Famous rapper T.I. is gaining attention for admitting on the podcast “Ladies Like Us,” to going to the gynecologist with his daughter Deyjah each year of her birthday to make sure her hymen is “still intact.” The rapper admittedly pressures his daughter into permitting her gynecologist to share her medical information so that he can make sure that his daughter has not yet lost her virginity. According to T.I. during the podcast, the annual gynecologist visit began after Deyjah’s 16th birthday.
All over the internet, the rapper is being criticized for this annual ritual, both for the inaccurate anatomical implication of losing one’s virginity and the outright violation of his daughter’s right to privacy concerning her choices and her body. These are only a couple of problems that should be addressed within this recent story.
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First, let’s address the problem of using a “broken” hymen as an indicator of lost virginity. A hymen is a thin, fleshy tissue located at the opening of the vagina. Not all hymens are the same; usually, hymens have a hole that is naturally large enough for period blood to come out and to comfortably use tampons. However, it is also normal for people to have such small hymens that it seems there is no hymen at all. Others may have hymens that cover the entire vaginal opening, though these cases are rare, and surgery may be required to remove the extra tissue. A common misconception concerning the hymen is that it is always broken and causes bleeding when one loses their virginity. Though this may happen to some, the hymen is also stretchy and sex can occur without it breaking. Two percent of those born with a vagina have a completely closed hymen, described as an “imperforate” hymen. With that being said, once the hymen is stretched open, it doesn’t grow back.
Now that it has been clarified that the hymen is virtually different for everyone with a vagina, we can discuss how using it as a so-called measure of “virginity loss” is simply wrong. There are numerous non-sexually-related ways that a hymen can stretch or tear. This can happen by stretching the body strenuously, as is done in athletics. It can also tear by inserting a tampon, and it can even break without an obvious or apparent cause. Some strenuous activities known to possibly stretch or tear the hymen are bicycle riding, horseback riding, stretching, and dancing. Masturbation can also cause a hymen to stretch or tear. T.I.’s daughter could experience a stretched or torn hymen for any of these reasons, making her less likely to be open and honest with her father out of the fear of being punished.
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Secondly, the very fact that T.I. is making his daughter undergo a “virginity test” is an outright violation of her privacy. The rapper has not even given his daughter the opportunity to be honest and trusted in terms of what she chooses or has chosen to do with her body. Rather, he is enforcing fear tactics that make it less likely that she will be open and honest with her father. Not only is the so-called “virginity test” she is undergoing invalid, but the fact that she is being forced to undergo it as a way of policing her body is damaging to her as an 18-year-old college student who may want to explore her sexuality and identity.
Unfortunately, far too many parents feel entitled to know and police their teenagers’ sexual or romantic decisions. It is understandable for parents to feel protective of their children. However, teenagers and young adults also need to be given the space to make their own decisions. Once parents intervene, their children are likely to rebel and be secretive, rather than having a healthy enough relationship with their parents to feel comfortable talking about their decisions. T.I. is both dangerously enforcing a misconception about hymens and their relation to sexual behavior and damaging his relationship with his daughter, and possibly her own relationship with sexuality.
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Parents: the most effective way to ensure that your children are choosing to behave safely and cautiously is to openly and accurately educate them about sex; if you’re not comfortable having the “sex talk” with your children, have a professional do it. Abstinence-only education has been proven in multiple instances to unsuccessfully reduce sexually risky behavior in both teenagers and adults. Ensuring that your children feel comfortable enough to bring up any worries about their bodies or decisions is of utmost importance. Your children have a right to privacy, and of course, you have a right to love and care for them in a way that respects this boundary.
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