The controversial comments were made in an episode of the podcast Ladies Like Us and aired on Tuesday. The group had a larger conversation about sex education and parenting more generally. The rapper said he wanted to find out if his daughter was still a virgin.
“So we’ll go and sit down and the doctor comes and talks, and the doctor’s maintaining a high level of professionalism,” the father of six said.
“He’s like, ‘You know, sir, I have to, in order to share information’ — I’m like, ‘Deyjah, they want you to sign this so we can share information. Is there anything you would not want me to know? See, Doc? Ain’t no problem.'”
T.I. notes the doctor explained the hymen can be broken in other ways other than penetrative sex, but T.I. said he was certain this didn’t apply to his daughter.
“And so then they come and say, ‘Well, I just want you to know that there are other ways besides sex that the hymen can be broken like bike riding, athletics, horseback riding, and just other forms of athletic physical activity,'” he said.
“So I say, ‘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.'”
Several experts on social media talked about the rapper’s comments and the hymen, including Dr. Jen Gunter.
“The hymen is no virginity indicator, 50 per cent of sexually active teens do not have a disrupted hymen. The hymen is often very flexible,” she said.
The history of “virginity testing”
T.I. is referencing a since-debunked medical tradition known as “virginity testing,” defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as “a gynecological examination conducted under the belief that it determines whether a woman or girl has had vaginal intercourse.”
The test typically involves “inspecting the hymen for tears or its size of opening, and/or inserting fingers into the vagina.” In October 2019, the WHO and other United Nations agencies called for a worldwide ban on the practice.
“Both techniques are practiced under the belief that the appearance of the female genitalia can indicate a girl’s or woman’s history of sexual activity,” the WHO said.
“WHO states that there is no evidence that either method can prove whether a woman or girl has had vaginal intercourse or not.”
The WHO said the test is both “medically unnecessary” and “violates several human rights,” recommending that doctors no longer perform the procedure to protect the safety of women and girls.
The problem with obsessing over virginity
Relationship and sex expert Jessica O’Reilly, host of the @SexWithDrJessPodcast, tells Global News the rapper’s views on virginity are concerning.
She says for starters, virginity is a social construct.
“It really reduces sex to one specific act,” she explained.
“Virginity tends to be over emphasized based on gender, with young women pressured to maintain their so-called virginity and young men to claim they’ve lost their so-called virginity.”
O’Reilly adds in pop culture, we’ve seen this for many years. Young women in particular, in the past, have talked about claiming virginity, while men talk about losing theirs.
Previously speaking with Global News, Laura M. Carpenter, a sociology professor at Vanderbilt University and author of Virginity Lost: An Intimate Portrait of First Sexual Experiences, said virginity for women is seen as “necessary.”
“Historically, we’ve seen female virginity as more necessary, as almost tantalizing, and there’s this sort of myth or narrative in the culture of men wanting to introduce women to … the wonders of sex,” Carpenter said.
“This type of behaviour from T.I. just reeks of men owning women’s bodies and fathers having more agency over their daughters’ bodies than the daughters themselves.”
She says some men hand over their agency, once their daughter gets married, to another man. She also adds the rapper may be putting her daughter’s health at risk.
“We are going to tell young women in particular that they can’t be honest about their sexual history or sexual behaviour with doctors for fear of their parents finding out.”
Then, there is a parenting aspect of this. O’Reilly says parents worry or wonder about their children’s sexual lives, but there are better ways to have open conversations about sex.
“Teaching your kids their only option is to abstain and policing your child’s body does not make them safer,” she explained. “It does not help to instill body confidence and positive body imagine in young people, which I would think most parents desire.”
How this myth harms women and girls
As the rapper noted in the podcast, he was informed by the doctor his daughter’s hymen could be broken in other ways. O’Reilly stresses we really need to stop focusing so much on the hymen.
The hymen is thin mucus tissue folds — it is not a solid membrane that “pops” during vaginal sex, she said.
“It can be worn over time through a variety of processes including hormonal changes, your menstruation, regular discharge or masturbation.”
— With a file from Laura Hensley