The hymen is known to be a kind of chastity seal, meant to tear and bleed the first time you have intercourse. Literary works, medieval works of art and even modern educational books speak of it. In some cultures, the lives of many women depend on the integrity of the cuticles before marriage. If there is no blood on the sheet on the wedding night, the bride was not a virgin.
But the anatomical reality looks completely different. The hymen (technically known as the hymen) is not a sealing layer of the skin, but an elastic ring of the mucous membrane that surrounds the entrance to the vagina. From cracks to menstrual cups, tampons and sex toys to vaginal delivery – none of this is clearly seen on the hymen. Even if a person has already had sex does not reveal the flexible mucous membrane ring. He can barely bleed on his own. But one after the other.
The fact that the hymen is not a good indicator of chastity was discovered by Dr. Marie Kjølseth as early as 1906. Kjølseth, who was one of the first generations of medical students in Norway, examined the abdomen of a prostitute in the pathology department of the Oslo Institute of Obstetrics e he found that their hymen resembled that of a virgin. When the Norwegian medical journal “Norsk Magazin for Lægevidenskaben” published this discovery, provided not only the content, but also the article itself caused a sensation, because Kjølseth was the first woman to publish in this specialized magazine. Despite all the hustle and bustle, the pioneer was later forgotten, as she had discovered.
More elastic for cloth hair than padlock
More than 100 years later, Nina Brochmann and Ellen Støkken Dahl recalled Kjølseth’s pioneering work at a popular science conference. The two medical students gave a TED Talk in 2017 about the hymen and the misunderstanding that still lingers over it. They brought a hula hoop covered in cling film to the stage for demonstration purposes. Dahl punctured the film and then explained: “It’s easy to say that this tire is no longer virgin.” Brochmann added, “But the hymen isn’t a piece of film. In fact, it’s more like something like this.” Then they presented a fabric-covered hair tie, a scrunchie.