Those who know me know I'm used to sitting out on a limb when it comes to Homo sapiens sexuality concepts which are assumed to be true but are simply not supported by biological facts. Well this topic may be the tenderest (pardon the pun) limb of them all. I'm starting this discussion a step too far in for most people who've never considered this topic. I'm not going to list all the readings I did, there were hundreds, with many many hours spent at my college and municipal libraries. What I present here is merely a template for discussion, in order to distinguish between the various issues at stake.
I started inserting things in my vagina around age 7-8, back in the 70s. Not once was there any pain or blood. So failing to have any personal experience with any hymen concept, I always viewed it in the same light as god talk, NO evidence, NO GO. Of all the women I've known in my life, only 1 has attested to bleeding upon first copulation. And what the heck is first copulation anyway? You mean to say no finger (or tampon) ever went in before a penis?????? The first time I had actual sexual intercourse was just after the end of highschool, with my oh so handsome track coach. I was a little inebriated, and thought, oh, that's it?? LoL He was 2 years older than me and took charge of the action. I had no task to accomplish, which was a novelty, considering my previous sexual partners. So the years roll by and frankly, since those teenage years, I never once discussed any hymen. I was also a teaching assistant at college and university, during my biology studies, in compared anatomy and compared vertebrate anatomy, histology, and others. I led hundreds of lab dissections, in different schools, in two languages. Never once was a hymen part of the curriculum.
A few years ago, two Swedish researchers proclaimed high and loud "There is no Hymen". (I'm unable to trace that particular study at the moment) and I thought HUH??? of course there's no hymen! So I started to investigate the topic, and the first insult to intelligence was found on the hymen Wikipedia page, which shows a very old Gray's Anatomy pencil drawing of a vulva, with a little line pointing to where the "hymen" is supposedly located. The Swedish Wikipedia page has also gone through some major transformations, and you'll notice a great difference in tone, and notoriously no lead image. Three years ago, the English language Wikipedia page did mention the Swedish study, but the page has now been cleansed by religious zealouts. And we're back to the good old "membrane covering vagina" line, except it's now been modified to accommodate "partially". So I started a Wikipedia brawl, and in the process had to learn about the vagina's embryonic development, forensic analysis of rape victims, various anatomy and embryology reference manuals, and sociological implications.
In the end, I lost the debate on Wikipedia (well about 80% loss), because sometimes on Wikipedia, no matter what the truth of the matter is, no matter the references, the contributors with the most time and doggedness will prevail. Three years ago there was zero science on that hymen page, now there is at least a little science.
The hymen myth suffers from two main challenges:
1-The god myth... religious people want us to prove the hymen does NOT exist.
2-In rare instances, due to incomplete embryonic development, possibly congenital, medical anomalies, the vagina is deemed 'imperforate'.
The hymen is rationalised by the presence of blood upon first copulation. The Virgin Mary is a major component of Christianity and virginity assessment is a like an OCD for religious people.
The Wikipedia debate
Began with the "god does not exist" challenge. The drawing that is still used to show a hymen simply does not show one. So the most obvious course of action was to remove the useless outdated drawing and find a new drawing, or better yet, photograph, showing a hymen. Well, nobody could produce one, not in a healthy young girl.
Gray's anatomy in the old days had a paragraph on the hymen, with a drawing. Today's GA has a one-liner, with a vulva drawing, the same stupid drawing which does not actually show any hymen. The smallest entry in the entire book. Other anatomy manuals do no better. Upon comparing manuals one gets the distinct impression that publishers/editors just keep on repeating the same old wives' tale. In rare instances where hymen believers produce actual photographs of healthy women's vulvas (vs rare medical anomalies), they point to an unexpanded vaginal opening, and blindly state: "this is the hymen". So what we see in the picture is nothing different than any 50 y/o women's vaginal opening, in reality, it ain't open unless you open it.
In very rare instances, girls who reach puberty experience a menstrual flow problem, no flow, or only in drops, because the vagina is not sufficiently open. Various estimates for this occurrence vary from 0.1% to 0.01%
Provide the strongest case against the existence of a hymen. I spent a couple of weeks at our law library, reading various rape forensics reports. The conclusion was: EXAMINATION OF THE VAGINAL OPENING (looking for a torn hymen) OF A YOUNG RAPE VICTIM NEVER PROVIDES PROOF OF RAPE. VAGINAL EXAMINATION IS INCONCLUSIVE. Unless the vagina walls were torn in cases of "rough" rape. Otherwise, vaginal openings are variable in nature, even during infancy (yep saddly there are infants who are raped, rollseyes), that one can look at a 6 month old female infant and find a perfectly open vagina, some have vaginal tabs, some are less open. Forensic scientists specialising in rape seem to be the only scientists who've had a real good look at young vaginas, beyond gynaecologists oddly enough.
