris The dog (Canis lupus familiaris) is a domestic subspecies of the wolf, a mammal of the Canidae family of the order Carnivora. ... Genera and Species Loxodonta Loxodonta cyclotis Loxodonta africana Elephas Elephas maximus Elephas antiquus † Elephas beyeri † Elephas celebensis † Elephas cypriotes † Elephas ekorensis † Elephas falconeri † Elephas iolensis † Elephas planifrons † Elephas platycephalus † Elephas recki † Stegodon † Mammuthus † Elephantidae (the elephants) is a family of pachyderm, and the only remaining family in the order Proboscidea... For other uses, see Llama (disambiguation). ... For the desktop presence framework, see Galago (software). ... For other uses, see Guinea pig (disambiguation). ... Binomial name Equus caballus Linnaeus, 1758 The horse (Equus caballus, sometimes seen as a subspecies of the Wild Horse, Equus ferus caballus) is a large odd-toed ungulate mammal, one of ten modern species of the genus Equus. ... Superfamilies and Families Cheirogaleoidea Cheirogaleidae Lemuroidea Lemuridae Lepilemuridae Indriidae Lemurs make up the infraorder Lemuriformes and are members of a group of primates known as prosimians. ... For other uses, see Manatee (disambiguation). ... For other uses, see Mole. ... This article is about rats. ... Families Odobenidae Otariidae Phocidae Pinnipeds (fin-feet, lit. ... Families See text. ... For other uses, see Chinchilla (disambiguation). ... For other uses, see Platypus (disambiguation). ... Binomial name Linnaeus, 1758 Narwhal range (in blue) The Narwhal (Monodon monoceros) is an Arctic species of cetacean. ... This article is about a breed of domesticated ungulates. ... Binomial name Dolichonyx oryzivorus (Linnaeus, 1758) The Bobolink, Dolichonyx oryzivorus, is a small blackbird, the only member of genus Dolichonyx. ... For other uses, see Clam (disambiguation). ... Binomial name Peromyscus maniculatus (Wagner, 1845) Peromyscus maniculatus is rodent native to North America. ... Binomial name (Schreber, 1776) Meerkat range The meerkat or suricate Suricata suricatta is a small mammal and a member of the mongoose family. ... For other uses, see Moose (disambiguation). ... A Shetland Pony A pony is any of several horse breeds with a specific conformation and temperament. ... Species 27 species; see list of rattlesnake species and subspecies. ... It has been suggested that Echolocating shrew be merged into this article or section. ... Ladybird and ladybug redirect here. ...

Development of the hymen

During the early stages of fetal development there is no opening into the vagina at all. The thin layer of tissue that covers the vagina at this time usually divides to a certain extent prior to birth, forming the hymen. That layer was the Müllerian eminence before[16], and thus, the hymen is a remnant of that structure. Fetal (U.S. English; Foetal UK English) development is the process in which a fetus (U.S. English; Foetus UK English) develops during gestation, from the times of conception until birth. ... The vagina, (from Latin, literally sheath or scabbard ) is the tubular tract leading from the uterus to the exterior of the body in female placental mammals and marsupials, or to the cloaca in female birds, monotremes, and some reptiles. ... The Müllerian ducts end in an epithelial elevation, the Müllerian eminence, on the ventral part of the cloaca between the orifices of the Wolffian ducts; at a later date they open into the cloaca in this situation. ...


In newborn babies, who are still under the influence of the mother's hormones, the hymen is thick, pale pink, and redundant (folds in on itself and may protrude). For the first two to four years of life, the infant produces hormones which continue this effect.[17] Hormone is also the NATO reporting name for the Soviet/Russian Kamov Ka-25 military helicopter. ...


By the time a girl reaches school-age, this hormonal influence has stopped and the hymen becomes thin, smooth, delicate and almost translucent. It is also very sensitive to touch; a physician who needed to swab the area would avoid the hymen and swab the outer vulval vestibule instead.[18] In optics, transparency is the property of being transparent, or allowing light to pass. ... The Vulval vestibule (or Vulvar vestibule) is a part of the vulva between the labia minora that the urethra and the vagina open into. ...


From puberty onwards the appearance of the hymen is affected once more by estrogen. It thickens and becomes pale pink, the opening is often fibriated or erratically shaped, and redundant: the hymen often appears rolled or sleeve-like.[19] Estriol. ...


