Why hasn't my cherry popped?

Hey, I have had sexual intercourse a number of times with men and women and my cherry still hasn't popped. I'm worried that I might never be able to have children as a result. Is that true and how can I solve the problem?
Sarah replies:

Well, first off, it'd be good to toss out the whole idea of the "cherry." There are no fruit of any sort on or in one's genitals (unless of course you decide to put some down there, in which case you'll want to avoid anything with sharp edges, clean it first, wrap it in a condom, and not stick it anyplace it might get stuck where you can't get it out).

Unfortunately, due to popular culture and the (dubious) sex-ed that many of us get from cheap romance novels, we've got a pretty darn unrealistic idea of what a hymen (what people are often really talking about when they discuss one's "cherry") is and does. So perhaps that's the best place to start this discussion. A hymen is NOT located deep inside the vagina (where romance novels would often have us believe it is). Instead, it's nothing more than a thin membrane across the opening of the vaginal canal. So it's pretty much on the outside, not the inside. Not only that, but the hymen is not a solid sheet. It's got holes in it so that vaginal discharge and menstrual fluid can escape. The holes will typically be different in size depending upon a host of factors like a woman's age, level of activity, sexual activity (like masturbation), tampon usage, etc.

Now that we're hopefully clearer on what a hymen really is, let's move on to who has one. First off, not every woman has a hymen, period. There are women who are born without them. Beyond that, it's not uncommon for one's hymen to stretch and wear away through adolescence due to things like physical activity, accidents or trauma, tampon usage, masturbation, etc. So many, many women don't have much of a hymen left by the time they first become sexually active at all. Typically, what is left of one's hymen will have many holes and openings or may only be a slight residual ring around the vaginal opening.

Also, it's important to understand that hymen's don't "pop" or even necessarily break. Usually what occurs is a stretching of the hymen during penetrative activities. Some women do experience some bleeding or burning as the tissue stretches (especially if they have a more stubborn or resilient hymen), though not all. But except in cases of severe trauma or assault, it is generally not the gushing torrents of blood that we often read about in fiction. It is just some stretching that is generally not extremely traumatic or painful if a woman is relaxed, aroused, into the activity that is going on, and is with a partner who takes his or her time and listens.

In rarer cases, there are some women who may have a stubborn hymen that prevents penetration of anything or (even more rarely) does not allow for the passage of menstrual fluid. For these women, a simple, in office procedure by a gynecologist can solve the problem. In this instance, the hymen is snipped away to allow for comfortable penetration.

So what's the bottom line? If you've been sexually active and have successfully participated in penetrative activities with partners, you almost certainly don't have a hymen at this point. I'd guess that you just didn't have the experience that we've been conditioned to expect when one's "cherry pops." There's nothing wrong with you and you likely have nothing to worry about. If you're worried about your sexual health and your ability to bear children (if you desire) later, your best bet would be to make sure that you are taking good care of your sexual health right now. You can do this by making sure you get annual gynecological exams and STI screenings and that you are using safer sex practices with all partners.

Check out the following links for more information:

  • Innies and Outies: The Vagina, Clitoris, Uterus, and More
  • Magical Cups & Bloody Brides: Virginity in Context
  • 20 Questions About Virginity: Scarleteen Interviews Hanne Blank
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