BY DR. CINDY MP DUKE
Virginity — now that’s something we don’t often talk about. It is something that we, despite all of our cultural modernization, shroud with misconceptions and divided commentaries. Virginity is a hypocritical and strongly prejudiced taboo that we seem to place a paramount value upon — designed to control women, their sexuality, and their reproduction. This, without question, also leads to deterioration of their mental health. And thus, it denies them their fundamental human rights!
Some 35% of women worldwide suffer from gender-based violence — due to the prejudice arising from our often subconscious, yet taught, conceptions of virginity. Some of these are explicit actions of harassment, while some are disguised as helicopter parenting to “protect” children (girls) from supposed sexual threats and abomination. However, the truth is that virginity testing is an indirect assault on a woman’s right to govern her sexuality.
One of the proofs of this ongoing cultural travesty is superstar T.I.’s recent podcast interview, where he revealed he escorts his teen daughter to a gynecologist every year to “check her hymen” to make sure it’s “still intact.”
This flawed and traumatizing concept of parenting is right up there with some of the worst possible things that he could have done to his daughter. A woman’s body (including your child’s) is her own — and no one else should have agency over it. Doing otherwise is a serious breach of privacy and can lead to serious emotional issues when she reaches adulthood.
In a related note, this news, which brought such swift outrage amongst most of us, extends to the medical community — specifically, to the medical practitioner who agreed to perform this abhorrent and wholly invalidated and made up test. Both the United Nations and the World Health Organization (WHO) publicly denounced virginity testing worldwide and encouraged governments to ban and eliminate the use of it. When doctors are requested to perform virginity testing, it is expected, by default, that they should refuse because of the possible psychological harm to the patient.
Debunking Misconceptions About Hymen Myth
Despite all of our modern scientific advances and progress with our medical understanding of anatomy and biological development, the myth surrounding the ‘hymen’ remains pervasive, across the globe. In countries like Iraq, Indonesia, Egypt, South Africa, and Afghanistan, premarital sex for women is still considered a criminal offense, which is tied directly to a woman’s virginity.
To set the record straight, hymen testing, referred to as a ‘two-finger examination, is an inspection of the vagina meant to determine whether a woman has had intercourse. The hymen has no biological or clinical indication for validating virginity; some women are not even born with it. Plus, this search for a hymen also assumes, incorrectly, a young person’s sexual orientation and preferences.
The concept of virginity paints a painful narrative that a woman’s body is an object that can be tainted. By applying the concepts of virginity to our own, or a young person’s sex life, it reinforces patriarchal prejudices against women’s worth.
If we want our young people to approach sex and their sexuality with maturity and integrity, we need to take a different approach: let’s talk to them about it and broaden our ideas. Teach them about consent and how to enforce their right to say “yes” or “no.” Also, we should let them know that their “physical purity” is not more important than learning to love themselves for who they are.