The rapper T.I. made headlines but not because he released new music. T.I. nonchalantly announced on the podcast “Ladies Like Us” on Nov. 5 that for the past several years, he has taken his now 18-year-old daughter Deyjah Harris to a gynecologist to check if she was still a virgin. In response to this disturbing announcement, the two female co-hosts of the podcast just laughed.
According to the World Health Organization, “virginity testing has no scientific merit and cannot determine past vaginal penetration.” T.I. addressed this in his podcast interview, saying doctors repeatedly reminded him that the hymen can be broken in countless ways besides penetration.
Even with this knowledge, T.I. insisted that Deyjah go through the humiliating procedure year after year. Not only that, he stated that he stayed in the room while the doctor was doing the procedure, thus violating his daughter’s privacy and ability to have confidential discussions with her doctor.
The majority of online feedback on T.I.’s comments has been critical, but a disturbing proportion of the online response has treated the incident as lightly as the podcast hosts.
Many have taken the incident as an opportunity to make lewd jokes, often at the expense of T.I.’s daughter. Others have taken issue with the fact that T.I. made his family’s private business public, but otherwise find that T.I. was well within his rights to take Deyjah to the gynecologist for virginity testing.
It’s unclear whether T.I. did this just out of an overbearing curiosity or to actively prevent his daughter from having sex. During the podcast, he proudly announced that “[Deyjah’s hymen] is still intact,” yet also said, “Who wants a virgin? They’re no fun.” Regardless, both of these approaches to his daughter’s sexuality are problematic. He is reducing a multifaceted young woman to what lies between her legs. He is perpetuating one or both of the following misogynist notions: sexually active women are not respectable, or virgins are stuck-up and boring. Neither are universally true, and T.I. engaging in these stereotypes about his own daughter is disturbing.
Even if T.I. forced Deyjah through the embarrassing and scientifically unsound procedure out of parental concern, I hope that other parents of teenagers learn not to follow in his footsteps.
Virginity testing, especially when it relies on such flimsy “proof” as a ruptured hymen, does little but breed tension and distrust between parents and their children. Deyjah’s recent decision to like tweets criticizing her father and even unfollow him on social media illustrates the resentment she still feels towards her father for the yearly tests.
If T.I. really wanted to help his daughter in the long run, giving her confidential access to her gynecologist would have been infinitely more constructive than repeatedly invading her bodily boundaries.
Cécile Girard is a 19-year-old biology and psychology sophomore from Lake Charles, Louisiana.