If my hymen broke from an activity other than sex, am I still considered a virgin?
Thank you for writing in to SexInfo! We would urge you not to place too much importance on the concept of virginity or an intact hymen. Other than penile-vaginal intercourse, the hymen can tear from inserting tampons, masturbating, or participating in strenuous physical activities like gymnastics or horseback riding. Therefore, the presence of (or lack thereof) an intact hymen is an extremely unreliable indicator of virginity. Females also feel differing levels of pain when (or if) their hymens tear. Some females bleed and feel considerable pain; other females may not even notice when their hymens tear because they do not bleed or feel any pain.
Please know, whether your hymen is broken or not, that it is up to YOU (and no one else) to decide if you are or are not a virgin. Many cultures attribute a heavy amount of significance to the hymen as a determinant of virginity, but this significance is socially and culturally constructed. The hymen is a tiny layer of skin that exists to serve a specific biological purpose: to protect the vaginal opening (introitus) and the area around the opening during a female’s developing years. Any other relevance symbolically attached to the hymen over the course of mankind are purely conceptual and culturally produced. Some cultures have traditionally assessed the state of a female’s hymen to determine her “worth” in terms of marriageability, because virginity (and a supposed intact hymen) has become synonymous with purity and fidelity. These misleading myths about the intact hymen fail to recognize that many females who have never engaged in sexual intercourse do not have intact hymens. Similarly, sexually active females may still have intact hymens, possibly because their hymens are elastic enough to avoid tearing during sex or because they do not practice penile-vaginal intercourse.
Some religions have ceremonies in which a female is able to reclaim her virginity, so if you are affiliated with a religious institution of any kind, you may be interested in pursuing this option. If this option is not available to you, hymen reconstruction surgery (Hymenoplasty) does exist, but we do not recommend that you pursue it as a solution without fully assessing your situation. You may choose to undergo hymen reconstruction if you feel that it is something you truly want for yourself, but please do not feel like you need to have surgery to be worthwhile or valuable as a female. The condition of your hymen or your status as a virgin/non-virgin does not define who you are as a person. Virginity is a personal decision, not a physical assessment of one’s body. We hope that this response was helpful and urge you to write in with any more questions that may arise!
If you would like to read our article on the cultural significance of an intact hymen, please click here.
If you would like to learn how to view your hymen (and whether or not it is intact), please click here.