The Sex Myth That Just Won’t Go Away


I spent most of my pre- and post-pubescent years learning about how not to have sex, so learning how to have sex went against my entire physical and psychological conditioning. I got lots of practical advice, but not all of it worked.

Like, “Don’t worry — you’ll figure it out. It’s natural.” (It wasn’t. It just wasn’t. I had to Google it. Multiple times. In tears. Because it wasn’t.)

But the biggest practical sex myth — the one I keep hearing preached to newlyweds like gospel — is that you need to pop the cherry.

You don’t.

You do not need to break your hymen in order to have sex the first time.

Which means you do not need to keep pushing, despite excruciating pain, until something breaks and bleeds.

D-O  N-O-T.

If you’re bleeding during sex, stop. Your vagina’s lining is bleeding, not your hymen. It means you’re not lubricated enough, and/or you and your hubby are playing it too rough. Add more lube. More than you think. Do more foreplay. A lot more than you think.

If you’re in pain during sex, stop forcing it. You should not feel pain. Your hymen is not resisting you. It probably disappeared a long time ago that one time you attempted to do cardio. Do not try to pop, break, or tear anything. Slow down. Add more lube. More than you think. Do more foreplay. A lot more than you think.

And be patient. It can take several days to relax enough for full, mostly painless penetration.

Oh, and if anybody tries to tell you that breaking the hymen represents the shedding of Christ’s redemptive blood? It doesn’t. Because (1) that’s literally not anywhere in the Bible, and (2) the hymen doesn’t bleed during first-time sex. Nothing should bleed.

Apologies for the diatribe, but sheesh! This myth needs to die in a hole and never come back again!

What sex myths have you heard?


14 thoughts on “The Sex Myth That Just Won’t Go Away

  1. Jean

    I grew up with comparisons of the tearing of the nuptial hymen to the tearing of the temple veil after Christ’s death. *facepalm* If these men are SO concerned about blood on the first night, they should just stick pins in their penises…because Christ bled and suffered for his bride, the church.
    More women should be speaking up about these stupid, hurtful myths.


    • Bailey Steger

      I didn’t even think of that — if that imagery is true, the *male* should be suffering for his bride, not the other way around. I only recently heard about this comparison and could not believe it!! :/


  2. Ruxee

    Oh, my!
    I have heard COUNTLESS sex myths before I got married and my wedding night ended up in tears of frustration because of that (and most of the honeymoon) – it just hurt like nothing before, and though I didn’t bleed, it was incredibly sore. My husband was extremely gentle and eventually we Googled the topic together and figured it out. But now I tell all my soon-to-be-married-friends that if it hurts, just stop.
    As I live in a very traditional area of an eastern Europe country, there are many old myths about sex – the one you mentioned, the one where if you don’t orgasm from the first time it means God is upset with you for some secret sexual sin in your past (I kind of ignored that one, cause it just seemed so stupid, but some of my friends were really tormented by it), that sex just isn’t worth the trouble if you don’t reach climax, and others that just are not worth mentioning.
    So yea, I guess a lot of stuff just need to be figured out before marriage with a counsellor, or parents, or some close friend, and we should share the knowledge when our turn comes!


    • Bailey Steger

      People seriously taught you that your inability to orgasm was directly related to God’s displeasure with you?? Where do these things come from?

      And your simple statement — stop if it hurts — strikes me as odd. I think my circles, with their emphasis on “do it do it do it for your husband’s sake, no matter what, no excuses,” makes that simple idea so revolutionary to me.


  3. Elizabeth Erazo

    I want to add “and more foreplay than your partner thinks! Yes, even if they’re more sexually experience than you.” because, especially if you have a male partner, they are just…clueless as to whether what is happening is comfortable or not, too quick or not, etc. Speak up! Don’t be afraid to say, “Stop”, even if you’re married. You’re not being selfish, its ok.


  4. Adele

    This is information that needs to be out there and I applaud you. You are doing a service by debunking this myth. With that said, I’m going to add one tiny little caveat/addendum/warning/suggestion from my personal experience. The suggestion: you should have your first GYN exam BEFORE you have sex. I think most women do these days, but maybe not all. The caveat: if you do have that exam the doctor will inform you if you are one of the tiny percentage of women who actually do have an intact hymen that occludes the opening as an adult. This is extremely rare, but it does happen. To give you an idea how rare, and how certain I am that it happened to me: at my first exam the doctor said she had never seen one before and asked my permission to bring in a colleague to verify.
    If you are in this small percentage of women, the doctor will offer to break the hymen surgically. Most people will tell you you should definitely do this, and you certainly can, but – here’s the addendum – you don’t have to. There is nothing wrong with accepting your body as it is and proceeding with your first time without surgical assistance. You will not permanently damage yourself or your sex life. If you decide to go this route – this brings me to the warning – double or triple what Bailey said about lube and foreplay and get used to the idea that it is still going to hurt quite a bit. And finally the caveat – yes, it is a myth that it is normal to bleed when you lose your virginity. Absolutely a myth. But there are exceptions. Women who do have an intact hymen are going to have to either break the hymen or have it cut to have sex and there is going to be some bleeding involved. So, if you follow all of Bailey’s suggestions and are as gentle and careful and slow as you can be and still bleed, don’t beat yourself up thinking that you did something wrong, or worse, that your body is defective in some way – it’s not! And one last thing – if you are in this small minority of women, rest assured you can still have sex and, hard as it may be to believe at first, it can even become pleasurable.


