Updated: Apr 7
Virginity is in fact a social construct centerd on the idea of breaking the hymen through penetration of the vaginal canal by a penis. This construct was design to shame, possess and commodify female sexuality.
Which, if we take no longer than a few seconds, we can begin to see the flaws of this logic:
The hymen is made up of very thin mucosal tissue that generally surrounds or partially covers the entrance to the vaginal canal (see pics below for the various ways a hymen can be formed). This is why young vulva havers can generally insert tampons and excrete menstrual blood before having penetrative sex (unless they experience an abnormality with their hymen, such as with the imperforate hymen),
Hymens wear away, bit by bit, long before most sexual encounters through exercise and tampon usage.
Some vulva-havers are not even born with a hymen.
Some vulva-havers will never have penetrative sex.
Considering these four aspects of the body part of the hymen, it is quite ridiculous to think that the hymen has anything to do with our sexual status.
In some cultures, the term virgin also has nothing at all to do with one's sexual status. It instead refers to "a woman unto herself" and is said to be the original meaning of the term "virgin". A woman unto herself had mean a woman who was empowered in all aspects of being, particularly in her sexuality. This meaning is often cited as coming from ancient cultures and pre-Christian religious practices.
I love this etymology, and one way that I like to reclaim the term virginity with this definition in mind is to refer to virginity as something I shared (rather than lost or gave away). I also like to say that this sharing of virginity was done for the first time when I experienced pleasure in my body in a consensual connection. This reframing is also a way I help clients who were sexually assaulted at a young age to reclaim their power.
While it is challenging to pinpoint specific resources that directly address this idea, some books and articles discuss the broader context of female spirituality, goddess worship, and the evolving meaning of virginity throughout history. Some of these resources include:
You can find more information on this concept via the resources below:
"The Chalice and the Blade: Our History, Our Future" by Riane Eisler: This book explores the historical shift from partnership societies that revered goddesses and women's roles to patriarchal societies. Eisler delves into the evolution of female spirituality and the original meaning of virginity.
"The Dance of the Dissident Daughter: A Woman's Journey from Christian Tradition to the Sacred Feminine" by Sue Monk Kidd: This memoir details the author's journey of self-discovery and her exploration of the sacred feminine. While not directly addressing the term "virgin," it provides insights into the broader context of female spirituality.
"The Women's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets" by Barbara G. Walker: This comprehensive encyclopedia covers a wide range of topics related to women's mythology and spirituality, including virginity and goddess worship.
"The Great Cosmic Mother: Rediscovering the Religion of the Earth" by Monica Sjöö and Barbara Mor: This book delves into the history of goddess worship and the ancient cultures that valued women's roles, potentially offering insights into the meaning of "a woman unto herself."
"The Once and Future Goddess: A Sweeping Visual Chronicle of the Sacred Female and Her Reemergence in the Cult" by Elinor W. Gadon: This visually stunning book examines the role of the goddess and the sacred feminine throughout history, touching on topics like the evolving meaning of virginity.
While these resources may not directly address the phrase "a woman unto herself" in the context of the term "virgin," they provide valuable insights into the broader historical and cultural context of female spirituality and the changing meaning of virginity over time.The term virgin has itself been corrupted, as it once meant a woman unto herself. Meaning that a virgin was someone who was empowered in all aspects of being, particularly her sexuality. Which is few and far between when we think about the fact that vulva-havers far and wide do not even know how their vulvas look, let alone what their hymen actually is!
Now let's dive a little deeper into the hymen types and variants.
Now lets dive deeper into the hymen as a body part, not a symbol of sexual experience.
There are several different types and variations of hymens, and here we will discuss seven of them:
Annular Hymen: The annular hymen is the most common type and is characterized by a ring-shaped membrane surrounding the vaginal opening. This type of hymen allows for the passage of menstrual blood and is often flexible enough to stretch during sexual activity without tearing.
Crescentic Hymen: The crescentic hymen has a crescent shape, with the tissue concentrated on either the top or the bottom of the vaginal opening. Similar to the annular hymen, this variation a llows for the passage of menstrual blood and can stretch during sexual activity.
Septate Hymen: The septate hymen is characterized by a band or bands of tissue that stretch across the vaginal opening, creating two or more smaller openings. This type of hymen may require minor surgery if the bands obstruct the passage of menstrual blood or cause discomfort during sexual activity.
Microperforate Hymen: The microperforate hymen is a membrane that almost entirely covers the vaginal opening, with only a small hole to allow for the passage of menstrual blood. In some cases, this type of hymen may require surgical intervention to allow for comfortable sexual activity or the use of tampons.
Imperforate Hymen: The imperforate hymen completely covers the vaginal opening, which prevents the passage of menstrual blood. This type of hymen can cause health issues, such as pain and swelling, due to the buildup of menstrual blood. An imperforate hymen typically requires surgical intervention to create an opening for menstrual blood to flow and to allow for comfortable sexual activity.
Cribriform Hymen: The cribriform hymen features multiple small holes in the membrane, resembling a sieve. This type of hymen allows for the passage of menstrual blood but may cause discomfort during sexual activity due to the presence of multiple small openings. In some cases, surgical intervention may be necessary.
Parous introitus Hymen: is a medical term that refers to the vaginal opening in women who have given birth vaginally. The term "parous" is derived from the Latin word "parere," meaning "to give birth," and "introitus" refers to an entrance or opening. The parous introitus can appear different from the vaginal opening of a woman who has not given birth, as childbirth can result in changes to the size, shape, and elasticity of the vaginal opening and surrounding tissues.
It is important to note that while the appearance of the parous introitus may differ from that of a non-parous introitus, it does not necessarily indicate any medical issues or complications. The vagina is a highly elastic organ that can expand to accommodate a baby during childbirth and then return to its pre-pregnancy size and shape, though it may not be exactly the same as before. Some women may experience a looser vaginal opening or decreased muscle tone after giving birth, but these changes are generally natural and can often be addressed through pelvic floor exercises
On a final note, I have written a children's book in the hopes to help empower our young vulva-havers in their sexual debuts with knowledge on their body, boundaries, and pleasure. You can find a free download of the book here.
Kiki Maree xx