DO NOT READ THIS ARTICLE IF YOU ARE SQUEAMISH ABOUT FEMALE BODIES AND/OR DON’T WANT TO KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT MINE AND/OR ARE MY DAD OR MY PRIMARY SCHOOL TEACHER.
All clear? Cool. Let’s talk about my hymen.
I don’t remember when my hymen broke. Which is strange, really. You’d think it would be this big life changing event – not a girl, not yet a woman type thing. All I know is, it did. I used a tampon for the first (and only) time when I was fourteen. It took me about half an hour to put it in given that I had never really even looked at my anatomy before on account of the fact that it was a) gross, and b) entirely irrelevant to me at the time. I didn’t want to be a “woman”. I wanted to be a little girl; better yet, a child. A child that didn’t have to worry about gender or sex. Alas, that wasn’t possible – more’s the pity.
As many of you probably know (though I would never presume because many of us also received shockingly poor sexual education), the hymen is an elastic membrane that surrounds the vaginal entrance (or “introitus” if you fancy). In the Olden Days, an untouched hymen was definitive proof that you were virgo intacta. Some women were even subjected to routine checks prior to, and post, their wedding night. Grim, I know – not to mention misguided, as the hymen can also be torn by activities such as horseriding, physical exercise, injury, masturbation or medical examination. This is one of the many complicating factors which make a woman’s qualification for a V Card even more ephemeral. Ain’t nothing but a membrane, after all.
WHY AM I TELLING YOU THIS? I HEAR YOU CRY!
Well, first of all, my parents taught me it was always good to share. Second of all, because whilst doing my physiotherapy exercises at home (read: internal massage which burns like the raging fires of hell), I discovered a stretch of tissue I hadn’t encountered before. Naturally, this freaked me out, given that my vagina is currently reigning Queen of Nasty Surprises. Like any millennial freaked out by her own ignorance, I turned to Google. (The things that search engine knows about me now, it really should make an honest woman out of me and put a ring on it, we’re never going back from this.) I learned that the ‘hymenal ring,’ as it’s called in the biz, is a useful term in several different fields, one of which is the study of vulvodynia, as many women experience pain in this hymenal ring. Which led me to ask – why? Why the hymenal ring? If it’s just membrane, how can it hurt?
Ladies (and unbelievably brave gentlemen who deserve a flipping MEDAL for reading this), did you know that when the hymen tears, it doesn’t disappear? And that the torn hymen can leave behind bits of torn hymen, which can be called hymenal tags (like skin tags)? AND did you know that these tags can be a source of discomfort and cause of dyspareunia (AKA painful sex)?
Which leads me to wonder… Am I having trouble with hymenal tags? (Addendum: my laptop just tried to correct that to ‘hymnal’. Bless its little heart.) Could this be a factor in my five-year-long battle with vulvodynia? Perhaps when I sustained my swimming pool injury (for explanation of what the heck I am talking about, read my previous blog entry), I could have busted my hymen in a forceful enough way that it wasn’t a totally clean break. Maybe those tags lay dormant, like some tiny angry fleshy volcano, ready to be irritated and inflamed as soon as things started making contact with them (like tampons and pessaries).
This may be a completely nonsensical theory (not least because, being the reluctant subject of many a vulval examination, why has no one spotted them, unless they are dismissed as “normal”, even if the patient’s vag feels like it’s about to burst into flames?). It’s one I’m going to run by my physiotherapist. She knows about this kind of stuff. Unlike me. Mind you, I’m not a gynaecologist, but I sure seem to help them out when they’re busy.
Wouldn’t that be fab though? If that were the issue, I mean? If I’d struck gold? Then the doctor could say, ‘Ah of course, let me give you some exercises for that,’ or, ‘Why didn’t I think of that before? Let’s chop the little blighters out!’ and my new life would begin. I could start to live all the trappings of a hymen-less life, which could include the possibility of intercourse! With a man! And his penis! Can you IMAGINE such a thing?!?
Will make sure to post an update after I see my physio on Monday…