Rapper T.I. takes his teenage daughter to the gynecologist each year to check if her hymen is “still intact,” he said during a podcast released Tuesday.
T.I., whose real name is Clifford Joseph Harris Jr., detailed aspects of the examination while appearing on the “Ladies Like Us” podcast with Nazanin Mandi and Nadia Moham. When the conversation turned to parenting and “the sex talk,” the rapper invoked his 18-year-old daughter, Deyjah Harris, who he says just began her first year of college.
“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,’ ” he said.
Harris’ annual trips to the gynecologist to “check her hymen” began after her 16th birthday, he said. Some people believe that the hymen, a thin membrane located at the opening of the vagina, remains intact until a woman has sex. This false indicator of virginity has been debunked by medical experts, and human rights organizations have called “virginity testing” both unnecessary and harmful for women.
Continuing his story, T.I. said his daughter’s doctor requires her to sign a waiver allowing him to see the results of her examination.
“So we’ll go and sit down and the doctor will come and talk, and the doctor’s maintaining a high level of professionalism,” T.I. said. “He’s like, ‘Well you know, sir, I have to, 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? Ain’t no problem.’ “
Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, also known as HIPAA, a doctor may discuss a patient’s health status or treatment “if the patient agrees, or when given the opportunity, does not object.”
The rapper indicated his daughter’s gynecologist also explained other ways a hymen can become stretched open, such as riding a bike, horseback riding or other physical activities.
“I say, ‘Look doc – she don’t ride no horses, she don’t ride no bikes, she don’t play no sports, man – just check the hymen, please, and give me back my results expeditiously.” He added: “I will say, as of her 18th birthday, her hymen is still intact.”
Mandi and Moham laughed throughout the segment, and at one point, one of the hosts quipped, “Somebody check on Deyjah, she’s a prisoner in her home.” T.I.’s remarks went viral Wednesday, as many expressed concern over the examination and controlling nature of his comments. He and Harris’ publicists did not respond to emails from The Washington Post requesting comment, though BuzzFeed News observed that Harris liked several tweets Wednesday criticizing her father, one of which labeled the situation “disgusting, possessive and controlling.”
Responding to the story on Twitter, California OB/GYN Jen Gunter said it was “horrible” and provided an in-depth explanation of why the hymen is not a valid way to gauge a woman’s virginity.
“The hymen is no virginity indicator, 50% of sexually active teens do not have a disrupted hymen,” she wrote. “The hymen is often very flexible.”
As someone who damaged her hymen while riding a bicycle at 11 years old, Jenn Jackson, an assistant professor for political science at Syracuse University, found T.I.’s anecdote particularly troublesome. She said Harris’ experience likely resonates with many women, especially black women from religious families, who are led to believe their sexual organs are tied to their value and self-worth.
These women are often told that for someone to love them they need to be “pure” and “intact,” as if engaging in sexual activity means something is wrong with them, said Jackson, who also conducts research in black politics, gender and sexuality.
“[Harris] is an adult – she can pretty much do what she wants – so why is he still invested in what she does with her body?” Jackson said. “These are the types of ways young girls are socialized to understand their bodies do not belong to them, that they are a societal possession.”
T.I. accompanying Harris to her gynecologist appointments could also be harmful, Jackson added. Many women at that age have concerns or questions they are less likely to ask with a parent in the room.
“Now she’s going to have to do that work on her own,” Jackson said. “That is the risk: so many girls end up having to unlearn and reteach themselves to live comfortably in our own bodies.”
Planned Parenthood appeared to respond to T.I. in its own series of tweets Wednesday afternoon, writing, “[I don’t know] who needs to hear this but virginity is a made-up social construct, and it has absolutely nothing to do with your hymen.”
In 2018, several United Nations agencies, including the World Health Organization, U.N. Human Rights and U.N. Women, issued a global call to ban virginity testing altogether. They called the procedure, which has been documented in at least 20 countries, “medically unnecessary, and oftentimes painful, humiliating and traumatic.”
Virginity testing, they said, is not only inhumane but has no scientific or clinical basis.
“The term ‘virginity’ is not a medical or scientific term. Rather, the concept of ‘virginity’ is a social, cultural and religious construct – one that reflects gender discrimination against women and girls,” the World Health Organization wrote last year. “Performing this medically unnecessary and harmful test violates several human rights and ethical standards including the fundamental principle in medicine to ‘do no harm’. WHO recommends that this test should not be performed under any circumstances.”