Columns, Opinion

American Protest: Virginity testing is outdated and barbaric

Women today have accomplished so much in regard to their power and rights compared to just 100 years ago, and I am thankful to live in a time when women have enjoyed a degree of equality they haven’t had before. 

But that does not mean the fight for gender equality is over, and to think that it is would be naïve. America may be a pretty good place for women to live freely, but there are many other places in the world that have not caught up and continue to treat women as second-class citizens to men. 

That is not to say America is perfect when it comes to the way women are treated. In fact, recent events have uncovered some ugly practices in the policing of women’s bodies.  

This past week, the famous rapper T.I. said in an interview that he takes his daughter to the gynecologist every year to test if she is still a virgin.

 If that statement does not immediately disgust you, you are a part of the problem. It disturbs me so much that just writing that sentence made me feel awful and saddened. I felt even worse when I learned that this is something that happens far too often and all over the world. 

Virginity testing still takes place in 20 countries, according to the United Nations. The United States is one of them, even though the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has deemed the testing not medically valid.

The testing involves checking to see if a woman’s hymen, a thin piece of tissue that partially covers the external vaginal opening, is still intact. This is done by inspecting the hymen for tears or stretching. If the hymen is declared intact, the woman is considered to be a virgin, and,  according to barbaric societal ideals, more desirable and pure.  

Any educated doctor knows that a hymen can be torn through other physical activities, such as biking. Moreover, it is not a “barrier” in the first place; it is supposed to stretch and can stay intact throughout a person’s life. 

Defining virginity as tears that occur to the hymen is not encompassing of other times this can happen, including when riding bikes and horseback riding. It can happen at any point in a woman’s life — not just during the first time they have sexual intercourse.

Not only are these tests not based on any science, but they are also humiliating, invasive and sometimes even painful. They can cause women to feel guilty, depressed and develop a negative body image, according to multiple UN agencies. 

Furthermore, virginity is not even a medical or scientific term. It is a term that has been completely constructed by society. Why then, are there doctors in the U.S. and other countries still testing for virginity?

 The construct of virginity has done nothing but cause more harm and inequality for women. It has created a toxic symbol of purity and limited the sexual freedom of so many people, creating shame and embarrassment around the idea of women having sex. 

Any parent who puts their child through this process is not protecting them; in fact, they are setting their child up for a lifetime of poor relationships with their sexuality. They are violating the privacy of their child and taking away the child’s right to their own body and sexuality, which are two things no one should have to lose.

There is no room for debate as to whether or not this is an example of excessive parenting who are only wanting to protect their child. These parents are only causing physical and psychological harm to their kids.

Virginity testing should be outlawed immediately due to the lack of any medical or scientific evidence for determining if a woman has had sex for the first time. Any doctor who performs these procedures should lose their license to practice medicine. 

Until this dangerous practice is eliminated, the construct of virginity will continue to harm women and perpetuate toxic stereotypes of purity. Women in other countries who lose their virginity before marriage can end up in serious physical danger, and virginity testing can put them in danger regardless of whether or not they have had sex. 

Every woman deserves the right to make decisions about their own body. People like T.I. prevent us from having that. We have fought too long for liberation for women to continue to lose the right to our bodies due to barbaric social constructs and outdated myths. 

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