On Nov. 5, the “Ladies Like Us” podcast aired an episode featuring rapper T.I. During a conversation about parenting and talking to children about sex, T.I. revealed that he has taken his daughter, who is now 18 and in her first year of college, to the gynecologist every year since her 16th birthday to have her hymen examined as part of a virginity test. In that same conversation, he said, “Right after her birthday, we celebrate, then usually like the day after the party, she’s enjoying the gifts, I put a sticky note on the door: ‘Tomorrow. 9:30.’”
Although T.I. has not publicly addressed the situation following the podcast, its hosts, Nazanin Mandi and Nadia Moham, have since issued an apology and deleted the episode. His comments were met with widespread backlash, with many people responding that this test is disgusting, unnecessary and abusive. It is not a crime to want to protect your children from what you think is unsafe, but virginity checks and performative intimidation are not the answer.
T.I. is not the only parent who has overstepped boundaries in order to ensure that their child is not sexually active. A 2016 study reported that in a survey of 288 doctors, 10 percent reported that they had been asked to perform a “virginity test” on a patient by a parent or family member. It has been falsely claimed that the hymen, a thin piece of tissue at the opening of the vagina, will be disrupted during a first sexual experience and can therefore serve as an indicator that someone is sexually active. This has been disproved numerous times by experts, and the World Health Organization has even called for the banning of “virginity testing,” saying that it is medically unnecessary and “painful, humiliating and traumatic.”
Something particularly infuriating about T.I.’s actions is the clear double standards that he seems to have created while raising his children. When his 15-year-old son revealed that he had been sexually active for a year, T.I. reacted in a much different way. While he said he didn’t want any of his children to have sex before their time, he conceded, “I will definitely feel different about a boy than I will about a girl. And that’s just the God’s honest truth. I don’t think there’s any father out there who’ll tell you any different.”
Unfortunately, there are fathers who think similarly to T.I. The image of a dad sitting at a table polishing his shotgun while meeting his daughter’s new boyfriend or prom date is one that has often been used for comic relief in media. Former Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell had a Facebook status about his plans for any boy who showed interest in his daughter go viral, which read, “Thinking about having a chastity belt made w/ a SEAL trident engraved on it and reads ‘Ask father for key.’” Luttrell’s daughter was just 2 years old when the status was made. Other posts that have gone viral on social media include dads forcing their children to wear T-shirts with their faces on them to intimidate dates.
Although some might see an overprotective father as funny or even necessary, Jenn Jackson, an assistant professor of political science at Syracuse University, said this behavior can lead young people to be “socialized to understand their bodies do not belong to them, that they are a societal possession.” Children who are raised with these attitudes might grow up to feel shame in relation to exploring their sexuality or engage in unsafe sex as a form of rebellion.
Giving your child rigid guidelines and no avenues to explore or even ask questions about sex could lead them to have unhealthy or inaccurate perceptions about healthy sex and relationship practices. Teaching your child that they have agency and body autonomy and they have the right to say no to things they are not comfortable with will lead them to have a much healthier relationship with themselves, their bodies and potential partners.
Annick Tabb is a senior double-majoring in German and English.