And more with the popping of cherries.

I am very confused about "popping my cherry". I have previously read that everyone has to have their cherry popped, but then again some say that there is no skin thing. If not, than why does it hurt when you have sex for the first time or why do you bleed?
Heather Corinna replies:

Hey, Katie.

Well, in most people with vaginas there is a "skin thing," at least at the beginning, and that's the hymen. But it rarely is "popped" or needs to be "broken" by sex.

The hymen is made up of thin folds of tissue that, when we're young, mostly covers the vaginal opening. It's right there in front, so when we have one -- or even part of one -- with the simple use of a hand mirror, we can take a look at it. It doesn't have any nerve endings of its own, though it's connected to the vaginal opening, which does have nerve endings.

As we get older, and start puberty, the hymen starts to slowly and gradually wear away, through a whole lot of things: via hormones (namely estrogens), vaginal fluids and menstruation, general physical activity, tampon use, masturbation and yep, partnered vaginal sex. At first there are just very small openings, or tiny holes, in that tissue. Over time, those holes become bigger and bigger, and eventually, in most people with vaginas, the hymen wears away so much that only tiny portions of it remain, just behind the vaginal opening.

Like anything else on the body, the hymen can vary between people. For some, that tissue is a bit thicker than for others; for some, that hymen is more resilient -- or tougher -- than for others. For a minority of people with vaginas, the hymen doesn't wear away as it should at all, in which case vaginal entry or intercourse will be all but impossible, and for those people, attempts at such WILL generally be very painful because of the hymen, and they'll need to have a very simple and painless procedure done called a hymenectomy, by their doctor.

But for most people with vaginas, by the time they become sexually active, at least some of that hymen will have worn away. On top of being thin, it's also very flexible, so plenty of people with a partial hymen -- and people who are at least in their teens will almost always have only a partial hymen, not a fully intact hymen -- vaginal entry or intercourse isn't painful just because of their hymens. For some, it might have more to do with the hymen than others, especially if some stretching of that membrane is happening during vaginal sex, because, again, that can pull on the vaginal opening around it uncomfortably. No matter what, vaginal intercourse isn't required to "break" the hymen, and if it is very roughly broken in one fell swoop, it's likely due to injury or to vaginal sex that was very rough or forced.

But the hymen is only part of the picture when it comes to pain with intercourse, and for a lot of people with vaginas, it's none of the picture at all. If a person with a vagina is nervous or fearful, if they're not highly sexually aroused, if they're not lubricated enough or using enough extra lubricant, if they don't want vaginal intercourse at all, if their partner isn't gradual and gentle and being sure to include plenty of other sexual activities most people with vaginas find more satisfying than intercourse -- all of those are the most common reasons for pain during intercourse, and very painful intercourse is more likely to be due to those things than to a "cherry."

Bleeding can happen because of wearing away of the hymen, but it also can happen due to lack of arousal and lubrication or a partner being too hasty or rough.

But it should also be mentioned that some people with vaginas don't bleed with first intercourse and some also don't experience any sort of pain at all.

I've included some previous advice on this issue, as well as a few articles I think will make you an expert on all things cherry.

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