I spent less time in these, but they do provide an additional argument, without stating it outright, against the existence of a hymen in normally developed females. The vagina develops from other embryonic structures, the upper half before the lower half. In the beginning, the vagina is a complete non tubular mass of cells. In the third trimester, the cells differenciate and the canal starts to appear. At the cellular level, there is no distinction between the lower vaginal wall cells and the cells at the vaginal opening. Specifically, there are no such thing in science as hymenal cells. The cells of the vaginal tabs are also the same cells as the vaginal wall. By the time of birth, 90% of female infants have open vaginas, and the majority of the remainder will find their vagina opened by age 1.
At the beckoning of a member, I at first resisted going in to the whole debate AGAIN, because it tires me as much as debating with religious people. But after a couple of searches, I've noticed that what was considered completely outlandish only three years ago, has started to make its way into popular culture.
What we were calling vaginal tabs, or hymenal tabs, three years ago are now being addressed as the 'corona'. Scarlateen, a well known blog discussing the realities of sex now states:
Often known by the established term “hymen,” the vaginal corona is the subject of many myths and misunderstandings. The most important of these is the notion that a woman’s vaginal opening is covered by a membrane that ruptures with vaginal sex. This is incorrect. There is no such membrane.
Let us be clear, this new scientific understanding is not coming about by a single bit of 'new' evidence, it is based entirely on debunking historical false religious interpretations and imaginings of missing evidence due to religious bias among scientists. Is it possible that such ridiculous myths were started because fully developed vaginas did not get/need medical attention whereas incompletely developed vaginal openings did get medical attention and so doctors assumed they were the norm? who knows, the reason for the myth is impossible to pin down for sure.
Sexology and Repercussions for society
The perpetual misunderstanding of women's vaginas is so embedded in our society that women have been expected to bleed upon first copulation. In Quebec, covered under national healthcare, Muslim women can now get a artificial hymen manufactured from the vaginal wall tissues in order to bleed on their wedding night. Manufacturing a 'hymen' in order to bleed for your husband is no more acceptable to me than circumcision or FGM. Yet in the USA, it is a cosmetic surgery which is also gaining in popularity, not only among Muslims but among Christians as well.
Let us be clear, bleeding upon first intercourse is an uncommon occurrence, and most sexologists now attribute bleeding for normally developed women to two degrees of physical unpreparedness:
1-Lack of life preparation (chronic)
Girls raised in cultures where virginity is still valued (rollseyes) are told to hold back from sports like cycling and horseback riding, and other rough sports, in case they should "break their hymen". These girls are also told never to masturbate and to not use tampons, all of which could all 'break the hymen", as if!!! Conversely, one can easily imagine that a young girl who never opened her legs, never once spread her lips, never once poked around, never did any rough sport, yes one could imagine that she'd be slightly dysfunctional!!!!!
2-Lack of immediate preparation (acute)
Girls and boys who haven't received appropriate sex ed (whether parental, school or peers) simply do not know how to go about sex. Any un-prepped female who is inexpertly penetrated by a dry penis (or fingers) can bleed, at any age, no matter one's sexual experience. It is sensitive skin and should be treated lovingly and cherished.
As for girls who are unfortunate enough to fall into the "incomplete development' category. They have challenges, through appropriate sex ed, in order to not experience trauma at first intercourse, they need to make a an additional effort at knowing their vagina, and training the remaining encroaching corona to give way. This is the same as for boys with phymosis. If one waits until adult life to correct the situation, one will experience problems. In very rare cases where the vaginal opening is so incompletely developed as to impede menstrual flow, there is a need for medical intervention. In such girls, if penetration is attempted, and the vaginal opening is injured, there can be significant blood loss.
As we meander through the literature on this topic, of course the word hymen will retain predominance for several years. But as better un-biased knowledge is spread, the occurrence of the word will diminish.
Let's here it for the Corona! One small step for science, one giant leap for women!
Infections???? that makes as much sense as saying the religious practice of FGM/male circumcision are medical practices that reduce infection! That was written by a religious person, no matter the letters after their name.
Today's forensics analysis state that the condition of the perihymenal tissues cannot determine virginity. Unless you had a hymen that was in the category "medical anomaly" of imperforate or unopen, which places you somewhere in the p=.001 range on a Gaussian distribution, or a SD of more than 3. That is the analysis of dozens and dozens of modern forensics scientists. I can't link for you on the internet, to learn about these you need to head to your library of law and actually look at legal cases in the last decade. On the internet, most of what you'll find on the topic of virginity and science, usually comes from science within a religious context (Turk, Jew, Xtian, Islam). In this decade, vaginal examinations for rape are done out of legal obligation for looking at the "total" evidence. But perihymenal condition is normally inconclusive about penetration.
