A thin layer of membrane partially blocking the entrance to the vagina. Although it varies from woman to woman, the hymen is generally only millimeters from the opening of the vagina. When the hymen is "broken" or torn it doesn't fully disappear as most people think. Instead portions of it can remain, and sometimes can be "fit together like a puzzle," says momomom.

Not all hymens are created alike, there are several different formations.

  • Anular: circular
  • crecentric: cresecent shaped
  • septate: bridges from side to side
The breaking of this membrane is generally accompanied by blood loss, which is considered proof of prior innocence. There are several false beliefs surrounding the "breaking of the hymen" that most people have heard at least once.

Falsehood: There is a hymen during every woman's "first time."
The truth is..

  • Some women are born without a hymen, although this is extremely rare. Many women assume if they don't bleed it's because they were born without a hymen, this isn't necessarily the truth, but we'll get to that.
  • Some women are born with a rare genetic abnormality in which the hymen is so over grown that it protrudes from the genitals and makes intercourse impossible without surgery.
  • Some women have an abnormality called an imperforate hymen, in which the hymen completely closes off the vagina. This is usually discovered during medical checks in infancy or later in puberty when blood is prevented from escaping during menstruation, and is easily corrected with minor surgery.

Falsehood: There will be a certain amount of pain accompanying the tearing of the hymen.
The truth is..

  • Each woman suffers a different amount of pain when their hymen is broken. It is possible to feel no pain at all. That said, it is most common to feel some discomfort when the hymen is being torn from the walls, or ripped. There are also women who feel a large amount of pain. The amount of pain a woman feels is relative to how thick her membrane is, how attached to the walls it is, and how large the penis is in relation to her natural opening. To reduce pain during a "first time" experience, spending time sexually arousing the female, providing plenty of natural lubrication, will help a lot.

Falsehood: There will be blood when the hymen is torn.
The truth is..

  • Not all women actually bleed when it is torn and some women bleed quite a bit when the hymen is torn. Again this is relative to the thickness of the membrane, how it's attached, etc.
  • Some sexually active women can go their entire lives with their hymen intact, at least until they go through childbirth.

Falsehood: It will break during the first penetration that a woman experiences.
The truth is..

  • This, I think, is related to the belief that a tampon will break the hymen, which is also false. A tampon isn't usually thick enough to break the hymen. In relation, if the man's penis isn't wide enough, or isn't fully erect during a woman's first time, it isn't likely to break the hymen. Instead it may hit the hymen and stretch it slightly, causing more discomfort to the woman unfortunately. Of course there are exceptions to the rule, and all of this depends on how the hymen is formed, as not all hymens are "built" the same.
  • And, as stated above, some sexually active women can go their entire lives with their hymen intact.

This information above is only true of a post pubescent girl/woman. A child has a different anatomy because of hormonal differences as well as size.

Thank you Lucy-S and momomom for helping me with my accuracy.