Rapper T.I. is defending the outrage-inducing claim that he took his teenage daughter for yearly “virginity tests,” saying he fears that men would “defile and destroy” her.
“It think that in the age or the time when our women—black women—are the most unprotected, unattended, disregarded women on the planet, I’m being criticized because I’m willing to go above and beyond to protect mine,” he said Monday on the Facebook show Red Table Talk.
“And I’m talking about all of the slimy, grimy, chubby-fingered little boys who want to just come and defile and destroy the sanctity that I have—” he added, before being cut off by laughter from hosts Jada Pinkett Smith and Adrienne Banfield-Norris.
“Anything that is the most important thing to me in my life, I am going to deal with that with very extreme care,” he said. “And I don’t understand how that is looked at as being so wrong.”
The rapper received massive backlash earlier this month after revealing that he took his daughter, Deyjah Harris, for annual “virginity tests”—the discredited practice of assessing a woman’s virginity by examining her hymen.
Along with being inaccurate—experts say it is impossible to determine someone’s virginity just by looking at their hymen—the checks are also widely regarded as a violation of women’s right to privacy and bodily autonomy.
T.I. said Monday that he now understands the sensitivity of the topic and apologized to his daughter for talking about it publicly. But he also said he does not understand why his decision to require the pseudo-scientific tests was criticized.
The rapper also did not deny having a double standard when it comes to his daughter’s sexual activity versus his son’s.
“If my son goes out and gets a girl pregnant, how is the household changed for those nine months?” he asked. “The household does not necessarily change those nine months. Whereas my daughter comes home [pregnant], my household is changed immediately. So the stakes are higher.”
The recording artist first discussed the subject of virginity testing on a Nov. 5 episode of the “Ladies Like Us” podcast. At the time, T.I. said he and his daughter make “yearly trips to the gynecologist to check her hymen.”
“So we’ll go and sit down and the doctor comes and talk, and the doctor’s maintaining a high level of professionalism,” he said at the time. “He’s like, ‘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? Ain't no ’”
The rapper acknowledged at the time that doctors had told him the hymen can break during activities other than intercourse, but brushed aside the experts’ protestations. "So I say, ‘Look, Doc, she don’t ride no horses, she don’t ride no bike, she don’t play no sports,” he said. “Just check the hymen, please, and give me back my results expeditiously.’”
He added, “I will say, as of her 18th birthday, her hymen is still intact.”
The interview sparked outcry on social media, with fans condemning the artist's “possessive” and “misogynistic” behavior. Harris appeared to agree with some of the backlash, liking several of the negative comments about her father’s interview and unfollowing him on Twitter. She later deleted her social media accounts.
The comments also drew condemnation from several major medical groups. In an op-ed for USA Today, doctors from Physicians for Human Rights called T.I.’s comments “abhorrent” and said they exposed “deeply rooted misconceptions about women and girls, their sexuality, anatomy, autonomy, privacy and role in society.”
Dr. Ranit Mishori, a senior medical adviser for PHR, told The Daily Beast that such tests can be physically and mentally traumatizing for young people.
“Imagine you’ve never had sex before and some stranger—because your dad told you you had to have this test—sticks two fingers inside you,” she said. “Really, if it’s done without consent, it’s sexual assault.”
T.I. said Monday that his earlier comments had been taken out of their “joking” context, and that his intentions had been “misconstrued and misconceived.”
He did not deny requiring his daughter to undergo the procedure, but said that he was not in the exam room and that her mother was present and supportive at the time. He also said the tests took place before she was 18, contradicting his earlier statement.
In 2015, a group of 35 independent forensic experts determined that virginity tests have “no clinical or scientific value,” and in some cases could result in “significant physical and mental pain and suffering, thereby constituting cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or torture.” The World Health Organization has also deemed them a violation of the human rights of girls and women.
But according to a 2017 study, about 10 percent of U.S. OB-GYNs have been asked to perform a virginity test in the last year. Of that number, 34 percent agreed to perform it.
A recent investigation from Marie Claire found that gynecologists, emergency-room physicians, family medicine doctors and others had all been asked to perform such tests. Women who underwent the procedure reported feeling less comfortable seeking medical care or getting help for sexual assaults as a result.
Dr. Mishori said a lack of healthy communication about sex often underlies the desire for these tests.
“It’s a sign that there’s something wrong with their communication if he absolutely doesn’t believe her,” she said of T.I. and his daughter. “It’s very sad that one wouldn’t believe one's child and resort to taking her to a third party to prove whether she’s lying to him or not.”