Hey T.I., That's Not How Virginity Works

The rapper clearly doesn’t understand how the female body works, and it shows

Katherine Singh
(Photo: Getty Images)

Just when you thought 2019 couldn’t get any worse, T.I. had to open his big mouth. In an interview that aired on November 7, and has since been removed, the rapper (a.k.a Clifford Joseph Harris Jr.) spoke to podcasts hosts Nazanin Mandi and Nadia Moham of Ladies Like Us, about his family life and parenting style.

And it was nothing short of horrifying. During the interview, T.I. revealed that not only has he had the “sex talk” with his daughters, but he takes the entire thing one step too far, especially when it comes to his 18-year-old daughter Deyjah Imani Harris. “Not only have we had the conversation—we have yearly trips to the gynecologist to check her hymen,” T.I. told the hosts. “Yes, I go with her.”

T.I. continued, telling the world that after his daughter’s 16th birthday, he essentially demanded that she go to the gynecologist, slapping a sticky note on her door about the appointment. It’s something they’ve continued yearly to ensure that her hymen remains intact, which T.I. assumes means she is still a virgin.

And don’t worry guys, as T.I. assured the radio waves: “I will say, as of her 18th birthday, her hymen is still intact.” Excuse me while I barf.

There is *so* much wrong with this situation. As many people online pointed out, this behaviour is incredibly humiliating and abusive; and not only negatively stigmatizes sex, but reinforces patriarchal views that a woman (or individual’s) body and sexuality doesn’t belong to them.

This was reinforced when the rapper talked about gaining consent to have access to his daughter’s medical records, telling the doctor to “just check the hymen, please, and give me back my results expeditiously.”

FWIW, since the convo aired, T.I.’s daughter has been liking tweets about calling the rapper out. So it’s clear that she at least know’s what’s up. And is obviously not a fan.

Read this next: What Does a ‘Normal’ Vagina Look Like Anyways?

Not only are T.I.’s actions super problematic, but his comments are also just straight up misinformed; because, as the doctor tried to tell him, that’s not how hymens—or virginity, for that matter—work. And his comments are perpetuating a lot of myths about both.

First of all, a hymen isn’t a valid indicator of virginity

While T.I. might think he’s achieving something by having his daughter’s hymen checked (which again, ew); he’s actually not. Because—as the doctor in said story pointed out—the hymen isn’t a valid indicator of virginity. For a few reasons. Including the fact that it can be torn when those with hymens do…like anything. And isn’t necessarily torn when one does have sex. This little tidbit also serves to debunk another myth that T.I.’s comments play into: the idea of virginity as a whole. Because we define virginity as breaking the hymen—which can happen doing any physical activity—Toronto Based Anti-Violence Educator Yamikani Msosa says virginity “doesn’t actually tangibly exist.”

And as celeb OBGYN, Gwyneth Paltrow fact-checker and vagina whisperer Dr. Jennifer Gunter outlined in an awesome thread on Twitter, the hymen serves a totally different purpose. She compares it to baby teeth, in that the hymen is there in the early stages of development only, in this case to protect the vagina from infection from urine and feces. As kids get older, the hymen changes and takes on more flexibility, because as Gunter puts it, “evolution doesn’t care.”

And, FYI, because everybody and every body is different, 50% of sexually active teens don’t have a disrupted hymen.

This myth around the hymen stems largely from greater myths we have around “first times”: mainly, educator and sexual violence support worker Farrah Khan says, that they shouldn’t be enjoyable and they should be messy. Assumptions that aren’t necessarily true, and informed by a lot of outside factors besides just straight up P-in-V. “For some people [penetrative sex] can be painful, and other people it can’t. It’s about the person you’re with,  it’s about your comfort. It’s also how old you are. There’s lots of things that factor into this,” Khan explains.

Therefore a “virginity test” is complete BS

Because the hymen isn’t an actual indicator of whether or not someone has had sexual intercourse (rather, maybe just an indicator that they like horse-back riding or yoga), the idea of a “virginity test” is similarly inaccurate. Because you can’t measure if someone is a virgin.

“It’s bunk science,” Khan says. And the World Health Organization would agree. Per the WHO’s website: “‘Virginity testing’ has no scientific or clinical basis. There is no examination that can prove a girl or woman has had sex—and the appearance of girl’s or woman’s hymen cannot prove whether they have had sexual intercourse, or are sexually active or not.” Which makes subjecting someone to a virginity test unnecessary beyond being super problematic—especially for young women who aren’t yet sexually active. According to the WHO, this testing can be detrimental to women’s and girls’ physical, psychological and social well-being. The WHO has even called for the elimination of “virginity testing,” calling it a violation of human rights.

“It’s not trauma-informed,” Khan says of the procedure. “With all parts of your body you should have the right to decide who enters, why they enter, and make the decisions that are good for you,” she says. “And yes, going for a pap smear for medical and health reasons is what you need to be doing, that’s different than going for a test to see if you’re still so-called intact—that’s just ridiculous.”

Read this next: Here’s What Dr. Jen Gunter Wants You to Know About Your Vagina

What T.I. is doing is a form of gender-based violence

This limiting of sexual autonomy is actually a form of gender-based violence, Msosa says. While we might typically think of gender-based violence as an act of physical violence, what the rapper is doing is coercion. “When I reference T.I.’s actions and gender-based-violence, it’s a of policing of Black women’s bodies,” Msosa clarifies. “It’s an attitude and a belief that his daughter needs to be controlled and she would be more virtuous and appealing from the male gaze if she was a virgin.” And, that she doesn’t have any autonomy over said body—or sexuality—at all.

Msosa refers to one particular moment in the interview, when T.I. talks about turning to his daughter and essentially confirms for her, in front of the doctor, that he can have access to her medical records. “What is she going to say? No?” Msosa asks. “That’s a violent act of coercion because, although he’s not hitting her or anything, it’s like what are the consequences if she doesn’t? So there’s a direct power relationship right there.”

Khan is also concerned about the veiled implications behind these tests—and what happens if she “fails.” “What happens if they find out her hymen did ‘break?'” Khan asks. “What happens? That’s what I’d like to know.”

But this isn’t just about him

And while everyone’s upset right now about T.I., as Khan points out, these ideas about virginity and sexual health myths are reinforced by people everyday across communities. “There’s a whole cultural phenomenon around this,” Khan says. “This idea that fathers are these chastity belts around their daughters.” She points to the social media phenom of people posting prom photos where dads hold shotguns or imply conversations with BFs before a date, as emblematic of this.

Read this next: Where Do Each of the Political Parties Stand When It Comes to Abortion?

“Here’s someone who needs some sexual health education but also needs to understand that he has no way to control the body autonomy of his daughter,” Khan says of the rapper and his actions. “[His actions] feed into this narrative.”

Something else to recognize, Khan says, is that this entire conversation and issue isn’t a joke. She refers to the audio from the interview, in which hosts Mandi and Moham were laughing at T.I.’s comments. “I’m like, how is this funny?” Khan says. “This is a violation. It’s a violation and it’s  perpetuating this idea that fathers have a right to their daughter’s body, and that your body doesn’t belong to you.” Which is 100% untrue. “If you don’t want somebody touching your body like that, they shouldn’t be touching your body,” she says.

Period.

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