By Jem Zyk
I became sexually active at 21, and just recently turned 27. Given that information, most people would be shocked to hear that I only tore my hymen three months ago.
Last year, I went to my gynecologist complaining of pain every time I attempted penetration. The doctor confirmed that, in accordance with my suspicions, the thickness of my hymen was to blame.
Contrary to popular myth, the hymen is not a barrier that needs to be conquered or violently torn; it is a ring of skin that can actually be stretched and lubricated by someone who cares enough to be gentle. My obstinate hymen, though, refused to cooperate. After deciding that surgery might cause more problems than it would solve, my doctor prescribed me estrogen cream, hoping to soften the skin and allow it to stretch.
And, well. The plan worked, but not exactly as expected.
In the middle of intercourse, my hymen tore. Yes, tore. Like the “popped cherry” stories of virginity legend, there was blood, there was pain, and the only reason I didn’t cry was my fiancée’s calm, supportive temperament.
Many people don’t view vaginal tightness as a problem — in fact, it’s something most people with vaginas are conditioned to believe is desirable. Between the sheer existence of procedures like the “husband stitch” and the widespread notion that a “loose” vagina is a symptom of promiscuity, it doesn’t take Sherlock-level investigating to figure out why most people think tighter is better.
I’m here to tell you—nah.
Vaginal tightness can be the result of a health problem, such as vaginismus, or it may be a sign that something about sex isn’t right, physically or emotionally. My tight vaginal anatomy and super-powered hymen made penetration painful and, at times, impossible. It also complicated my, ahem, pee problems. And I’m not alone in that. Roughly one quarter of the vagina-owning population will experience pee leakage at some point in their lives, and having a tight vagina can actually make it worse.
Leaks can be triggered by stress or pressure on the pelvic muscles, neurological issues, constipation, drinking certain types of liquids, and tons of other factors that are caused, worsened by, or directly connected to having “tight” muscles down there. My vaginal anatomy—that mythically tight, impenetrable crevasse—did not stop the yellow tide from soiling my underwear time and time again.
Since my hymen lost its tyrannical dominion over my inner sanctum, sex isn’t painful for me anymore. Without pain making me tense and uncomfortable, my vagina may feel ‘looser.’ Contrary to popular belief, this is actually a good thing for your sex life, and for leaks.
No more of this “loose vagina” nonsense; let’s use a term that actually means something.
And, you know what? A relaxed vagina is a happy vagina.
Seriously! At rest, the vagina is only a few inches deep. Magic happens with arousal: the cervix recedes, lengthening the vagina to allow for more comfortable intercourse. That is unequivocally a good thing.
Relaxed vaginal muscles are not the result of a “promiscuous” lifestyle, or some kind of undesirable “loose vagina” genetic lottery. Even if you have strong pelvic floor muscles, you still don’t want a tight vagina, though I would never try to talk someone out of pelvic floor exercises. Just do them for the right reasons.
The point of the toxic myth of the tight vagina is to tell people with vaginas how to value their bodies (and to keep prioritizing men's pleasure over women's health). The truth is: neither your hymen, nor your vagina’s grip strength, nor your ability to hold your bladder, nor your decision to partake in or abstain from sexual activity has anything to do with your worth as a person.
Whether your vaginal anatomy is awesome or annoying, try giving your body permission to exist outside of the patriarchal ideal.
It’s hard, I know. A week ago I literally wet the bed while laughing. That joyful laughter turned teary and hysterical due to the embarrassment. My lovely fiancée helped me clean the wet spot, and that night I slept on a towel. There is a point where you can choose to love and appreciate the body you were given, or else live in shame.
My suggestion is this: Don’t be afraid of living.
Your vagina is fine, your bladder is fine. Pee your shorts while laughing too hard. Talk about your period without using coded language, and go to the doctor on a timely basis instead of being embarrassed about whatever’s going on with your health. Tell young people that it’s okay if their hymen breaks during an athletic activity, because hymens, virginity, and all that other stuff don’t matter anyway as long as you are thanking your body for what it does give you.
Whatever you do, don’t let yourself be controlled by awful and inaccurate judgments about the integrity of your nether regions.
Jem Z. is a disabled queer content creator, who is currently pursuing an accounting certificate to complement zir career as a writer, photographer, and artist. Connect with zir at www.jemzero.com, at www.facebook.com/jemzero.art, or email@example.com.