  5. Aemi

    Very good advice here. On the foreplay note, my husband and I have come to rejoice in the sexual differences between man and woman. Basically, generally, the man instigates and keeps things moving, and the woman responds slowly and draws out the experience, resulting in much more pleasure for each. Don’t be afraid to whisper, “Not yet,” if you’re not quite ready for the next stage. On the other hand, let your husband’s momentum keep leading you forward. Root yourself in the here and now, concentrate, and focus on your feelings for your husband. They call it “lovemaking” for a reason. :)


  6. Karen Wright

    I’m so sorry Bailey. Thank you for this post and the discussion here is very valuable. I hope more ex-fundie women are able to read all of this.

    A common sex myth in my opinion is that if you do all the right things (and avoid the wrong things), it will guarantee you awesome sex after you say “I Do.” I’ve read too many stories otherwise to think that this is true. Some women, after conditioning themselves since puberty to say “no”, have a hard time just flipping the switch to say “yes” without residual guilt. Some people realize that for them, sex is difficult (have you heard of vaginismus?), regardless of how biblical their procedures were.

    Also, flip side, as a still-single woman, I heard all the talk about how if you aren’t being careful to “save yourself”, you won’t be able to connect to your future husband, you’ll be damaged goods, etc, etc. I believed it all at one time. According to my former standards I haven’t saved myself but it hasn’t ruined my life nor has previous experiences made future experiences less special, actually, quite the contrary. For me anyway. That’s not to say that people can’t get hurt by the decisions they make. Your sexual decisions should not be made lightly, and there is such a thing as bad decisions made with the wrong person. However, good decisions for you might not necessarily be what someone else has mandated for humanity. Your sexual life is made up of decisions that are only YOURS to decide. Don’t be ruled by fear.

    Finally, (or have I already crossed the TMI line for everyone??) masturbation is not a sin, and it doesn’t cause health problems, weird growths on your body, or insanity. It can be really helpful in a lot of ways, especially for women. Knowing how your body works is actually a good thing.

    Aaaaand that’s basically all I have to say on this topic.


    • Bailey Steger

      I’ve unfortunately had to become very familiar with vaginismus, as many of the newlyweds I knew struggled with symptoms. :(

      Your comment is so good, and got me thinking that the Christian sexual ethic needs to get refocused on being wise and pursuing wholeness for oneself and one’s relationships, rather than mandating a list of dos and don’ts that may or may not prevent problems for all people and may or may not promote healthy, loving relationships for all people. After all, every commandment goes back to “you shall love your neighbor as yourself” — which might allow for masturbation, kissing before marriage, going on multiple dates with multiple guys, and whatever other taboos Christian purity culture erected.


  7. korie

    I think one of the biggest things to remember about sex is that everyone is so different, and it isn’t beneficial to compare yourself to someone else. My husband comes from the more conservative background. When we got married, I totally expected him to be a “typical” guy ready to have sex all the time. According to him, he just felt so weird seeing a girl naked that it took him a few months to get used to everything. And I hate foreplay. Lol.


  8. ChrisW

    Wake up church! Attributing religious symbolism to poor biological understanding ENABLES ABUSE. I mean, good grief, yesterday I read a rant about an article giving advice on how not to have pain during anal sex, and the ranter (understandably, though I have many differences with their worldview) complained that all this did was encourage women to put up with something they didn’t enjoy and encourage men to insist on it. In other words, the “it’s OK because…” is a line that perpetuates patriarchy.

    Bailey, good grief, I thought I had it bad enough given I was in a loving relationship, but I never thought of *trying* to break my hymen deliberately. How awful that women might think this is what they have to do.

    A couple of thoughts: 1) did you ever get round to reading my open letter to the evangelical couple considering sex therapy?
    Or my post on how to have great sex for the rest of your life?

    2) Emily Nagoski has written a lot about the hymen in “Come As You Are”. It’s brilliant. She starts by saying “everything you know about the hymen is wrong”. I didn’t believe it to begin with, but she was right.


    • Bailey Steger

      Yes! And attributing spiritual or relational meaning to enduring unnecessary PAIN, sexual or not, is also a recipe for abuse. That’s such a needed observation.

      Yes, I’ve read and loved your two posts!!! And I’ll look up Emily Nagoski’s pieces. Sounds fascinating.

      Liked by 1 person

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