The Truth About Tampons, Hymens, and Teenage Girls

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When it comes to teens and the use of tampons, there are many questions and misconceptions. Both parents and teens often wonder whether tampons will have an impact on virginity. In general, a teenage girl can use a tampon before she loses her virginity by having sexual intercourse (penis in vagina). Also, using a tampon does not necessarily mean that she is no longer a virgin.

You will want to discuss this with your teen so she understands exactly what is happening with her body. She may hear kids at school discuss this with terms like "pop her cherry" or other crude phrases that can cause worry and embarrassment.

It is also good to talk about what it means to be a virgin and the values your family has when it comes to sex.

Will a Teen Still Be a Virgin When Using a Tampon?

The simple answer is yes. But the question is really asking about two separate issues.

  • The first question is what makes a virgin and what “takes” virginity.
  • The second question is asking about the hymen and how it relates to virginity.

What Is a Virgin?

This is a complicated question and you might get different answers depending on who you ask. For women, the technical definition of a virgin is someone who has not had sexual intercourse where a man's penis penetrates her vagina. If this is your definition of virginity, then a woman is still a virgin after using a tampon.

What Is the Hymen?

The hymen is a thin membrane that stretches across the opening of the vagina. The hymen in newborn girls is thick and this naturally thins and opens up over the years.

This membrane does not usually cover the entire opening of the vagina. By the time a girl reaches puberty, there is often enough space to allow menstrual blood to pass. If the hymen completely covered the vagina, menstruation would not be possible.

By the time most girls reach adolescence and begin menstruating, the hymen tissue is thin enough to allow for safe the use of tampons.

What Does the Hymen Have to Do With Virginity?

The hymen has been looked at as the mark of virginity in many cultures. In some cases, when a virgin who has an intact hymen has sexual intercourse for the first time, the hymen will tear and bleed.

It was thought that if a girl didn't bleed after the first time she had sexual intercourse, she must not have been a virgin. This is completely incorrect but this myth persists in popular culture both in modern and traditional cultures.

In some cultures, including many Western societies in the past, a newly married man had to produce bloody sheets after the wedding night. This was taken as proof that his new wife was a virgin and that he had consummated the marriage.

In other societies, a woman might be physically examined prior to marriage to ensure her virginity. If her hymen is seen to be damaged, the offer of marriage might be revoked. She might have to live with the stigma of impurity, even if she had not had sexual intercourse.

The Hymen Myth Debunked

It is not typical for any woman's hymen to remain fully intact, so its presence alone cannot be the only proof of a woman's virginity.

  • The hymen can stretch to cover most of the opening of the vagina or it can be very flexible and resist being torn, even after having intercourse.
  • The hymen can be damaged by tampons, medical vaginal exams, even certain kinds of vigorous physical activity.

Whether or not a girl still has an intact (undamaged) hymen, does not indicate if she is a virgin or not. Virginity has to do with sexual activity, not the presence of a hymen.

View Article Sources
  • Kliegman, RM, et. al. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. Elsevier; 2015.