The curious case of a woman’s virginity remains an area of concern the crevices of people’s minds to a point of extension outside of themselves. Internalised assumptions concerning female worth and purity based on the preservation of virginity goes beyond physicality. Objectification of the female body may have become a common phrase as there are demands from every realm of life for political correctness, however, the realities of women are unchanged.
The virginity of a woman being treated as value in today’s society rings of ideals that define women as a product or prize. The possibility that women may be devalued on the basis of a sexual choice relates to the lack of agency that women are presumed to yield. There are many external pressures on women and how they choose to conduct themselves sexually, whether its origin is familial or otherwise. While there are many great strides to empower multicultural woman to take charge of their own feminine health, we still have a long way to go.
Last week, rapper T.I openly discussed the fact that he takes his 18 year old daughter Deyjah Harris to a gynaecologist to ensure that her hymen is still intact and that her virginity has not been compromised. This was broadcast on the Ladies Like Us podcast hosted by Nazanin Mandi and Nadia Moham, who have issued a public apology concerning the incident. Janelle Griffith of NBC news reflects on this situation by noting that according to gynaecologist Jennifer Gunter, Hymen examinations are not a medical reality and are an infringement on the human rights of women.
Dr Gunter has an informative blog on WordPress that helps women separate misinformation and fact concerning their vaginal/female health, through routinely challenging information spread on various online outlets. Although the conversation is continuing, it is worth considering that thousands of parents feel that they have jurisdiction over their children’s sexual activity even when they are adults. Invasions of privacy such as this are sustained and justified by the patriarchal structures that reinforce the concept that women are objects to be accounted for and their worthiness classified through abstinence from sexual activities in a time or setting deemed inappropriate, whether it is to their personal liking or not.
As T.I made such an intimate matter public, his lack of consideration for his daughters feelings toward it were exposed. There is very little concern for the implications that this has on her self esteem, privacy and bodily awareness. Although it can be properly addressed now that is has been exposed, the sheer audaciousness of T.I to explain this situation is disconcerting, to say the least. It puts women in a position to beg the question, to where can they escape so that they can experience freedom from the pressure associated with guarding their virginity according to certain stipulations determined by those around them.
It is important to consider the physical harm that hymen testing can result in as well as the mental or emotional trauma due to the invasive nature of the testing. A piece of research presented by Claudi García-Moreno and Rose Mckeon Olson (2017) that systematically reviews virginity testing references the unreliability of the procedure and the impact that inaccurate conclusions concerning the virginity of women can cause great distress to them, especially concerning the social implications thereof. These social implications are so vivid as the concept of virginity goes well beyond a physical condition but rather permeates to every realm of a woman’s life. In many cases it may negatively impact the eligibility that people around them assume is theirs to give.
For many women, virginity testing has not necessarily benefited them. Although similar examinations may be redeemed in cases of rape, in which this procedure can assist the victim to obtain justice, the burden of proof remains with a woman’s body. The concept of hymen testing is yet another example of how women are mishandled through the process of societies ensuring their control over privacies that are not theirs to own. The persistence of these tests through time along with their possibility of being inaccurate relates to the panic that ensues when a woman has to hand her fate over to the determination of someone else. Simply put, women are being violated through these tests and the ideology that it is for their wellbeing is even more so projected onto them.
The rejection of virginity testing in the medical arena and the histories lurking below its practice is evidence enough that our culture toward the bodies of women needs to change. T.I making this statement with inflated pride and a false sense of ownership over his daughter’s body surely appalled many however it is through exposing this behaviour openly that women will be emancipated from answering to anyone concerning their body, mind and choices thereof.