Sex

How To Know If You Popped Your Cherry? Experts Weigh In

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Doctors weigh in on the various ways one can determine whether or not their hymen is intact.

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Of all the ways to describe your first time, popping your cherry is probably the most archaic (and yes, graphic). It refers to the theory that your hymen (the thin tissue at the opening of your vagina) breaks during sex, which might cause bleeding (hence the red color of the cherry). But how do you know if you popped your cherry or not? Especially when, newsflash, whether one's hymen is or is not intact is not an indication of one's sexual history as there are multiple ways a hymen can tear that have nothing to do with intercourse.

While it's considered a bit antiquated these days, the expression “to pop your cherry” dates way back to the '70s, Dictionary.com reported. (Although the usage of cherries with a sexual connotation goes even further back to the 1600s.) The said fruit in question is supposed to represent a woman’s vagina, and it’s definitely a slang term you wouldn’t want to use in mixed company.

“The hymen is a tissue remnant from when the vagina forms during embryonic development,” OB/GYN Dr. Lauren Demosthenes, MD, tells Romper in an email. “It has no purpose at all.”

So it’s a body part you can do without, in case you were wondering. And that myth that your "cherry gets popped" the first time you have sex? Well, that’s also incorrect — most of the time. “If it hasn't broken from vigorous normal activity (and some women have firmer tissue than others), it may be broken at first intercourse,” OB/GYN Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, MD, explains to Romper. “But to be honest, that happens rarely these days.”

So if you’re unsure about the state of your own hymen, here are some ways to know for sure.

1

You Bleed

If you experience a tear or a rip of your hymen, chances are you’re going to bleed. But unlike blood you’d see during your period, the rupture of the hymen will make you bleed differently, OB/GYN Dr. Kim Langdon, MD, tells Romper. “Bleeding after a hymen tears would be bright red rather than the darker hue of menstrual blood,” explains Dr. Langdon. “Without pressure or spontaneous clotting, the bleeding would continue to be bright red.” So if you’re bleeding (and don’t have your period), you should take a look to see what color your blood is. If it’s bright, it might mean that your hymen has torn.

2

You Can Use A Tampon

By the time you’re a teen, chances are that your hymen already tore. Still, if you’re unsure, you can always take the Tampon Test. “The hymen usually breaks on its own during childhood,” says Dr. Demosthenes. “Most young women only have remnants of the hymen; occasionally we will see a young teen who can’t get her tampon in and will discover that she has part of the hymen in the way.” If your tampon glides right into place, you probably don’t have your hymen acting as a barrier to block it.

3

You Get Your Period

While Aunt Flo coming to town might not be fun each month, the fact that you’re getting your period is actually a very good sign. “If a woman is having a period, then her hymen is gone enough for the blood to flow out,” explains Dr. Demosthenes. “But if you have an intact hymen and begin to bleed, the blood will back up and you will present with bad pain.” Yikes. And if blood backing up into your vag weren’t scary enough, it could get worse, Dr. Langdon says. “Sometimes, an imperforate hymen can cause the blood to even build up enough to enlarge the uterus.”

4

You Get Confirmation From Your Gynecologist

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“It’s obvious by exam,” says Dr. Langdon. “The hymen can be seen during the routine exam position — it can be partially intact or hymenal remnants can be seen.” Getting confirmation from your gynecologist can clear matters up quickly.

5

You Have Sex

So, here’s the thing about the belief that you "pop your cherry" the first time you have sex. It’s not always true, although it sometimes might be. To be honest, it’s kind of complicated. “It is a myth that the hymen breaks the first time a person has intercourse,” says Dr. Lauren Demosthenes. See, the hymen is a springy little sucker, and while the chances are highly likely that if it hasn’t broken before you have sex that it will break during intercourse, it’s not an automatic guarantee. “Virginity cannot be determined by an exam because the hymen is stretchy and can accommodate a penis and then fall back into place,” says Dr. Langdon.

Case in point. In the study: “The little tissue that couldn’t — dispelling myths about the Hymen’s role in determining sexual history and assault,” researchers found that an intact or broken hymen wasn’t an accurate indicator of a woman’s sexual activities. They cited the hymen as “not an accurate or reliable test of a previous history of sexual activity.” While chances are penetration (or even some sex toys) can rupture your hymen, it’s not always the case. In theory, then, you might be able to have sex, and still have your hymen intact, depending on its density.

6

You Do A Self-Exam

You’ve been doing a lot of strenuous activity when you suddenly feel a pinch in your lady parts. Has your hymen been disturbed? Well, there’s one way to find out. If you’re not afraid to do some digging, you can check yourself to see if it’s still there. “A woman could look with a mirror and try to insert a tampon or her finger to see what she sees,” says Dr. Demosthenes. And while you might be able to feel the hymen (or lack thereof), “it’s only possible if you know what you’re feeling for,” says Dr. Langdon.

There are a myriad of ways that you can "pop your cherry," and few, if any, actually involve intercourse. Some girls are even born without a hymen, according to that same study. Still, if you experience pain or bleeding that’s not associated with your period, you should always speak with your doctor about it.

Studies Referenced:

Mishori, R., Ferdowsian, H., Naimer, K., Volpellier, M., McHale, T., “The little tissue that couldn’t — dispelling myths about the Hymen’s role in determining sexual history and assault” 2019.

Experts:

Dr. Lauren Demosthenes, MD, an OB/GYN and Senior Medical Director with Babyscripts

Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, MD, an OB/GYN and Clinical Professor of OB/GYN at Yale

Dr. Kim Langdon, MD, an OB/GYN

Original reporting by Autumn Jones.

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