By: Julietta Bisharyan
On an episode of the podcast “Ladies Like Us,” it was revealed that rapper T.I. visits the gynecologist every year with his 18-year old daughter, Deyjah Imani Harris, to check if her hymen is still intact. This statement was met with outstanding criticism across social media and news platforms as it is clearly a violation of human rights, specifically women’s rights. Harris even liked tweets condemning her father, which called him “possessive and controlling.” The podcast episode, hosted by Nazanin Mandi and Nadia Moham, has since been deleted from Apple Podcasts, and rightfully so.
Many found an issue with T.I’s “virginity testing,” a practice that is outdated and inaccurate. The stretching or tearing of the hymen can be caused by many activities outside of sexual intercourse. This includes sports, horseback riding, tampon use, and even doing the splits. Some women aren’t even born with a hymen, so to base a person’s virginity on a thin membrane is both illogical and damaging.
To this, T.I. disturbingly responded with, “Look, doc. She don’t ride no horses. She don’t ride no bike. She don’t play no sports. Just check the hymen, please, and give me back my results expeditiously.” This assertion that he holds a right to his daughter’s intimate information is beyond controlling and inappropriate. Virginity testing should not be done by any means.
T.I’s intrusiveness is highly problematic as a parent. Gynecologist visits already place patients in a vulnerable state. To have a parental figure demand personal information only ruins the child’s relationship with their parent more and detests children from confronting their parents about serious topics. As long as there is a conversation or understanding of safe, consensual sex, there is no need for an individual’s sex life to be scrutinized.
It’s important to note that safe sex is regarded as sexual activity in which individuals take precautions to protect themselves against sexually transmitted diseases or unplanned pregnancy. This implies the use of contraceptives as well as a conversation between the two consenting partners beforehand.
Consensual sex involves a mutual agreement between both parties before engaging sexually. Consent is informed, voluntary, and revocable at any time. Consent is not possible when someone is incapacitated, underage, or unconscious. Parents should take responsibility in educating their children on how to practice safe sex and the importance of consent rather than dismissing taboo topics altogether.
Furthermore, establishing the absence of a hymen as a loss of virginity invalidates sexual activity beyond penetration. This age-old myth, therefore, seems to suggest that only heterosexual intercourse can determine if an individual is a virgin or not. This is damaging to LGBTQ communities as it constitutes sex as an act solely between a male and a female.
There is also a clear double standard when it comes to men and women and their sexuality. T.I. has previously stated, “… I will definitely feel different about a boy than I will about a girl. And that’s just the God’s honest truth. I don’t think there’s any father out there who’ll tell you any different,” in reference to his sexually active 15-year old son.
While men are praised for their sexual encounters, women are perceived in a negative light and often discouraged from engaging sexually, especially at a young age. If a woman engages in sexual activity with multiple partners, they are labeled as promiscuous. There is a disturbing level of hypocrisy behind T.I.’s parenting. It is one thing to be concerned about your child’s initial sexual explorations, and another thing to demand their intimate details.
T.I.’s parenting is also a representation of a misogynistic society that still prevails. Policing his daughter’s body implies that he has complete ownership of her, which is a dangerous notion. When an individual turns 18, legally, parents cannot have access to their child’s medical record and need to ask permission directly from the individual. Not only are T.I.’s actions harmful, but they are illegal. T.I. states that he forces his daughter to sign a waiver allowing him to see the results of her examination. Forced consent is not consenting and doctors should be able to recognize this as coercion. The extent T.I. is willing to go to obtain confidential information to possess her is dangerous.
Time after time, women have fought for the full autonomy of their bodies. Whether it be reproductive health, issues of consent, and virginity, there is still an ongoing struggle to claim what is ours. At the end of the day, virginity is a social construct and cannot define an individual any longer. What one person’s idea of sex and virginity may differ from another. Women should be encouraged to safely explore their sexuality and themselves, instead of being regulated by parental figures or anyone else.