Monday, April 27, 2009

The Misplaced Maidenhead

by Raelene Gorlinsky

It's not just our romance heroes who sometimes have a bit of a reality problem with their genitalia. (See "Every Dick Has It's Day" blog post.) A lot of heroines have a part of their pussy that's in the wrong place. And behaves oddly.

We all know the scene:

Corwyndonus of the Cleaving Cock soothed his innocent young bride. "Do not fear, my dear. 'Twill hurt only this first time, and for but a few moments. I promise to be gentle." He then positioned his mighty staff at her virginal entrance. Slowly, slowly he entered her; inch by inch. When but halfway to his goal, he felt the brave barrier that resisted his masculine invasion. "Best I be quick," he murmured to Shy Sheilandra. Drawing almost fully out, with but the head of his massive organ still within her, he then thrust mightily to demolish the gate of her keep, burying himself to the hilt. Sheilandra screamed shrilly, beating on his shoulders with her dainty fists and sobbing with agony. "Shush, my dearling, the deed is done," Corwyndonus soothed her.

Later, as she lay exhausted on the bed, he gazed with masculine pride at the blood dripping from the sheets to the stone floor--proof of his virility and her virginity.
Ahem. Let's lead the charge in eradicating this ridiculous romance novel cliche. The fact is, the hymen is part of the external female genitalia. It is a thin, flexible membrane partially covering the opening of the vagina. Over half of women feel no pain and have no bleeding when the hymen is ruptured--which can happen during various types of physical activities, not just sex.

So the hero does not get several inches in and then burst through some barrier. He most likely doesn't feel the hymen at all, his penis slides right past it when he starts penetration. And the poor virgin (well, no longer virgin) heroine is not going to have to lie on blood-drenched sheets --at most a few spots, if anything. Except, of course, for the "wet spot"--but that's his fault, not hers, and anyway, why wasn't he wearing a condom?

From Wikipedia (yes, I know, not always the most reliable source, but a place to find basic facts):
"The hymen is a fold of mucous membrane which surrounds or partially covers the external vaginal opening. It forms part of the vulva, or external genitalia. [...] It is not possible to confirm that a woman is a virgin by examining her hymen.
"In the normal course of life the hymenal opening can also be enlarged by tampon use, pelvic examinations with a speculum, regular physical activity or sexual intercourse. Once a girl reaches puberty the hymen tends to become so elastic that it is not possible to determine whether a woman uses tampons or not by examining a hymen. In one survey only 43% of women reported bleeding the first time they had sex."

[Yes, there are rare women who have a medical condition of an imperforate hymen (no opening). But that has to be dealt with surgically at puberty, to allow menstrual blood to leave the body. ]

If you are woefully unaware of the parts of the vulva, see the pictures at

So please, no more of those anatomically impossible deflowerings. But we'd all love to hear the most dramatically overdone such scene you've read.


Kimber Li said...

Seriously, I don't know anyone who can even remember any pain or blood at their 'deflowering.'

The horrific thing is that girls are murdered in some parts of the world for not bleeding the first time as proof of virginity. Of course, considering they have no choice in who they marry, maybe they want to die anyway.

Anonymous said...

My favorite was a book in which the heroine had been fingered multiple times during the course of wild three-way sex but still provided a barrier for the hero the first time he penetrated her with his penis. Really? Must have been one tough maidenhead.

Tess MacKall said...

I was thinking the same thing. Women are murdered in this strange world of ours for not having that little membrane in tact.

Most girls lose it while playing sports anyway. If you've ever slid off a bicycle the wrong way and onto that bar they seem hell bent to give girls, you'll definitely lose it too.

I can't think of a scene right off hand that could top the one you've posted, but I do sometimes wonder at the number of scenes where the heroine has an orgasm based on vaginal stimulation only. The vast majority of women need direct clitoral stimulation to achieve orgasm. A little realism would indeed be nice from time to time. lol

Leah Braemel said...

THANK YOU! I did a rant on this on my blog last year. I have actually thrown books across the room because of those scenes. Even big name authors get it wrong unfortunately.

Anonymous said...

And then there's the mid-18th century classic erotica, "Fanny Hill". Our Heroine is a 15-year-old farm girl come to the wicked big city, and ends up in a brothel.

"after several vigorous pushes which hurt me extremely, he made not the least impression."

"he pierced something further into me"

Fanny has been screaming in pain all this time, but now passes out.

"my thighs were instantly all in a stream of blood"

It takes her two days to recover, before she can even walk.

Anonymous said...

Yeah Anon...that would have scared me off sex forever had I read that during the Virgin Years. Ha!

Kelli C

Marissa said...

I cannot remember one with the "internal barrier", but some of the names they give the female sex in books is a riot.

My favorite thus far was "creaming vat". If you need to use the word vat to describe yourself, you best get yourself to a doctor.

Joanna Waugh said...

Thanks for the post, Raelene. This is an important topic for historical writers. And I will confess to ignorance, once upon a time, to the location of a woman's pesky maidenhead. We've all read far too many books by authors who suffer under the same misinformation.

Anonymous said...

A very typical scene I see a lot:

(They've been having lots of fingerplay and stimulation, so it's not like she's never been touched.)

"His hard and hot shaft pushed part way inside her. "Forgive me," he said again. He plunged the steel rod into her swiftly, tearing her, shooting a pain from her core to the top of her head. He muffled her scream with his mouth."

Whole body pain and screaming? Honestly, didn't happen that way for me or for any of my female friends.


ECPI Editors said...

I think you've hit it, Joanna. This is such a well-established error, used to be so common in romances, that most people don't think about it when they read it, don't realize it is wrong. It's just commonly accepted -- but we need to stop it, because not only is it not correct, but it does overflow into women's "real" perceptions, and far too many cultures and people put inaccurate emphasis on these supposed signs of virginity.

I had a wonderful time creating that little example scene - it was like I was channelling the spirits of historical romance authors of twenty years ago.


Anonymous said...

Sorry, girls, I have to disagree with some of what has been said. I can't speak for other women, but I have slammed onto that stupid girl-bike bar (OW,OW,OW!), used tampons, had at least one (really painful)cervical examination, and had some forms of sexual activity (without intercourse...'nuff said) before I got married, and I definitely still had my hymen in place. Our first time, it was extremely uncomfortable for me until he got past that "barrier". Both he and I could feel it, and the resistance it gave, and then the sensation of it giving way. He had to be very gentle that first time. After that, it was never a problem. Seems like it must be really stretchy. As to the bleeding issue (TMI warning!), it was the tail end of my period, so I couldn't accurately answer that, but there was little to speak of, anyway. So at least in my experience, the hymen can be a lot tougher than one might imagine. That being said, I've never heard of anyone having tons of blood, nor can I imagine your whole body "screaming in pain". Just that one part. But when it's happening, and it's your first time, and you're kinda scared, that's more than enough! ;-)

Anonymous said...

By the way, looking at the pics of the hymens on the link provided was definitely gives you an idea of why some women might find it incredibly painful the first time, and maybe bleed some more, while others are relatively unaffected their first time. Can you imagine if you had the rare condition of a hymen with no hole in it, compared to a normal one? Ouch.