Full disclosure: until two days ago, I had never heard of a person (rapper?) called T.I. And now, thanks to Twitter, I know just one thing about him — that for the past few years, he has taken his 18 year old daughter to the doctor every birthday to check that her hymen is still intact.

In his own words:

“Usually like the day after the party she’s enjoying her gifts. I put a sticky note on the door: ‘Gyno. Tomorrow. 9:30.’ So we’ll go and sit down and the doctor will come and talk and the doctor’s maintaining a high level of professionalism. 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? No problem.’”

He then goes on to demand: “Just check the hymen please and give me back my results expeditiously.”

Let’s put aside the fact that he gives his daughter no choice but to consent in front of him to his having access to her test results (guess what T.I., that’s NOT consent!) Let’s even ignore the equally disturbing fact that he refers to said results as his. As though her body — hymen or no hymen — somehow belongs to her father.

What in the holy heck does it say about a man that he is that obsessed with his daughter’s virginity? It reminded me of the reasoning behind the American purity balls where girls dress up in ball gowns and pledge celibacy until marriage, dancing with fathers who vow to protect their purity.

The relationship between the father and daughter is supposed to somehow replace a woman’s need for a romantic partner. Perhaps in that respect, T.I.’s attitude towards his daughter is not such an anomaly, after all.

But it made me wonder what will happen to this young woman after her 19th, 26th or 41st birthday when she one day fails the ‘intact hymen’ test? Will he wave her blood-stained bedsheets around the neighbourhood the morning after her wedding night? Or is she doomed to never know the joys of sexual pleasure for the remainder of her life?

I went to a strict Opus Dei Catholic school where female virginity was widely championed. No, that’s an understatement — the idea of being discovered as not a virgin terrified us. Our only form of sex education was having “Absinence!” drummed into us over and over.

Purity was conditioned into us from an age before we understood what that even meant. We used it as a benchmark by which to judge other girls at our school, because that’s how we knew we would be judged. When I learned about the hymen in 9th grade biology class, I pictured it as a kind of chastity belt created by God, a wall that would stop anyone but our husbands from getting in.

The idea of female pleasure was something completely separated from sex — an act which had to be endured in marriage for the creation of children. Your wedding night would force the breaking of that wall God had carefully built in women, and hence it would inevitably be painful.

Pleasure was a terrible sin, and even sex with your husband could never be for the sake of it. In my young mind, I understood this as the reason the hymen existed. To make sure that sex — for women — was associated with pain.

We were scared that sex would hurt, because it was going to damage us irreparably. An intact hymen was our natural and pure state, and a single sexual act meant that you could no longer return to it. I worried about the hymen, because I heard through whispers that it could be broken by things like horseriding and tampons.

I was horrified to read something in the newspaper about an 11-year-old girl who got pregnant by swimming in a public pool — and I knew that the only way to safely go swimming again was to ensure that I didn’t ride a horse. When I rode a horse, I wondered how I would know if it happened to me. Would there be a sign? Bleeding? Thunderbolts? 

If I’d realised there are a whole slew of reasons why a hymen might break that have nothing to do with virginity, I would have spent my adolescent years worrying about all of those too. 

I never had to endure a hymen check, so I can’t even imagine the humiliation and fear associated with such an examination. A few years ago, the International Rehabilitation Centre For Torture Victims released a statement concluding:

“Forcibly conducting virginity examinations on women violates the autonomy of women in relation to their own body and sexual decision-making. In so doing, these examinations cause significant mental pain and suffering in almost all instances.”

To be clear, they are referring to the fact that this kind of testing often exists within detention settings and is considered a form of “psychological oppression or abuse of power.”

It is mind-blowing that in the United States in 2019 a doctor would even agree to perform an examination associated with prisoners and torture victims — for no reason than other to prove or disprove someone’s virginity to her father. There is no absolutely medical basis for such a procedure.

It is also worth mentioning that no such test exists for T.I.’s sons.

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