In case you missed it, recently T.I. admitted that he accompanies his 18-year-old daughter, Deyjah, to her annual gynecologist check-up and that he has the doctor examine her to “check if her hymen is still intact.” He does so because he believes it’s proof of her virginity (although this is not an accurate way to verify if a woman is a virgin or not). I know all too well that society puts fathers in a position to protect their daughter’s in a very different way than they would their sons. When everyone found out my wife and I were expecting a girl, it was common for them to make a joke about “getting a shot gun ready” and that I had a difficult road ahead of me in order to protect my daughter. And of course, I do want to protect my daughter and guide her to the best of my abilities, but society has a very skewed view on what protection looks like for young girls. Virginity is at the forefront and fathers feel like it needs to be protected at all cost. The recent incident with T.I. makes it even more apparent that it’s not just something from the past but something still believed even today. A woman’s virginity is tied to her worth in our society.
As a father, especially to a daughter, I find this very sexist, controlling, and intrusive to women as a whole. This perpetuates a “virgin” culture that is harmful and also a widely viewed double standard. The reason I feel so strongly about this topic is because after I became a father I really took the time to understand feminism and the women’s suffrage movement. But even before my daughter was born, I was also influenced by the women who were in my life who often made a lot of the important decisions in their homes and played an important role in their households. I always found it odd how the media portrayed women because in my personal life, it was very different. The men and women in my family were equal. The women I was surrounded by were hardworking, strong, outspoken, and independent.
And although a lot of progress has been made in recent years, we still can’t seem to shake the double standards associated with sex and virginity. If we continue to tell our sons that they have unlimited freedom but that our daughters are unable to control themselves or function in our society with the same freedoms, we’re not helping our daughters but instead we are putting them at a great disadvantage. Studies show that strict parenting, the type of parenting usually associated with monitoring virginity, has a very negative affect on children and even affect them into adulthood. We actually create this over-anxious or even unrealistic approach to dating for women. Some women may feel rushed to marry a man in order to enjoy sex. Some feel pressured to get married as soon as possible to enjoy basic freedoms men take for granted like being able to leave their home, live alone, or to simply do what they want. Women who are raised in a controlling environment are not taught to trust themselves or to know their own bodies. They are not taught to make decisions for themselves because at a young age, they are treated as though they are unable or unfit to make decisions about their own lives. It doesn’t help that in our society we think women are no longer valuable if they have sex, think about sex, or are sexual in any way especially before marriage.
The article THE SEXUAL DOUBLE STANDARD AND ADOLESCENT PEER ACCEPTANCE By Derek A. Kreager and Jeremy Staff states, “Boys and men are thought to receive praise and positive attributions from others for non-marital sexual contacts, while girls and women are believed to be derogated and stigmatized for similar behaviors.” In other words, boys and men are praised for being sexual and girls and women are slut-shamed if they are sexual or if there are even rumors that claim they’re sexual.
My daughter is only three-years-old, but the way we view women is something I have to consider when making decisions on how I raise her. I have to shift this idea of what protecting my daughter looks like. Protection isn’t control or dictating her life. To me, protecting my daughter means making sure that she is informed, knowledgeable, and aware of the world in which we live in not that she adheres to outdated rules. I don’t want my daughter to be ashamed, ostracized or viewed in a negative light because she expresses herself or lives life on her terms. Women are held to a standard that men are not and we punish them harshly when they don’t live up to this standard. A Huffington Post article sums it up, “Slut-shaming is the experience of being labeled a sexually out-of-control girl or woman (a “slut” or “ho”) and then being punished socially for possessing this identity. Slut-shaming is sexist because only girls and women are called to task for their sexuality, whether real or imagined; boys and men are congratulated for the exact same behavior. This is the essence of the sexual double standard: Boys will be boys, and girls will be sluts.“
In order to empower girls it starts with teaching them self–esteem not policing them. As a Barber, I get to interact with so many different people. One of my clients works for a nonprofit called Self-Esteem Rising. This program aims to teach young girls and women how to be confident in themselves. I have learned while researching this nonprofit, how young women are affected by the negative ways women are viewed in the media, society, and even by the people they are close to, mostly because of harmful double standards.
I have seen it first hand, what this type of pressure and judgement can do to a woman. My wife often reminds me of when she was younger and her parents were overprotective and seemed more worried about her dating or getting pregnant than anything else. They didn’t trust her or believe in giving her much independence. She attributes her anxiety to not being allowed to gradually grow up, but instead felt forced to remain a kid. And therefore wasn’t confident in making decisions for herself for quite some time. So, no, we are not “protecting” our daughters by ensuring that they remain virgins, we protect them by empowering them. By teaching them consent, about their bodies, about loving themselves. By letting them know they are valuable, important, smart, and worthy just the way they are.