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T.I. has finally spoken out about the controversial comments he made about monitoring his 18-year-old daughter’s virginity, sitting down with Jada Pinkett Smith on her wildly popular Facebook series, Red Table Talk. In case you missed it: rapper T.I. (whom Jada calls ‘Tip’) recently made headlines for making a statement during a podcast that he hadn’t really had “the talk” with daughter Deyjah, adding that he takes her for an annual appointment to “check her hymen” to confirm her virginity.

The backlash was swift and widespread with critics recoiling at the idea of a father gatekeeping his daughter’s body in the name of protecting her “purity,” leading to outrage across social media and countless sites and media outlets. Everyone from Padma Lakshmi to Gloria Steinam weighed in, with Me Too movement founder Tarana Burke commenting that “We’re talking about this long tradition of checking the purity of women’s bodies. I think that a lot of men have this idea that being a good father is protecting your daughter’s virginity, but it’s so problematic in so many ways. It lends itself to the notion that men own their daughters.”

T.I. arrived at the Smith household with wife Tameka ‘Tiny’ Harris (Tiny is not Deyjah’s biological mother, but has been in her life since childhood). Jada and her mother, Red Table Talk co-host Adrienne Banfield-Jones, gave them a friendly welcome before leading them to the red table. Will Smith, who along with Jada has known T.I. for years, was also on hand to warmly welcome the couple but quickly got out of there, joking that he was going to hide for the duration of the interview. “Good luck, brother!” he offered with a laugh as he left the room. “Tell ‘em I said keep the car running,” T.I. joked back.

“Misconstrued and misconceived”

Jada started off bluntly: “So let me ask you this, Tip: what the hell is going on?” Wasting no time before diving into his defence, T.I. referred to the situation as “Hymen-gate” before saying that his comments came “from a place of truth,” but were meant as a joke.

“I began to embellish and exaggerate, and I think a lot of people, kind of like, took it extremely literal. If you look at any of my reputation, who I am as a father, I honestly thought that people would know me better than that.” Jada noted that his friends might know him but that most do not, asking if the rapper understood the sensitivity around what was said. “No! I did not,” T.I. admitted. “I understand it now, absolutely, however my intentions, I think, have been terribly misconstrued and misconceived.”

The rapper went on to say that he never said he was in the actual examination room with his daughter during her gynecological exams (“that is an assumption, a falsity”) and that it wasn’t being done present day—however, it did happen. “She was 15 and 16 years old, at the time,” Tiny jumped in, noting that T.I. did go to the appointments, along with the girl’s biological mother. He insisted that his daughter and her mother were fine with his presence, calling the media’s response “sensationalist” and a “false narrative…spread by people who like to throw lies around”. He did express major regret directed at his daughter. “[Deyjah] was not okay with me talking about it, however, and I’m incredibly apologetic about it to her.”

How to be  a father in 2019

The conversation turned to what’s appropriate for a father raising a daughter, with T.I. sincerely asking, “What is the purpose and place of a father in this society? Because a father like myself who wants to be as involved and as attentive as possible, we could just draw the conclusion that a father should just donate sperm and come pay for things and we don’t have no say in how things are done.”

Adrienne and Jada quickly stopped him there, saying no one has a problem with involved fathers. “It’s the hymen part,” T.I. interjected, showing a sense of awareness before going on to argue that he felt he should have some level of control in order to protect his daughter.

Though T.I. was not often on the same page as Jada and her mother, who tried repeatedly to explain the difference between education and control during the 22-minute chat, he was open to listening. The rapper still held onto the narrative of wanting to prevent boys who were looking to “defile and destroy” his daughter, get her pregnant or give her a disease, and admitted that he treated his daughters’ sexuality different than his sons’, saying, “the stakes are higher” with girls.

When Jada went on to explain that the state of a person’s hymen isn’t actually a clear indicator of sexual activity (or lack thereof), T.I. was skeptical. “These are all things that I’m learning,” he said.

Part two of this conversation, which will focus on the couple’s marital issues, is scheduled to air on the next episode of Red Table Talk.

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