Where is the Hymen?

5 years ago

I thought we'd gone over this in the past few years enough times that folks knew this information already. But it seems like we need a review because authors still don't seem to know where the hell the hymen is.

It is NOT up the vaginal canal by a few inches. It is not internal. It is EXTERNAL.

"Behind a curtain" via Shutterstock.

Here is a professor of anatomy, someone whose JOB it is to KNOW the HUMAN BODY, who has an advanced degree or two in Where Things Are In or On Your Body:

I have a long standing smart bitch bitch with writers who have no idea where the hymen is located. This is amazing to me, as most romance authors are female and should have a better knowledge of their own anatomy.

Some have it placed correctly and as the act BEGINS, the virgin feels stretching and pain. The hymen, if present, is a curtain or ring of tissue at the entrance of the vagina. This is how the British medical people could verify by sight, that the intended royal bride was a virgin.

It is not, as some authors repeatedly write in book after book, located somewhere in the middle of the vagina, causing discomfort halfway through depth of penetration during the act.

How, oh how, can we make writers aware so I don't end up throwing books across the room and screaming out loud????

-- JL, Disgruntled Romance Reader and Anatomy Professor

Let's talk about it scientifically. The hymen is a "membrane that surrounds or partially covers the EXTERNAL VAGINAL OPENING."

Even Lance Goddam Armstrong's LIVESTRONG website knows this: "A common misconception about the hymen is that it is inside the vagina. It is actually a mucous membrane that is part of the vulva, the external genital organs."

How is it that freaking LIVESTRONG can get this right, and we can't? I am so baffled why this anatomical fallacy remains part of the genre. You'd think we'd know all this by now but NO. I get scenes like this one:

He guided himself into the slick heat between her thighs. But despite her apparent readiness, his entry wasn't easy. He gritted his teeth and fisted his hands in the quilt, forcing himself to go slow, to give her time to adjust to his size. His muscles ached with the effort of holding back and his heart pounded against his ribs as he inched a little farther, swallowing her soft sighs of acceptance, of pleasure.

He frowned when he felt an unexpected resistance, but before he could begin to comprehend what it might mean, her legs lifted to lock behind his hips, pulling him deeper so that he pushed through the barrier of her innocence.

from Royal Holiday Bride by Brenda Harlen

He inches along, like you do, and feels some barrier? COME ON NOW. He wouldn't be able to inch into anything, much less feel a barrier of any sort once he was partially in because…


Say it with me here. IT IS OUTSIDE THE BODY.

(Also: not only did this scene follow with the obligatory "If I'd known you were a virgin I'd have done it differently" scene, but the hero says that he "should have realized" [because virginity has a scent?] AND that he "had a right to know." ON WHAT GODDAM PLANET is her sexual experience within his rights of knowledge or any of his business at all?)

Anyway, back to the hymen.

I think I need to tell everyone again where it is.

It is not up the canal by any means! It's not a portcullis halfway to the cervix! It's not a barrier up the valley, a logjam obstructing the path of the river of love, a dam in the reservoir of passion. IT IS NOT INSIDE ANYTHING.


I don't know why this myth is allowed to propagate but it does, like binder clips in a desk drawer. DON'T MAKE ME START POSTING PICTURES, PEOPLE. Neither of us wants that. I've read one of these scenes every time there's a virgin becoming devirginized, and it has to stop. There's too many. This has to stop. It's ridiculous. It's embarrassing. It's biologically incorrect, and insulting to boot. If romance is supposed to depict the female experience in every variety, and if we are supposed to believe these are, you know, HUMANS, everyone needs to quit getting basic biology so very, very wrong.

I think I'm going to start tagging books I read and review with the words "does not know where hymen is" to create a record of which books contain this biological inaccuracy.

What about you? Have you read a scene like this recently?

Sarah blogs and creates shenanigans at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, where this post first appeared.

This is an article written by one of the incredible members of the SheKnows Community. The SheKnows editorial team has not edited, vetted or endorsed the content of this post. Want to join our amazing community and share your own story? Sign up here.

More from health

by Katie Smith
| 9 hours ago
by Charlotte Andersen
| 16 hours ago
by Alexandra Bruin
| 16 hours ago
by Bradley Jamison
| a day ago
by Elizabeth Yuko
| 2 days ago
by Callie Little
| 6 days ago
by Sara Lindberg M. Ed
| 7 days ago