There is a surgical procedure that can repair the hymen so that it is intact. The procedure, known as hymenoplasty, has become a popular procedure for some females. Hymenorrhaphy or hymen reconstruction surgery is the surgical restoration of the hymen. ...


What might damage the hymen

Picture of an undamaged hymen.

The hymen may be damaged by playing sports, using tampons, pelvic examinations or even straddle injuries.[20] For the commune of Réunion, see Le Tampon. ...


Once a girl reaches puberty, the hymen tends to become quite elastic. It is not possible to determine whether a woman uses tampons or not by examining her hymen. Sexual intercourse is one of the most common ways to damage the hymen, although in one survey only 43% of women reported bleeding the first time they had sex; which means that in the other 57% of women the hymen likely stretched enough that it didn't tear (or that bleeding was not noticed by the partners).[20][21]


It is common to damage the hymen through physical activities such as horseback riding and biking.[citation needed] In fact, biking is the most common way to rupture the hymen through physical activity.[citation needed] Contrary to popular belief, the breaking of the hymen is not necessarily an indicator of the loss of virginity. The only time a girl can no longer be considered a virgin is if penetration by another person has occurred.


Debunking myths

  • The condition of the hymen is not a reliable indicator of whether a woman past puberty has actually engaged in sexual intercourse.
  • It is generally a myth that girls are born without a hymen.[22] However, a hymen can vary in size, and, as described above, be very hard to find, even if the person never had sex before.
  • The hymen is not inside the vagina. It is part of the external genitalia.
  • In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, medical researchers have used the presence of the hymen, or lack thereof, as founding evidence of physical diseases such as "womb-fury". If not cured, womb-fury would, according to these early doctors, result in death.[23] The cure, naturally enough, was marriage, since a woman could then go about having sexual intercourse on a "normal" schedule that would stop womb-fury from killing her.

Revisionist perspectives

As early as the late sixteenth century, Ambroise Paré and Andreas Laurentius asserted to have never seen the hymen and that it was "a primitive myth, unworthy of a civilized nation like France." In late 2005, Monica Christiansson, former maternity ward nurse and Carola Eriksson, a PhD student at Umeå University announced that according to studies of medical literature and practical experience, the hymen should be considered a social and cultural myth, based on deeply rooted stereotypes of women's roles in sexual relations with men. Christiansson and Eriksson support their claims by pointing out that there are no accurate medical descriptions of what a hymen actually consists of. Statistics presented by the two state that fewer than 30% of women who have gone through puberty and have consensual intercourse bleed the first time. Christiansson has expressed an opinion that the use of the term "hymen" should be discontinued and that it should be considered an integral part of the vaginal opening.[24] Ambroise Paré. Ambroise Paré (1510 – December 20, 1590) was a French surgeon, the official royal surgeon for kings Henry II, Francis II, Charles IX and Henry III, is considered by some as one of the Fathers of Surgery. ... UmeÃ¥ University UmeÃ¥ Universitet : UmeÃ¥ University (Swedish: UmeÃ¥ universitet) is a university in UmeÃ¥ in the Midnorth of Sweden. ...


It is argued that since the hymen has been culturally constructed to be the sign of virginity, its existence plays into a political discourse that circulates around the body. By examining women's bodies for the existence of the hymen, researchers have used it to determine whether or not women are "virtuous." Sherry B. Ortner, professor at the University of Chicago, explains how "the hymen itself emerges physiologically with the development of sexual purity codes" as an element of patriarchy.[25] In some cultures it is still customary to examine a woman for her hymen before her marriage to see if she is truly fit to be married. If she is found with a broken hymen, or to have no hymen at all, often the man would not feel obligated to marry her. This has prompted some women who wish to marry within such cultures to seek surgery to restore their hymens to a socially acceptable state.[26] For other uses, see University of Chicago (disambiguation). ...


See also

Hymenorrhaphy or hymen reconstruction surgery is the surgical restoration of the hymen. ... A Hymenotomy is a minor medical procedure involving the surgical removal or opening of the hymen. ... Virgin redirects here. ...

