By now, you’ve probably heard of the interview with the rapper, T.I.. During this interview, he stated that he takes his 18 year-old daughter, Deyjah, for annual visits to the gynecologist to examine her hymen to confirm her virginity.
Deyjah’s just graduated high school now and she’s attending her first year of college, figuring it out for herself. And yes, not only have we had the conversation, we have yearly trips to the gynecologist to check her hymen. – T.I.
Honestly, just WOW. During the interview, he was asked if he had talked to his daughter about sex and he did not fully answer the question. First, I was triggered because this is WAYYY too familiar with my experience in African Christian circles. We assume that avoiding the conversation will guarantee abstinence or a decrease in sexual curiosity. It has been proved that this is not the case at all.
It is a normal stage of human development for children and teens to be curious about sexuality. Though it’s apparent that T.I. loves his daughter, we can also acknowledge that this reeks of toxic masculinity. There are MUCH better ways for T.I to express his concern about his daughter’s sexual well-being. Similarly, many African children do not receive “The Talk.”
However, many African girls receive messages that they should remain virgins until marriage, in order to be seen as worthy of marriage. On the other hand, African boys are often encouraged to go out and sow “wild oats.” Again. Toxic masculinity.
Of course, the avoidance of conversations about sex often comes from fear and the projection of these fears. For many parents, discussing sex with their children is very uncomfortable. However, children who learn about sex from their parents are more likely to have a more positive learning experience.
Furthermore, being willing to discuss sex opens the door for parents and children to have candid conversations and provides a safe space for the child to ask questions. Avoidance of this talk can lead to STD’s and teen pregnancy, NOT abstinence. I also cannot help but wonder if T.I.’s preoccupation with his daughter’s virginity comes from a place of the guilt. Maybe about his own actions toward women and also, the fear that his daughter will end up like those women. Which begs the question, “is he protecting or projecting?”
Although T.I. may have the right intentions about his daughter’s sexual health, the impact of these gyno visits may be potentially harmful for the following reasons:
- It may teach her that keeping her virginity is how she ensures her father’s love. That’s conditional love. Thinking more broadly, this could lead to the assumption that she must engage in certain actions in order to gain the love of a partner instead of simply being her authentic self.
- It teach her that her worth is tied to her virginity. See point number one. What happens when she does lose her virginity/if she has already? Is she considered less than?
- It may teach her that a man has a right to control her body. Women all over the world are fighting for the right to choose what happens with their bodies and yet T.I. feels that it is acceptable to check what’s going on between his daughter’s legs. I can’t help but wonder what her mother has taught her about her body and her sexuality.
- It eliminates the opportunity for her to make smart decisions about sex and define her sexuality herself. Research shows that people who are more informed about sex make safer choices and have healthier outcomes. Imagine how empowering it would be if T.I. shared his concerns with his daughter but allowed her to make decisions for herself.
- It potentially prevents her from sharing her real, valid questions about sex. Again, curiosity about sex is a normal part of human development. However, with her father checking her vagina yearly, she may not feel comfortable asking her father questions about sex.
- It gives faulty biological information. The hymen can tear for a variety of reasons, not just sexual intercourse. Therefore, the condition of the hymen is not a reliable indicator of virginity. Even still, many cultures use virginity tests as a way to oppress women and determine whether they are worthy of marriage. But, I mean, who be checking for men’s virginity though?
- It perpetuates the narrative that women should remain virgins while men explore their sexuality. When I first heard about this interview, the first question I asked myself was, “does he do the same to his sons?” Or does he only feel the need to “protect” his daughter? And from what, exactly? If we’re gonna check people’s virginity, then that needs to be across the board. What messages are men receiving about their sexuality?
As African women, the likelihood that we’ve received many well-intentioned, but often disempowering messages about sex is pretty high. Many of these messages are under the context of “protecting” us when in reality, they are simply the projection of the fears of our parents and elders. Being a virgin does not determine our worth. It is not wrong or sinful to be curious about sex.
You are not a “hoe” if you enjoy sex. Many of these messages have to be unlearned as they have been passed down for many generations. As Contemporary African women, we take control of our own narratives and define our sexuality for ourselves. How empowering will it be if T.I. expressed his fears to his daughter, AND THEN allowed her to make the decision about her sexuality for herself? We make better decisions when you have a choice.