In the summer of 2013, right before I began my freshman year at college, a truly cursed song called “Blurred Lines” came out. At best, it is a rip-off of a very good Marvin Gaye jam; at worst, it’s an anthem for sexual predators.
The rapper T.I. has a verse just before the bridge where he promises a potential romantic interest he will “smack that ass and pull yo’ hair for you”—you know, like a gentleman. T.I. shares a writing credit on “Blurred Lines” along with Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams; because of those men I spent my first few weeks at NYU dodging “Hey hey hey” cat-calls as I walked to class.
For that reason any connection to “Blurred Lines,” which has aged like an elderly ferret’s twice-run-over carcass, is enough to earn someone a spot on my Questionable Humans list.
This week, T.I. bumped himself up a few more spots when he went on the Ladies Like Us podcast and gave America a sex talk that would be almost impressively asinine—if it wasn’t mostly just infuriating.
“Deyjah [Harris, his daughter] is 18, just graduated from high school now and she’s attending her first year of college, figuring it out for herself,” T.I. (real name: Clifford Joseph Harris Jr.) began. “And yes, not only have we had the conversation, we have yearly trips to the gynecologist to check her hymen.”
Ah yes, the classic father/daughter tradition of a middle-aged man taking his daughter on a virginity check-up! And by “classic,” I mean they did this shit in the Middle Ages. And I guess now, too.
T.I. continued: “We’ll go and sit down and the doctor will come and talk and the doctor’s maintaining a high level of professionalism.” [Editor’s note: seriously doubting the doctor’s “professionalism,” as he lets T.I. crash what should be a private appointment with a female patient, but whatever, I have not been to med school.]
“He’s like, ‘You know sir, I have to, in order to share information,’” T.I. said, imitating the clinician. “I’m like, ‘Deyjah they want you to sign this so we can share information. Is there anything you wouldn’t want me to know? See doc? No problem.’ And so then they come and say, ‘Well I just want you to know that there are other ways besides sex that the hymen can be broken like bike riding, athletics, horseback riding and just other forms of athletic physical activity.’ 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.”
Oh, and just in case Deyjah, who just began her first year at university, was not humiliated enough, T.I. would like us all to know: “I will say as of her 18th birthday, her hymen is still intact.”
The rapper proved in this interview he is perhaps the last man to lead any kind of feminist discourse—in my humble opinion, he should just leave his daughter alone. But in a boon for the producers of Ladies Like Us, T.I.’s incendiary quotes did what those tend to do—went viral on Twitter, sparking a conversation on the meaning of virginity.
“IDK who needs other this but virginity is a made-up social construct, and it has absolutely nothing to do with your hymen,” came a message from Planned Parenthood, which went on to define a virgin as “someone who’s has never had sex.”
That’s hopefully unsurprising news to someone who has ever seen a PG-13 movie, but PP went on to explain “sex means different things to different people, so ‘virginity’ does too. Many don’t care what it means or think it matters. Whatever you believe, the fact is you can’t tell if someone’s had sex by checking their hymen.’”
The sex and wellness writer Maria Del Russo tweeted, “Virginity is a social construct. It doesn’t exist.”
The phrase has become a popular rallying cry for feminists—or really, anyone who isn’t a total creep and sees sex as an “impure” act. Last summer, Miley Cyrus put the quote on her Instagram in an attempt to raise awareness for 1) her new single and 2) the way Western society stigmatizes and slut-shames young women.
True, virginity is not something a doctor can “check” on, and whether a woman has a tight or stretchy hymen, or no hymen at all, is no indication of what she has or hasn’t done in the bedroom (or 2004 Toyota Corolla, as the case may be for some people).
There was inevitably backlash to the backlash, with many people finding absurdity in the idea of virginity being some man-made idea. (But if it is a social construct, it was definitely created by men and men alone.) While virginity may be intangible and defined differently depending on someone’s culture or preferences, sex is still an experience people have.
Though the T.I. news may have inspired online bickering over semantics around the use of the term, “social construct,” it did unite all commentators under one indelible truth: T.I. should probably stop talking now. He might also allow his daughter to attend her own medical appointments, free to talk to the doctor about whatever she likes.
When—or if—we decide to have sex is just a piece of the deliciously messy experience of being a person. Whether someone thinks virginity “real” or not, it doesn’t have to be spoken about in extremes or hyperbole. Maybe we can just let it happen, on our own terms—and if we have health-related questions about it, please let us raise them ourselves in our own, private doctors’ appointments.