Whenever I visit Turkey, I bring my own tampons. That's because it's incredibly hard to find them in the stores which overflow with all manner of pads. (Interestingly, OB tampons can be found and I wonder if they seem less 'invasive since they have no penis-like applicator.)
I got some clarity seeing Sociological Images' post on Tampax's infamous "Are You Sure I'll Still Be A Virgin" ad. The Tampax ad copy says:
I really wanted to use tampons, but I'd heard you had to be, you know, ‘experienced.' So I asked my friend Lisa. Her mom is a nurse so I figured she'd know. Lisa told me she'd been using Petal Soft Plastic Applicator Tampax tampons since her very first period and she's a virgin. In fact, you can use them at any age and still be a virgin.
As Sociological Images writes, tampon-makers faced a very tricky marketing situation:
Because an intact hymen signaled virginity, and virginity has been considered very important, preserving and protecting the hymen was, at one time, an important task for girls and women. You can imagine how tricky this made the marketing of that brand new product: the tampon. Early marketing made an effort to dispel the idea that sticking just anything up there de-virginized you. It worked. (In fact, some partially credit tampon manufacturers for the de-fetishization of the hymen that’s occurred over the last 60 years.)
In the words of the Museum of Menstruation: No company wanted to be responsible for the mass deflowering of American women!
The fact that the above ad is from the 1990s in initially shocking until you realize that the question still gets asked quite often. The website GirlsLife.com offers this sensible answer to the Tampon/Virgin question:
Why wouldn’t you be? A virgin is someone who’s never had sex, not someone who’s never used a tampon. Using a tampon can break or stretch the hymen. But even if it breaks, you’re still a virgin.
This post prompted several comments of "Awesome. Good to know!" Of course they leave out the answer to the most-asked question about virginity: How do you define sex?