Alexis on the Sexes: Hymen love

ALEXIS MCKINNIS , | Updated 5/7/2013

All hail the mysterious virginal membrane.

Q: I just finished reading “Memoirs of a Geisha,” and the chapters on mizuage had me horrified. What is it with the obsession with a woman’s virginity in some traditional cultures? Is there more pleasure for a man if there’s a hymen involved? Or is it about having absolute power over her reproduction? If that’s it, what’s the difference between a woman who’s a virgin and a woman who’s never been pregnant?


A: Ah yes, the mystique of the hymen. Long heralded as a symbol of purity, few know that it was also used as a token of good will, and even currency. In the 12th through 14th centuries, hymens were harvested from young girls, then dried and traded. A typical hymen with only one or two corner tears could buy one or two chickens. A pristine hymen could fetch as much as five cows or even a young farmhand. Soldiers sometimes used thick pieces of dried hymen as sustenance in war. Hymen jerky is rich in iron and vitamin D, both of which are necessary in battle.

I’m messing with you. The male obsession with the hymen is foreign to me; I’ve never heard any dudes talk about hymens nor was I sure that all females are born with them. When I lost my virginity to the captain of the baseball team the summer before senior year — hi Pete! — I sure didn’t see any blood, and I don’t recall ever riding a horse before then. Is that really a thing, by the way? Does the hymen really rip open during recreational activities?

Don’t worry, I found the answers to our questions. First, yes, all human females are indeed born with hymens. It’s a good guess that it serves the purpose of protection. The vagina is a delicate environment, and as babies, we’re not smart enough to know not to shove things up there or smush dirt into it. The hymen simply wears away as we pass through childhood because it becomes unnecessary. The bleeding some girls experience their first time is from the tearing of vaginal tissue, since most of us have no clue what we’re doing and might not be properly aroused and lubricated. Imagine being a virginal bride in ancient times: How aroused could you possibly get after being traded like cattle at age 12 to some fat, old grunt who just wants to jam his dick inside you? You’d bleed like crazy, and the hymen myth would be propagated.

I don’t think hymen-obsessed men were fixated on controlling reproduction as much as they were interested in ownership. Women were chattel for centuries, forced to drop our surnames after marriage. Some practices unfortunately live on, and wanting to see a little blood after sex might be one of them. But what do I know? I didn’t think the vocabulary of the modern male still even included the word “hymen,” and then, swear to Aphrodite, I got this question within hours of yours:


Q: How can a man make a virgin woman with an intact hymen squirt in her first sexual experience — exactly during or right after defloration?


A: Seriously, there aren’t any women walking around with intact hymens. Female ejaculate comes from the paraurethral ducts, located near the urethral opening and unconnected to the hymen or vaginal opening. Female ejaculation will almost always require stimulation of the G-spot, which is located on the anterior wall of the vagina. It also generally requires some practice, so the likelihood of getting a virgin to squirt during her first time is the stuff unrealistic, porn-inspired dreams are made of.

Ask Alexis
Alexis McKinnis is taking your questions about sex, dating and relationships. Send them to [email protected] or submit anonymously here. Don’t leave out the juicy details!