Why Virginity Is A Sexist Construct That’s Designed To Shame Female Sexuality
On a recent episode of the Ladies Like Us podcast—hosted by Nazanin Mandi and Nadia Moham—rapper T.I. made a startling revelation about his 18-year-old daughter after being asked whether or not he had discussed sex ed with any of his children. “Not only have we had the conversation, we have yearly trips to the gynecologist to check her hymen,” T.I. replied. He later added, “I will say, as of her 18th birthday, her hymen is still intact.”
That’s right, in an effort to “safeguard” his daughter’s virginity, T.I. blatantly admitted to policing her body and her sexuality. Needless to say, his flippant remarks resulted in a wave of backlash and a fiery onslaught of complaints in the media and across social networking platforms, leading to the swift removal of the episode from online streaming and a belated apology from the co-hosts—namely, for laughing in response to his repugnant remarks. (And the co-hosts’ reactions—albeit knee-jerk—were certainly less than satisfactory considering they market their podcast as providing listeners “with a modern-day women’s perspective on the universal issues [women] face each and every day”…) [Editor’s note: As of November 21, this Instagram apology has been removed from their account.]
Not only are T.I.’s comments—and antiquated beliefs—misogynistic to the core, they are incredibly damaging to the very fabric of what it means to be a woman. In today’s patriarchal society, where a war on women’s reproductive rights rages on in politics, women are being paradoxically judged for choices they make about their own bodies: e.g., for having too much sex, for having too little sex, for taking birth control, for not taking birth control, for having kids, for not having kids, for having an abortion, for not having an abortion…the list goes on.
But let’s backtrack—firstly, virginity is a sexist, made-up social construct that festishizes a woman’s “purity” and blatantly disregards female sexuality and thus a woman’s sexual pleasure. Ergo, a sexually inexperienced man isn’t valued in the same way that a sexually inexperienced female is. After all, a man that has an extensive list of sexual partners is often viewed as a stud, whereas a promiscuous woman is promptly labeled a slut or a whore.
Secondly, virginity tests—where a doctor inspects the hymen for stretching or tears, such as the ones T.I. subjects his daughter to on an annual basis—are unreliable and inaccurate. A broken hymen does not indicate a woman has been vaginally penetrated. Inserted tampons and physical activities like bicycling or horseback riding can all cause a woman’s hymen to stretch or tear. Some girls are even born without a hymen! Even if it were accurate, virginity testing is wholly unethical, highly invasive, and most definitely a form of sexual discrimination. For this reason, the World Health Organization (WHO) vehemently called for a ban on virginity checks last year in an effort to “eliminate violence against women and girls everywhere,” stating the unnecessary practice had no scientific basis and that it was painful, humiliating, traumatic, and a violation of fundamental human rights. Furthermore, the WHO explained virginity tests only reinforced preexisting stereotypical notions of gender inequality and female sexuality. Sadly, the disturbing procedure is still prevalent in at least 20 countries.
Instead of treating women like their sexuality is morally wrong—something to be ashamed of—women and men alike should embrace it for what it is: an intrinsic part of human life. A woman’s virginity is NOT something for a man to take. Eradicate oppressive patriarchal gender relations, NOT a woman’s right to bodily autonomy.
Photo: Timothy Meinberg via Unsplash