References

  1. ^ Encyclopaedia Britannica 2004, hymen.
  2. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, Second edition. 
  3. ^ Emans, S. Jean. "Physical Examination of the Child and Adolescent" (2000) in Evaluation of the Sexually Abused Child: A Medical Textbook and Photographic Atlas, Second edition, Oxford University Press. 62
  4. ^ Perlman, Sally E.; Nakajima, Steven T. and Hertweck, S. Paige (2004). Clinical protocols in pediatric and adolescent gynecology. Parthenon, 131. 
  5. ^ Emans, S. Jean. "Physical Examination of the Child and Adolescent" (2000) in Evaluation of the Sexually Abused Child: A Medical Textbook and Photographic Atlas, Second edition, Oxford University Press. 63
  6. ^ Knight, Bernard (1997). Simpson's Forensic Medicine, 11th edition, London: Arnold, 114. 
  7. ^ Perlman, Sally E.; Nakajima, Steven T. and Hertweck, S. Paige (2004). Clinical protocols in pediatric and adolescent gynecology. Parthenon, 131. 
  8. ^ Emans, S. Jean. "Physical Examination of the Child and Adolescent" (2000) in Evaluation of the Sexually Abused Child: A Medical Textbook and Photographic Atlas, Second edition, Oxford University Press. 63-4
  9. ^ (2002) in Kurman, Robert J.: Blaustein's Pathology of the Female Genital Tract, 5th edition, New York: Springer-Verlag, 160. 
  10. ^ Chang, Lisbeth and Muram, David. (2002) "Pediatric & Adolescent Gynecology" in DeCherney, Alan H. and Nathan, Lauren. Current Obstetric & Gynecological Diagnosis & Treatment, 9th edition, McGraw-Hill, 598-602.
  11. ^ Muram, David. "Anatomical and Physiologic Changes" (2000) in Evaluation of the Sexually Abused Child: A Medical Textbook and Photographic Atlas, Second edition, Oxford University Press. 105-7.
  12. ^ Pokorny, Susan. "Anatomical Terms of Female External Genitalia" (2000) in Evaluation of the Sexually Abused Child: A Medical Textbook and Photographic Atlas, Second edition, Oxford University Press. 110.
  13. ^ Heger, Astrid; Emans, S. Jean and Muram, David (2000). Evaluation of the Sexually Abused Child: A Medical Textbook and Photographic Atlas, Second edition, Oxford University Press, 116. 
  14. ^ Pokorny, Susan. "Anatomical Terms of Female External Genitalia" (2000) in Evaluation of the Sexually Abused Child: A Medical Textbook and Photographic Atlas, Second edition, Oxford University Press. 110-1.
  15. ^ Ergun, E. "Social, Medical, and Legal Control of Female Sexuality Through Construction of Virginity in Turkey" (2006). Unpublished masters thesis, Towson University, MD, USA. Accessed 01.17.2007 at http://www.archive.org/details/ConstructionofVirginityTurkey
  16. ^ 1918 Gray's Anatomy
  17. ^ McCann, J; Rosas, A. and Boos, S. (2003) "Child and adolescent sexual assaults (childhood sexual abuse)" in Payne-James, Jason; Busuttil, Anthony and Smock, William (eds). Forensic Medicine: Clinical and Pathological Aspects, Greenwich Medical Media: London, 455.
  18. ^ McCann, J; Rosas, A. and Boos, S. (2003) "Child and adolescent sexual assaults (childhood sexual abuse)" in Payne-James, Jason; Busuttil, Anthony and Smock, William (eds). Forensic Medicine: Clinical and Pathological Aspects, Greenwich Medical Media: London, 459.
  19. ^ Heger, Astrid; Emans, S. Jean and Muram, David (2000). Evaluation of the Sexually Abused Child: A Medical Textbook and Photographic Atlas, Second edition, Oxford University Press, 116.
  20. ^ a b Emans, S. Jean. "Physical Examination of the Child and Adolescent" (2000) in Evaluation of the Sexually Abused Child: A Medical Textbook and Photographic Atlas, Second edition, Oxford University Press. 64-5
  21. ^ McCann, J; Rosas, A. and Boos, S. (2003) "Child and adolescent sexual assaults (childhood sexual abuse)" in Payne-James, Jason; Busuttil, Anthony and Smock, William (eds). Forensic Medicine: Clinical and Pathological Aspects, Greenwich Medical Media: London, 460.
  22. ^ Jenny, Carole, et al. Pediatrics, 1987 vol 80, pages 399-400)
  23. ^ The linkage between the hymen and social elements of control has been taken up in Marie Loughlin's book Hymeneutics: Interpreting Virginity on the Early Modern Stage published in 1997
  24. ^ Nerikes Allehanda's article on Christiansson's and Eriksson's research (Swedish)
  25. ^ Ortner, Sherry. "The Virgin and the State" in Feminist Studies, Vol. 4, No. 3. (Oct., 1978), pp. 19-35.
  26. ^ "In Europe, Debate Over Islam and Virginity", New York Times, June 11, 2008. Retrieved on 2008-06-13. 

