A prominent rapper came out earlier this month discussing how he takes his teenage daughter to the OBGYN office yearly to make sure her hymen is still intact to ensure her virginity. This story was upsetting for multiple reasons, but as an OBGYN provider, I want to set the record straight.
While I’d like to say that this situation never occurs, I can not. It is not uncommon to see a parent bring their child or teenager into the office with this question.
We often see a situation such as this: A parent catches their daughter with another teen or suspects they are secretly sexually active. They bring the daughter into the office demanding a “check” to see if she has been sexually active. This triggers an uncomfortable discussion for all involved for the following reasons:
It is not possible to determine virginity by examination
There is a common myth that the hymen will remain intact until the first episode of penetrative intercourse. This is just plain false. Physical activities such as biking, tampon use, or medical procedures can often tear the hymen prior to the first episode of penetrative intercourse. Some women may still have an intact hymen even after having sexual encounters, some women may be born without a hymen. Hymens come in all shapes and types. There is a wide range of normal human anatomy. The list goes on, but it’s safe to say that an intact hymen does not necessarily mean the patient is a virgin, and a torn hymen does not necessarily imply the patient has been sexually active.
It creates an unpleasant relationship between the teenager and the medical provider
This type of visit to the Obgyn may prevent the teen from seeking out counseling or help when they need it in the future. The relationship between a medical provider and a patient is based on trust. This is especially when treating teenage patients who are usually already mortified to be in the gynecologist’s office in the first place. Starting off the relationship with an undesired examination does not bode well for their future relationship with their medical providers.
This situation often happens due to discomfort between the teenager and parent with talking about sex
Many parents bring their teenagers in because they essentially want the OBGYN provider to have “the talk” with their child instead of them. Having this talk with your child can be hard, but by initiating that talk with them, you can create an open line of communication regarding your child’s personal life, which is so important at this age. Check out some of our posts on this very topic.
A virginity exam can negatively impact their psychological well being
It promotes the idea that a woman’s worth is solely in her body. It can cause her to feel violated, ashamed, and close down, potentially leading to depression. It can negatively impact her future sexual relationships as an adult. Not to mention, if a provider tells a parent that the hymen is no longer intact, it could create a potentially dangerous environment for her at home, depending on her cultural background.
A better approach than a coerced exam is a conversation
As a parent, it is scary when your child begins to become sexually active. There are lots of mixed emotions. A good women’s health provider can help you and your child navigate through this process but not through a coerced exam that doesn’t work. A better approach is to educate yourself regarding adolescent sexual issues so that you can become a trusted confident and guide as your teen moves through one of the most challenging phases of their lives.
I think we’ve all heard enough about virginity checks over the last few weeks. Let’s hope that it will soon become a conversation of the past.