Virginity standards and masturbation

Anonymous asks:
I live in Africa. Here, both my religion and culture restrict that a girl should be a virgin unless she gets married. I masturbate and sometimes a lil blood droplet is there in my pants after I masturbate although I don't finger myself. I tried to finger after I saw that blood drop to check if my hymen is still intact, so I pressed my fingers into my vagina and it was there (a sorta layer) and it hurt me so I pulled my fingers out. The thing is, is my hymen still there or not? Should I stop masturbating if I want to keep my virginity or it doesn't matter ?
Heather Corinna replies:

Not an easy question, but I'll do my best. I'm going to assume we're not talking about infibulated women, but in the case you are, just write back and we'll tackle that, too.

One thing to understand is that one unfortunate aspect of defining virginity by the state of the hymen is that it just isn't accurate, in terms of the state of the hymen truly representing if a person with a vagina has been sexually active or not.

Even without sexual activity -- whether that activity is with a partner, or via masturbation -- most hymens will still gradually erode on their own over time, and by the time most people with vaginas are through with puberty, the hymen will already be only partially intact. That happens due to estrogens (hormones), normal vaginal discharges, menstruation, general physical activity and -- yes -- also due to masturbation, IF you're really having contact with the vaginal opening or vagina.

But even if you were not masturbating, it is likely your hymen would still be slowly wearing away on its own. So, in that way, if virginity in your community is proven by the state of the hymen, it really doesn't matter if you masturbate or not, because you still can't control all those other things that wear the hymen away, if you follow.

I know that seems to leave you in a sort of lose-lose place, but in so many ways, virginity requirements -- especially when they're not based on not having partners, but on anatomical issues -- are lose-lose for women, and there's just no sugarcoating that, or making it better, when you're in a culture or situation where there's no changing those requirements or ideals.

So you understand the bleeding, genital tissue is fairly delicate. So, it's not unusual, when we're rubbing away, especially if we're not using lubricants, to sometimes have some tiny abrasions that might cause a little bit of bleeding.

Ultimately, for all of this, if there is someone you trust per what the requirements of your religion and culture are, more specifically, in terms of if masturbation is considered okay or not, the best thing to do would be to ask that person. These standards are so different from community to community that I'm not in a good position to try and guess at what yours are.

Hopefully, that was of some help, though I apologize for being of less help than I'd have liked.

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