The most common language used to describe sexuality can appear bizarre and confusing when given a second thought. For instance, the whole idea of cherry popping is pretty odd when you start to unpack the concept. What is it about this cherry business anyway, and can guys “pop their cherries,” too? The metaphor gets weirder the longer you think about it.
It turns out, the concept of cherry popping is more or less specific to female sexuality. It is a slang term for the loss of female virginity, thought to be evidenced by bleeding from the hymen, according to New Health Advisor. In the world of the metaphor, a woman is a virgin until the first time she has penetrative sex, resulting in blood loss from the newly broken hymen. In the real world, though, this idea falls apart. Hymens, which are nothing more than a thin membrane that partially covers the vaginal opening, do not necessarily have anything to do with virginity. Although, according to Planned Parenthood, penetrative sexual intercourse can cause the hymen to tear and bleed, sometimes sports, bike rides, or tampons can do the same thing. Basically, hymen breakage is not an exact science.
So although the “pop your cherry” phrase can be used to describe men who have penetrative sex for the first time — or anyone who does anything for the first time, really — the idea originated with the tearing of the hymen. The penis does not have a hymen, or anything similar to it. Still, the entire cherry popping concept gets weirder the more you think about it.
First, the hymen does not really pop. It can only tear, as noted by Scarleteen, often (but not always) due to the insertion of a finger, tampon, or penis. And what about the cherry idea? Maybe it’s in reference to the bleeding that sometimes occurs from a broken hymen. According to an interesting post on Quora, there may be a historical basis for using cherries to talk about sexuality, based on the idea of ripeness. For what it’s worth, though, the “pop your cherry” phrase is one of those idiomatic expressions that are based more in metaphor than reality. Even if the metaphor is confusing and kind of weird.