I don't remember when I first heard about hymens, but I associate it with jr. high. Maybe someone's last name sounded like hymen and everyone was excited.
As is fairly well published, the hymen is a thin membrane of skin (hymen is Latin for membrane) that partially covers the opening of the vagina. Usually it is depicted as being attached along the back edge and up the sides rather than the front, and not stretching across as a band in the middle. It is located right at the opening, just inside the inner labia.
It can be one piece or somewhat webbed, and it can be smoother or flappier. All of this is being related by me as second-hand knowledge. I have never noticed any hymens on anybody.
The hymen is also referred to fairly commonly as a cherry (never by me personally), and has been associated with virgin females because its presence is thought to guarantee that the vagina in question has never been penetrated by a penis.
I myself don't much correlate the two, partly because, as is fairly common knowledge, a number of things besides sex can break the hymen (excercise, masturbation, tampons. Horseriding and gymnastics are frequently implicated). If such activities don't break the hymen they often give it practise stretching so that it won't break when stretched to accomodate a phallus and will remain intact after sex. Further, the hymen actually recedes back into the body and disappears on its own starting in adolescence (according to a Kinsey Institute report; I have never read this anywhere else).
So, essentially, the hymen is a small bit of skin that may hurt a bit if it is torn somehow, but will go away by itself even if it isn't broken.
As for my own hymen, I've never actually noticed it, despite having being familiar with my unit for quite some time now. I think that is why this page is the 100th one to get made-- I never think about my hymen or the memory of it (I assume it is a trace entity by now, whatever happened to it). In thinking about my vagina i was much more preoccupied with the mole ;)
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