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Can a gynecologist tell if I'm a virgin?

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julez asks:

My mom says she wants to take me to the gynecologist to check my virginity. Is it possible that the doc will be able to tell whether i have lost it or not?

Heather Corinna replies:

If you go to an OB/GYN and your mother asks them to do this, the very first thing that should happen would be for that doctor to explain that is not what should motivate a parent to get their child sexual healthcare, and hopefully, they'll also tell her that going to the gynecologist should be about your choice to take care of your health, rather than about her lack of trust in what you tell her or choose to share with her.

An OB/GYN would also need to inform your mother that due to patient confidentiality laws, they couldn't share any information about you gleaned from an exam with her unless you asked them to or gave them permission to do so. Additionally, they should also let her know that what she's asking them to do, beyond being unethical and pretty debasing, also isn't possible.

(In my ideal world, they'd tell your mother to grow up, be a decent parent and talk to you about sex and sexual activity -- and either trust what you tell her, or respect that you may not want to share the details of your sex life with her, which is your right -- rather than drag you to a doctor to be (mis)treated like Bush is treating the folks in Guantanamo Bay right now, but that may be expecting too much.)

For sure, if you went to the gynecologist within a day or so after some kind of sex, they could have a good idea if you'd had some kind of sex or not. If you'd had vaginal intercourse with a male partner without using a condom and he ejaculated, there would be traces of ejaculate. As well, your vaginal tissue might look a little more red or pronounced, but that could be the case from masturbation as well.

Needless to say, if they tested you for pregnancy and you were pregnant, they'd know you had sex or were sexually assaulted, and same goes for if you had a sexually transmitted infection. They can test for those things.

In smaller children, a doctor might look to the hymen in cases where someone was trying to determine if a young girl had been sexually assaulted, since for most girls, before puberty, they'll have intact hymens. But once puberty begins, with or without sexual activity, the hymen starts to wear away, due to vaginal fluids including your period, hormones, plain old physical activity, sometimes tampon use, as well as via some kinds of masturbation, partnered sex or sexual assault. (While many young women already in puberty will only have partial hymens, rarely they will remain fully intact, and in that case, a doctor could tell a woman had NOT likely had vaginal sex.) So, no doc who has had any kind of education on the female anatomy over the last couple of decades is going to look to the state of the hymen to tell them anything about a woman's sexual activity, not only because the hymen erodes in other ways over time, but also because not all sex is intercourse or about vaginal entry, and also because often, intercourse won't fully wear a hymen away in one fell swoop.

Virginity isn't physical or medical: it's a cultural or personal idea. Different people who subscribe to the idea of virginity will tend to define it in different ways, and with any of those definitions, there may or may not be anything physically different between a person who does or does not consider themselves to be a virgin. A good doctor -- whose job is to be the advocate for their patient, not their patient's parent -- should make that clear, and also make clear that what your mother has going on is a family issue, not a doctor's.

By all means, if you are or have been sexually active and have not gotten sexual healthcare and want to take care of your health by getting started with that, going ahead with this could be a way for you to do that. Understand that your mother does not have the right to be present for your gynecological exam or any testing, and that, again, your doctor would also need your permission to share any information he or she got from you during that exam with your mother. But if you haven't been sexually active, or you simply choose not to get sexual healthcare yet, you have the right to refuse the exam, and if you do that, a doctor absolutely cannot force you to have one because your mother demands it. (And any doctor should also let your Mom in on that.)

Too, if you are or have been sexually active, I'd encourage you to find a way of resolving this issue with your mother, whether that is by being honest with her so that you two can talk about this in a way people who care about each other should, or whether that is by finding a way to make clear to her that no matter what you have or have not done, you feel your sexuality is private, and not something you want to share with her (which would not be surprising given how she's behaving). Of course, if you are or have been sexually active and you feel like if she discovers this you will be in any kind of danger from her, what I'd encourage you to do is to find an advocate for yourself so that you can be sure that no matter what your Mom suspects, you're safe.

Here are some links to let you in on some more facts about your sexual anatomy and virginity as well as what happens at a gynecologist's exam:

written 25 Mar 2008 . updated 21 Jan 2014

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