Also, 90% of neonatal vaginas are entirely open.
Now it is true that docs who are believers will see whatever they want to see, which is why being a medical doctor or a biologist while at the same time being a believer is a very noxious combination.
I am sorry you had to live through that experience, today, outside religious indoctrination, in legal cases, the ultimate assessment of rape is obtained via the child's testimony. The best you can do is change the future and encourage your daughters to explore their vaginas, to ensure that they are not some obscure taboo topic.
Luckily, scientifically speaking, our vaginas say nothing about who we are.
How would that be the same as circumcision? Or am I the only the one who fail to see a connection?
If you put a shield around the penis, that would probably shield it from direct infections but not infections from within. How could a sheet not protect the vagina from outer infections if such a sheet existed?
wow... obviously the easy of infection occurring in the vagina is also rare in your world.
With your interesting fanaticism on this topic I am not going to continue to engage.
I have a solution for you two. If you Susanne find the scientific articles you are adhering to and link them here, and you TNT find yours and also link them here, then we can all be the judges. No point in flaming if neither of you can't quote your sources. This is a serious subject.
Even if you find it ridiculous to prove you're right, to a person who you think is clearly wrong, you would still be doing a good thing. Maybe, if you show her that your sources are more credible, she will reconsider her position and join the ranks of hymen-disbelievers.
Until I get back to the US and the library here are a few references as promised in my original post. I'll send more later. Luckily science encourages challenging existing hypotheses.
Foundations of Embryology,
McGraw-Hill, Inc., New York
Patten, BM, and Carlson, BM,
"During mammalian development, the female reproductive system arises with the formation and coalescence of the Müllerian Ducts to form the Fallopian tubes, uterus, and vagina. At their posterior end, the Müllerian Ducts do not open into the urogenital sinus, but rather they form a tubercle at the presumptive opening of the vagina. During the development of the uterus and vagina, these organs are separated from the urogenital sinus by an epithelial plug which eventually thins and perforates to form the hymen.
The hymen is simply the vestigial membranes of the vagina and urogenital sinus at their point of fusion. During development of the mouth, a similar vestigial membrane occurs, called the oral plate, which ruptures as the mouth continues to form. As a vestigal organ, it is difficult to place an adaptive purpose on the hymen. The evolution of a system is the sum of positive selection, negative selection, and no selection, i.e. if a structure is not detrimental to the system, it is usually maintained, even if it serves no purpose. If there is no evolutionary pressure against incomplete fusion of the vagina and urogenital sinus, then the structure persists as a vestige of the Müllerian Ducts. ... all marsupial and placental mammals have this structure, so there is probably no specific courtship advantage to virginity, and its persistence throughout Mammalia suggests that there is no disadvantage, or it would have disappeared long ago."
Medical Hypotheses Journal
Volume 49, Issue 2, Pages 111-189 (August 1997)
Function of the human hymen
A.J. Hobday, L. Haury, P.K. Dayton
The few existing hypotheses for the function of the human hymen are weak. These are briefly reviewed, and a new hypothesis is proposed. We suggest that the appearance of the juvenile human hymen is based on 'premature' birth, following which infant helplessness and a subsequent advantage for vaginal protection from external sources of infection allowed natural selection to increase its persistence well into juvenile life.
What was the basic premise you were trying to disprove with these two articles?
After reading these articles all I can say is that they support TNT in that the first one says it's not a membrane; "...by an epithelial plug which eventually thins and perforates to form the hymen. ---", and the second one states it's an abnormality; "...We suggest that the appearance of the juvenile human hymen is based on 'premature' birth...".
I find dozens of articles referring to this as "extreme" and "abnormal". You are welcome to search the pubmed central. They have lots of full length articles (in contrast to your quoted articles which seem harder to find).
If you read the whole text you will see that TNT did write about the imperforate hymen. She refers to an article that was published in a well renowned journal called "Fertility and Sterility", you can look that up on wikipedia. There are more articles of course. I found another one on the same topic.
"Objective: Imperforate hymen is an uncommon anomaly of the reproductive tract, occurring in approximately 0.1% of newborn females --- The proband, presenting with peritonitis, was evaluated at age 12 for imperforate hymen because this condition was diagnosed in her mother at age 14. At age 14, the mother's monozygotic twin was asymptomatic except for primary amenorrhea and was also demonstrated to have imperforate hymen."
"Case. In this paper, we present spontaneous rupture of the imperforate hymen in a 13-year-old adolescent girl..."
TNT doesn't say that there are no imperforate hymens (or coronas), she clearly states it as a challenge to the myth. "2-In rare instances, due to incomplete embryonic development, possibly congenital, medical anomalies, the vagina is deemed 'imperforate'."