PSA: The actual role of a hymen

Today I found out what the real role of a hymen is. I was listening to this podcast on BBC sounds where two gynecologists were discussing issues related to women’s reproductive systems, common myths, and harmful practices. Dr. Jen Gunter was asked about the hymen, and this is an excerpt from her response:

“The hymen exists to protect the infant vagina from urine and feces and dirt. Because right when you’re born, the vagina doesn’t have any estrogen and is incredibly vulnerable to irritants. As we start to walk and become continent of urine and feces, the hymen becomes pliable and takes on different shapes because we don’t need it anymore. So the hymen is the exact equivalent of baby teeth. It’s something that we needed developmentally for a small period of time, and then it’s discarded when we don’t need it anymore. It’s got different kinds of shapes and pliability, it’s in no way a reflection of virginity. That’s a social construct which is very harmful to women.”

I’m sharing this because it was the first time I had ever seen the explanation of the role of a hymen. Until now, I did not know what the role of a hymen was, I just thought it’s just the tissue that exists. I knew it was unrelated to virginity, but I didn’t know what it did, which I think is quite telling of the education we receive about the female reproductive system. I just wanted to share this information because I believe that it is very empowering to know your body.

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