Documented by Nicholas Tyndall
BFA Junior Exhibition
Virginity and the hymen are shrouded in myths: biological, cultural, and social. We are taught that our virginity is precious; a gift that we give to the right person all wrapped up in white. To be a virgin is to be virtuous, pure, innocent and clean, however it is also alluring, and at an older age prudish. We are told that the first time will be worth the wait, beautiful, but then we are given conflicting expectations of pain and bleeding. The hymen has and still serves as the ultimate record of a woman’s sexual history and virginity status. The expectation of first time intercourse being to break the hymen, causing the woman to bleed. Interesting how vaginal bleeding is accepted if it is caused by penetration, but menstrual blood is taboo and gross.
Popped Your Cherry turns the common slang phrase of taking one’s virginity into action, by performing the act of popping and visually representing the hymen or “cherry” to an absurd extreme. The word popping connotes force, pain and violence on the female body. The female performer simultaneously acts as the phallus penetrating the hymen, while alluding to her female identity by marking and positioning on specific places of her body such as the breasts and crotch. The video explores the myths and realities around first time sex and the hymen: the blood, the pain, and the climax.
Historically and still in some countries today, the presence of blood, or lack thereof, was used to prove or disprove a woman’s virginity. Families expected newlyweds to hand over bloodied sheets after the wedding night to confirm the woman’s virginity and the consummation of the marriage. In fear of not bleeding, brides would cut their thighs with sharp fingernails to soil the sheets. Women in other countries today undergo surgery to restore their hymens or have an artificial hymen implanted to ensure bleeding, and are still subjected to hymen checks to ensure their virginity, which is inherently flawed given that everyone’s hymens look different. The value assigned to virginity, and the intactness of the hymen as proof of virginity, demonstrates societal control over female sexuality and the female body.
The hymen is not like a cherry or a seal covering the opening of the vagina, it is like an open, stretchy ring. It is strong and flexible, not something that is easily ruptured or “popped.” The phrase Popped Your Cherry, or Popped Her Cherry reflects a larger misunderstanding of the female anatomy as a whole, perpetuates virginity as a social, heterosexual construct and sets harmful and oppressive expectations for women.