Q&A: The Hymen And Bleeding During First Time Intercourse
Posted October 30, 2008
QUESTION: Do women always bleed the first time that they have sex? My girlfriend said that she had never had sex with anyone before, but then we had sex and there was no blood on the sheets. Does that mean that she was lying to me about being a virgin?
Great question! Although many women bleed during or after the first time that they have intercourse, not all do – and the presence or absence of blood on the sheets is not a reliable indicator of whether or not a woman is a virgin, even though people in some cultures still look for this as a sign of virginity.
Different for Different Girls
Most girls are born with a layer of tissue called the hymen that covers much of their vaginal entrance. Though thin, the hymen is filled with blood vessels and so when it tears, there is often some visible blood.
In some girls, the tissue is quite thin and in others the hymen is thicker. Some girls aren’t born with much of a hymen at all and it’s important to realize that there are differences in girls’ hymens as early as infancy.
As girls grow up, the hymen may be worn away for different reasons. Some girls – like some boys – stimulate their genitals with their hands or other objects. Masturbating in this way may wear away some of a girl’s hymen.
Some health professionals have thought that certain activities that impact the vulva, such as horseback riding or gymnastics, may also contribute to the gradual wearing away of the hymen, but research has yet to confirm that this is true.
Many Ways The Hymen Can Be Worn Away
As young women, mutual masturbation, or fingering, can also wear away at the hymen, as can using tampons during a menstrual period. As you can see, there are many ways that a hymen can be gently worn away over the years so that by the time a woman has vaginal intercourse for the first time, she may not have any noticeable bleeding. That doesn’t mean that she’s not a virgin.
If you have questions about your girlfriend’s previous sexual experiences, it is better to ask her in ways that are respectful, gentle and caring rather than to make assumptions based on the bedroom sheets. It is also worth considering to what extent her sexual history matters to you in your current relationship, as well as to what extent your own history may matter to her.
To learn more about communicating with a partner and coming to terms with each other’s sexual past, you might want to read For Each Other: Sharing Sexual Intimacy by Dr. Lonnie Barbach.