How The Hymen & “Virginity Testing” Myths Got Started
Last week rapper T.I. made headlines when he revealed his particularly disturbing brand of parenting. As the rapper detailed on the “Ladies Like Us” podcast, every year he accompanies his daughter Deyjah to the gynecologist to make sure her hymen is in tact and his daughter is still a virgin. Deyjah, by the way, is 18 years old.
Naturally, this admission sparked controversy for many reasons. So much so that “Ladies Like Us” even removed the original interview with T.I. in which he actually said, “I will say, as of her 18th birthday, her hymen is still intact.” This is problematic on so many levels, including the fact that Deyjah is 18 and therefore protected under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) which, among other things, means she has a right to privacy in regards to everything health-related in her life. But Deyjah’s right to privacy is just the beginning.
What Is The Hymen?
When it comes to virginity, especially related to people with vulvas, we tend to hear a lot about the hymen. Although it’s 2019, for some, the “breaking” of the hymen is what immediately takes a person with a vulva from being a virgin to being a non-virgin. But after speaking with five experts on the matter, there really is no “breaking” that goes on.
“[The hymen] is a thin mucosal membrane that surrounds or partially covers the vaginal opening,” Dr. Mary Jacobson, chief medical director at Alpha Medical, a site that helps women take control of their health care, tells Bustle. “Vaginal intercourse may stretch the hymen to make a larger opening or may cause a tiny tear (causing bleeding), but it does not actually break.”
The reason the hymen doesn’t break is because it’s not a barrier in most people. In fact, it’s only a barrier in the cases of imperforate hymens. The U.S. National Library of Medicine describes an imperforate hymen as a “blockage of the vagina” and something that can be fixed with an incision that removes the blockage, which is technically an extra membrane in the hymen. However, imperforate hymens are very rare; so rare that only 1 out of 1,000 people are born with them, according to Dr. Amy Baxter, MD FAAP FACEP, a clinical associate professor at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University.