TI’s ‘virginity test’ for his daughter is disgusting – but the real tragedy is how many other men would do the same
To be outraged at the rapper’s comments is appropriate, but it’s dangerous to frame it as an exceptional case. We need to dismantle the idea that women’s sexuality is for men to control
Sometimes I’m thankful that there are people out there who are so deeply misogynistic that they will openly admit to it – even brag about it – for all the world to hear. Because without them, things stay silent and hidden and people say things like: “I just think feminism’s gone too far now.” I don’t think anyone will be saying that today, after reading TI’s comments about his adult daughter’s sex life.
The rapper admitted on a podcast that he takes his now 18-year-old daughter Deyjah to a gynaecologist every year after her birthday, asks her to consent to her confidential medical information being shared with him, and then demands a doctor confirms that her hymen remains intact.
It’s unclear whether this is supposed to be a form of deterrence so that this woman never has PIV (penis-in-vagina) sex, or whether there is some sort of punishment that would come into play were the doctor’s conclusion to be that she had indeed done so. But suffice to say that TI’s 15-year-old son does not have to face any kind of similarly controlling behaviour.
Predictably and rightly, people are outraged. But when you really unpack TI’s actions, they don’t really seem that far removed from how many men – and society at large – view women and female sexuality.
Female virginity is upheld as a “virtue”, something to be proud of and to protect and eventually, to “lose”. This feeds into the narrative that straight men will always want to have sex, and women’s only social power lies in their ability to withhold it. It not only completely ignores the complexity of sexual politics, but also reinforces the idea that women’s sexuality should be centred around men. Like so many other fathers, TI seems to believe that his daughter’s sexuality is his until he decides to let her pass it on to another man.
That somewhere in Georgia there is a doctor who allowed this to happen is further evidence that this mentality is not rare – even if (hopefully) the actual scenario is. Now that Deyjah is 18, her medical privacy is protected under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (Hipaa). TI explained how he got around this: “[The doctor] is like, ‘Well, you know sir, I have to, in order 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? No problem.’” Could this be a sign that his daughter is being controlled and manipulated?
TI has been convicted of possession of three unregistered machine guns and two silencers. He has said that he would never vote for a female president because women “make rash decisions”. He was involved in Robin Thicke’s widely criticised “Blurred Lines” which, in my opinion, trivializes sexual consent. And now he’s openly admitted to wanting to control what his daughter does with her vagina. For a doctor to watch a man ask a woman to give up her right to sexual privacy and go along with it is a shocking dereliction of care which should fill us all with a sense of dread, especially when the man in question is misogynistic, but let’s not kid ourselves into thinking it’s a one-off.
Among the conservative religious right, so-called purity balls are not uncommon, where girls as young as 12 (and sometimes even younger) essentially pledge to not have sex before marriage, and fathers are tasked with “protecting their purity”. Similarly, the angry dad on prom night telling a teenage boy that if he touches his daughter he’ll kill him is such an ingrained trope in film and TV that it’s no wonder girls grow up thinking that love means giving up all bodily autonomy to a man.
We see the culmination of such a mentality in most weddings, which still by and large see a woman dressed in virginal white being “given” to her husband by her father. While most people don’t take this literally, the symbolism still matters – it is the living embodiment of patriarchal supremacy.
To be disgusted and outraged at TI’s comments is appropriate, but to suggest that it’s an exceptional case is dangerous. If we want to exist in an equal world, we need to dismantle the idea that women’s sexuality is for men to control, own and benefit from. It doesn’t matter if the man is your husband, your father or the president of the United States. Until we begin to see the social patterns that have led us to this point, cases like this will continue to happen in big and small ways every day, whether we hear about them because the subject is famous or not.