New York considers a ban on “virginity testing” in the wake of T.I.’s comments about his daughter
In early November 2019, rapper T.I., whose real name is Clifford Joseph Harris Jr., told the hosts of the Ladies Like Us podcast that he attends his 18-year-old daughter’s gynecologist appointments to ensure she’s still a virgin. Now, in direct response to T.I.’s admission, lawmakers in the state of New York are currently considering outlawing virginity testing, which has been proven to be “bogus and unsupported by evidence,” as The New York Times reports, and is a violation of women’s rights.
During his November interview, T.I. recalled that his daughter’s doctor informed him that the hymen, the thin membrane that somewhat covers the entrance to the vagina, and is sometimes torn or stretched during sexual intercourse, can be “broken” through other means of physical activity, like riding horses, bikes, or even by using tampons.
“So I say, ‘Look doc, she don’t ride no horses, she don’t ride no bike, she don’t play no sports. Man, just check the hymen please and give me back my results expeditiously,'” T.I. shared with the Ladies Like Us show.
Following the immediate backlash caused by this story, T.I. appeared on Jada Pinkett Smith’s Facebook show Red Table Talk, where he stated that his interview was “misconstrued” and “sensationalized” by the media, and that he had told the story in a joking manner.
But despite his attempt to flip the narrative, concern about T.I.’s outdated patriarchal sentiment had already led to a major public conversation.
“[His comments] made me angry and I was just very upset,” Assemblywoman Michaelle C. Solages (D), the legislator who introduced the anti-virginity testing bill last week, told the Times. “To use your platform to say that you did this is just misogynistic and it sets the women’s movement back.”
Solages’ bill would prohibit medical practitioners from performing any kind of virginity exams and would issue penalties for professional misconduct if practitioners breach the ban. In addition, any “virginity tests” performed outside of a medical setting would be labeled as sexual assault and legally dealt with in the appropriate manner.
The current bill proposal is already backed by three co-sponsors in the Assembly, and Senator Roxanne J. Persaud (D) brought a companion bill to the State Senate, the Times reports.
“The invasive procedure of a virginity examination violates the sanctity and purity of a female,” Persaud said of virginity exams.
“Whether a child or adult, this breaches not only moral grounds, but also the privacy entitled to a female and their doctor,” Senator Persaud continued.
In 2018, the World Health Organization declared virginity testing—often performed in countries where virginity is a requirement for marriage—unethical, and recommended a worldwide ban on the practice. However, some experts argue that legally banning virginity testing would inadvertently legitimize it.
Dr. Maura Quinlan, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University, told the Times she was appalled and disappointed that New York introduced the virginity exam ban.
“You can’t tell if someone is a virgin,” she said, “so how can you ban something that is not possible?”
T.I., who claimed on Red Table Talk he was unaware of the sensitivity of the topic, has since confirmed he has never been in the exam room with his daughter, and has apologized to his daughter for speaking publicly about her gynecological history. Of course, much debate will surely ensue before the anti-virginity testing bill is passed.
But, in our humble opinion, although he brought the topic to the American public’s attention, T.I. should stay out of the debate altogether.