Having Your Kid's Hymen Inspected Should Definitely Be Illegal
Last month, rapper T.I. went on a podcast and told a tale about how he takes his daughter, who is now 18 years old, for annual hymen inspections to ensure she is still a virgin, and we all, collectively, screamed in horror. Well, except for a few terrible people on social media who had to come out and defend him, saying he had a right to "protect his investment" or that he was just from "a different time." T.I., for the record, is 39 years old, and let me assure you, the 1990s were not really "a different time" in that way. Never once did anyone say, "Oh, let's go out and buy some flannels at Contempo Casuals, drink some Orbitz, and then my dad is gonna take me to the gyno to make sure my hymen is still intact!"
In case you need a refresher:
T.I. offered this information after being asked whether or not he's had the sex talk with his daughters, and then shared a story about how on her 16th birthday, he "let her" have fun and celebrate and enjoy the day, and then the day after the party, "she's enjoying her gifts" but he went and "put a sticky note on the door: 'Gyno. Tomorrow. 9:30.'"
He then went on to explain that although the doctor explained to him that the presence of a hymen or lack of one did not necessarily mean anything, and that a hymen could also break from regular activities like riding a bike or a horse, he had responded:
"So I say, 'Look, Doc, she don't ride no horses, she don't ride no bike, she don't play no sports. Just check the hymen, please, and give me back my results expeditiously.'"
Has there ever, in the world, been a more repulsive sentence? Probably, but I sure as hell can't think of one right now.
Now, state lawmakers in New York are looking to pass a bill to make such inspections illegal, ban doctors from performing them and deem any so-called "virginity inspection" done outside a medical office as a sexual assault. Which, you know, it is.
So far, the bill, introduced by Assemblywoman Michaelle C. Solages, has three co-sponsors in the Assembly, and Senator Roxanne J. Persaud has introduced another bill in the state Senate. Via the New York Times:
"It made me angry and I was just very upset," said Assemblywoman Michaelle C. Solages, a Democrat who introduced a bill last week to prohibit the practice. "To use your platform to say that you did this is just misogynistic and it sets the women's movement back."[...]
"The invasive procedure of a virginity examination violates the sanctity and purity of a female," Ms. Persaud said of the exams, commonly known as purity tests or virginity tests. "Whether a child or adult, this breaches not only moral grounds, but also the privacy entitled to a female and their doctor."
The World Health Organization, last year, also recommended that the procedure be banned:
"Virginity testing" is a violation of the human rights of girls and women, and can be detrimental to women's and girls' physical, psychological and social well-being. "Virginity testing" reinforces stereotyped notions of female sexuality and gender inequality. The examination can be painful, humiliating and traumatic. Given that these procedures are unnecessary and potentially harmful, it is unethical for doctors or other health providers to undertake them. Such procedures must never be carried out.
Of course, one expert cited by the New York Times suggested that making "virginity tests" illegal could pose a problem, given the fact that there is no actual way to tell whether or not someone is a virgin.
"I saw it and am appalled and disappointed," said Dr. Maura Quinlan, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University. "You can't tell if someone is a virgin, so how can you ban something that is not possible?"
I get it, but if anything, this seems like a problem with working out the phrasing so that it doesn't appear to legitimize the procedure as something it's even medically possible to do. Maybe call them "hymen inspections" or refer to it as any "inspection of female genitalia designed to determine whether a woman or girl has had vaginal intercourse," as the WHO does.
The fact that it's not a real medical thing doesn't mean that it's not happening — and it's the fact that it is happening at all that is the problem, not that T.I. or whoever may not get an accurate result. We know that "conversion therapy" isn't "real" either, but that doesn't mean that attempting it isn't harmful. A doctor literally cannot re-implant an ectopic pregnancy into the uterus, but that doesn't mean that the Ohio law requiring them to "attempt" it is not a very bad law.
However they decide to put it, let's hope that other states soon follow suit.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Previously, she was a Senior Staff Writer at Death & Taxes, and Assistant Editor at The Frisky (RIP). Currently, she writes for Wonkette, Friendly Atheist, Quartz and other sites. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse