It’s time to check “virginity checks”

Paige Sheppard

Patriarchal double standards are as real as virginity is a myth. Not only are women criticized and shamed for being sexually active before marriage, but sexually active men are often praised for it.
Unfortunately, rapper T.I. has recently illustrated for the world how twisted and present attitudes surrounding a woman’s “virginity” still are. He admitted on Ladies Like Us to bringing his 18-year-old daughter to the gynecologist every year for a “virginity check.”
There’s a lot to unpack here.
First of all, these “virginity checks” are being measured by the condition of the woman’s hymen. Being that the year is almost 2020, and our understanding of the human anatomy is fairly extensive, it’s just plain common sense to know that the hymen is no indication of a woman’s sexual history.
This assumption about the hymen limits the word “virginity” to strictly male and female penetrative intercourse, excluding the different ways sex occurs for different people. Virginity is personal for every individual and it doesn’t even have to mean anything at all.
Second, hymens can just break, with no penises necessary. Any woman who’s involved with sports, has used a tampon or has ridden a horse or a bike, may have torn their hymen. The process of checking for the condition of a hymen can be traumatizing in itself.
When women are subjected to virginity checks, they are constantly reminded that their business is everyone’s business. No one wants their father or a stranger or all of the internet to know such personal details of their life.
While communicating with your child about the risks of sex is important, such an extreme and unreliable process of hymen checks can only strain a parent-child relationship. It can cause excess stress for the child and cause them to have an unhealthy and inaccurate attitude toward sex (which is really just a normal part of life). There are noninvasive, respectful ways to make sure your child is being safe – but a virginity check is not one of them.
Next on the list: sexism. While the anatomy of the male body doesn’t allow for a substantive way to measure their sexual activity (and neither really does the female anatomy), this conversation is not happening for men. The unfair reality is that women’s bodies are constantly glorified and oversexualized.
Yet if a man and a woman were to both have intercourse with five people in a year, the woman would be regarded with judgement and carelessness, while the man would be applauded for his masculinity and sexual appeal. This double standard frequents adolescents much more often than adults and increases stress levels for already self-conscious teenagers trying to navigate through enough sexual confusion as it is.
Attitudes and beliefs about women’s sexuality held by rapper T.I and people like him are ignorant and dangerous. It is okay for adults, including adult women, to make choices about their bodies and participate in sexual activity as long as it’s informed and consensual. It is not okay to reinforce outdated stereotypes and stigmas that perpetuate misogyny.
My heart goes out to T.I.’s daughter, Deyjah Harris, to any woman that has suffered through one or multiple “virginity checks” and to any woman that has ever been made to feel dirty or less than for claiming autonomy over their own body. Sex is normal. Shaming or hurting women for partaking in sex is not.