On confusing control with love…

When the rapper T.I. publicly stated this week that he takes his teenage daughter to the gynaecologist to check if her ‘hymen is still intact’, the world let out a collective “Uh, what???”. The backlash was well-deserved as people took to social media to condemn the father’s actions.

In a series of tweets denouncing T.I.’s comments, prominent OB/GYN Dr. Jennifer Gunter wrote, “The hymen is no virginity indicator, 50% of sexually active teens do not have a disrupted hymen.”

“The hymen means nothing physically and hymen exams are medically not a thing and are unnecessary,” she added. “And support a disgusting patriarchal trope.”

The World Health Organisation has vehemently denounced virginity testing, calling it “a violation of the human rights of girls and women.”

“‘Virginity testing’ has no scientific or clinical basis,” the organisation said in a statement. “There is no examination that can prove a girl or woman has had sex – and the appearance of girl’s or woman’s hymen cannot prove whether they have had sexual intercourse, or are sexually active or not.”

Apart from the blatantly stupid assumption that the hymen in any way gives an indication of whether or not someone is sexually active, the fact that what he is doing is abusive, and the humiliating public invasion of his daughter’s right to privacy by broadcasting it to the media, this is yet another example of patriarchal policing and assumed ownership of women’s bodies that pervades everything from the media to politics to, in this case, parenthood.

There are multiple issues with this, one of which being the influence the behaviour of this father is going to have on his daughter. Men who control their daughters raise women who confuse control with love. This controlling display of ownership under the guise of ‘protecting’ is only going to perpetuate a cycle of toxic relationships within her life. Rather than trusting and supporting her in making informed decisions about her own body and maintaining a healthy relationship with her body image, she is stripped of any autonomy or decision-making. This is toxic, damaging and deeply unhealthy.

Women’s bodies are political. Decisions about women’s bodies, what they can and can’t do, have been made by politicians, fathers, religious leaders… everyone BUT the woman herself. In the past couple of years we have seen this all over the news. Rape survivors being dragged through a justice system that places the blame on what they were wearing or suggests that they were ‘asking for it’ while protecting the perpetrators. ‘Boys will be boys’ mentalities in high schools, demanding that young women dress modestly in order to not ‘distract’ their male peers. Taxes on women’s menstrual products, deeming them to be luxury items rather than essential. Decisions and laws on reproductive rights being made by a room full of men.

When faced with this endless cycle in the outside world, you would hope that within your own home there would be a healthy, trusting relationship to rely on. A daughter’s relationship with her father sets the foundation of future relationships with men. A healthy father-daughter relationship is a mutually respectful, open and honest, communicative and trusting relationship where the daughter is confident in her father’s enduring love, acceptance and belief in her ability to choose despite any mistakes made. At no time should it involve any annual humiliating test of ‘purity’, display of ownership or judgement. We can only hope that T.I. learns this at some point in the near future before his relationship with his daughter is completely destroyed.

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