... The New York Times is an internationally known daily newspaper published in New York City and distributed in the United States and many other nations worldwide. ... is the 162nd day of the year (163rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... 2008 (MMVIII) is the current year, a leap year that started on Tuesday of the Common Era (or Anno Domini), in accordance with the Gregorian calendar. ... 2008 (MMVIII) is the current year, a leap year that started on Tuesday of the Common Era (or Anno Domini), in accordance with the Gregorian calendar. ... is the 164th day of the year (165th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ...

External links

  • Hymen at Encyclopædia Britannica
  • The Female Hymen and its Significance
  • Hymen gallery - Illustrations of hymen types
  • The Hymen Revealed - by The-Clitoris.com
  • Magical Cups and Bloody Brides the historical context of virginity in a frank and easy-to-understand manner.
  • 20 Questions About Virginity - Interview with Hanne Blank, author of "Virgin: The Untouched History". Discusses relationship between hymen and concept of virginity.
  • Vaginismus-Awareness-Network Explanation of the hymen, myths on first-time sex, Hymenectomies and Vaginismus (Painful sex or Fear of Penetration)
  • Nerikes Allehanda's article on Christiansson's and Eriksson's research (Swedish)
The vagina, (from Latin, literally sheath or scabbard ) is the tubular tract leading from the uterus to the exterior of the body in female placental mammals and marsupials, or to the cloaca in female birds, monotremes, and some reptiles. ... The Bartholins glands (also called Bartholin glands or greater vestibular glands) are two glands located slightly below and to the left and right of the opening of the vagina in women. ... Bartholins ducts are a pair of ducts leading from the Bartholins glands to the surface of the vulva. ... In human anatomy, the Skenes glands (also known as the lesser vestibular, periurethral glands, or paraurethral glands[1]) are glands located on the upper wall of the vagina, around the lower end of the urethra. ... The Skenes ducts are a pair of ducts leading from the Skenes glands to the surface of the vulva, to the left and right of the urethral opening. ... Between the hymen and the frenulum of the labia is the fossa of vestibule of vagina (or fossa navicularis), while in the groove between the hymen and the labium minus, on either side, the small opening of the greater vestibular gland (Bartholin’s) can be seen. ... The fornices of the vagina are the deepest portions of the vagina, extending into the recesses created by the extension of the cervix into the vaginal space. ... The vaginal orifice is a median slit below and behind the opening of the urethra; its size varies inversely with that of the hymen. ... The Wolffian duct (also known as archinephric duct, Leydigs duct, mesonephric duct, or nephric duct) is a paired organ found in mammals including humans during embryogenesis. ... Gartners duct is a potential embryological remnant in human female development of the mesonephric ducts. ... The epoophoron , also called organ of Rosenmüller, is a remnant of the Wolffian duct that can be found next to the ovary and fallopian tube. ... The paroöphoron consists of a few scattered rudimentary tubules, best seen in the child, situated in the broad ligament between the epoöphoron and the uterus. ... The Canal of Nuck, described by Anton Nuck in 1691, is an abnormal patent pouch of peritoneum extending into the labium major of women. ... ... Female internal reproductive anatomy The urethral sponge is a spongy cushion of tissue, found in the lower genital area of women, that sits against both the pubic bone and vaginal wall, and surrounds the urethra. ...

  Results from FactBites:
 
Women's Sexual Health : Virginity & the Hymen : Discovery Health (670 words)
A hymen is the thin piece of tissue that partially blocks the entrance to the vagina.
The hymen usually does not cover the entire vaginal opening, since there must be some way for the menstrual fluid, or period, to leave the body.
The belief that since the hymen blocked the vaginal opening, it should remain intact as long as a woman did not have sexual intercourse was widely propagated, especially in cultures where a woman's virginity was highly valued.
Hymen - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (1021 words)
The hymen (or maidenhead) is a membranous tissue structure that partially or completely obstructs the vaginal opening.
The greatest significance of the hymen is a traditional belief that an intact hymen indicates a state of intact virginity, a belief which is now known to be frequently erroneous.
In a woman or girl past puberty, the general structure of the hymen can be compared to a hair scrunchie in that it is elastic and stretches open easily (for a picture of a hair scrunchie go to http://www.bishopstontrading.co.uk/catalogue/bags/xmas05scrunchieL.jpg).
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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