Augustine: T.I. has no right to know about the state of his daughter’s hymen

Kathryn Augustine, Assistant Opinion Editor

Birthdays are marked by generic Hallmark cards from extended family members, grocery store cakes and presents with festive wrapping paper. For rapper T.I.’s daughter, Deyjah Harris, her birthday is also celebrated with an annual visit to the gynecologist — accompanied by her father.

In the podcast “Ladies Like Us,” hosted by Nazanin Mandi and Nadia Moham, the subject of parenting arose in an episode with T.I. titled “Life Hacks with T.I.” The rapper broached the topic of his eldest daughter, who is beginning her first year of college.

Rather than reflecting on his daughter’s achievements or her character, he said each year since she has turned 16, he’s taken the liberty to schedule her an appointment with a gynecologist — not to maintain her reproductive health but to check her the state of her hymen, to determine whether she retains her virginity.

To gain access to that information, T.I. persuades his daughter to sign a release waiver, on the premise that there’s nothing his daughter is not open to sharing.

He then declared to the audience of “Ladies Like Us” that his daughter’s hymen remains intact as of her 18th birthday. I seriously doubt T.I. received any form of consent from his daughter before broadcasting this fact to the American public.

T.I.’s actions are a direct invasion of Harris’ privacy. Whether a woman has engaged in sexual behavior is not the concern of her family, her friends or even a current sexual partner. It’s understandable that parents want to ensure that their children are partaking in sex with the proper protection and accurate knowledge concerning consent and STIs. However, it’s not appropriate for parents to subject their children to exams in an effort to uncover details about their sexual behavior.

This raises questions about the presence of parents and guardians in the examination rooms at the doctor’s appointments for their children after the age of 16. With a parent sitting in on a discussion between a doctor and their child, the child will be naturally hesitant to answer questions with complete honesty. Additionally, the child may feel uncomfortable asking questions. There is also the potential for unnecessary, invasive examinations, coercion of the child or further prodding, as in the case of Harris.

Parents should not be in examination rooms with their children after the age of 16 and should not be forced to sexual aspects of their health with the child’s physician, unless there is clearly un-coerced verbal consent from the child.

Harris was technically a minor when the examinations began, but does her age mean she does not deserve the control of her own body? Now that she is 18 years old, the controlling role of her father in her reproductive healthcare is questionable from a legal standpoint.

It’s interesting that T.I.’s oldest son, Messiah Harris, is 19 years old and yet, we hear no mention of anxiety about Messiah’s virginity in the duration of the podcast. His concern about the purity and innocence of his female teenage daughter is antiquated and sexist. Why, in 2019, are fathers still fixated on protecting the virginity of their daughters, who are capable of making independent decisions?

And by monitoring whether or not she has had sex, he is unconsciously sending the message that her worth is equated with her virginity. A decision to refrain from or engage in sex is entirely unrelated to the character of a woman. She is over 16, the age of consent in her home state of Georgia, and deserves the right to lose or maintain her virginity. If Harris has sex, that does not make her “dirty” or a slut.

In addition to an invasion of Harris’ privacy, T.I.’s logic that assumes a broken hymen means lost virginity is blatantly flawed.

The belief that the hymen is broken by sex is mythical. For starters, the hymen is not “broken,” but rather torn. And sex is not the sole activity that can prompt stretching or tearing. Changes to the hymen can be a consequence of a myriad of physical activities, from riding a bike to gymnastics.

While all humans are generally equipped with the same body parts, these body parts differ in appearance. This applies to the hymen, too. In fact, some women are born without a hymen entirely. Therefore, a lack of a hymen, or scant tissue in that region, can be a product of genetics, physical activity or a sexual partner. It’s not plausible to accurately pinpoint sex as the causal factor.

Thus, there is clearly no scientific validity of “virginity testing.” However, despite this knowledge conveyed to him by gynecologists, T.I. is confident that the state of his daughter’s hymen is indicative of her sexual activity.

I’m sick and tired of women relinquishing control over their bodies at the request of a man in power. Like our male counterparts, we deserve privacy and respect for the decisions we make.

Kathryn Augustine is a Medill sophomore. She can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.