When I was young, my dad had a running joke that he would not let me get married until I was 30, 60, or 90. He never said that to my brother. I always laughed it off because I knew he wasn’t serious. I married before age 30, after all. But my husband asked something similar about our daughter the other day that made me think.
“Why would I want to think about my daughter having sex in the future?”
That’s when I realized how pervasively men fear the thought of their daughters doing what grown folks do. Somehow, I am able to objectively look at my little girl and understand she will not always be so little. She will grow up and she will want to have sex. That thought does not frighten me. It’s a fact of life.
I’m not saying fathers need to picture the act. No. Please note I am also not talking about sexualizing our children. I am specifically referring to the avoidance of seeing daughters as full human beings. We prepare our girls for sexual activity by telling them not to engage in it, because we refuse to see it in healthy terms ourselves. We frame female sexuality in shame and negativity and male sexuality in terms of virility and positivity.
I have never heard any man say they hope their son grows up to have a small penis. However, I have often heard fathers say they hope their daughters do not develop large breasts or big butts. I remember when Kanye West said in his song “We Major, ” “Until you have a daughter / that’s what I call Karma / and you pray to God she don’t grow breasts too soon.” The natural maturation of a young girl into puberty is not “payback” for the sins of her father. A daughter’s sexuality is neither the shame nor burden of her father.
But I sought to answer my husband’s question as best I could. Why should a father want to consider that his daughter will have sex in the future?
In order for parents to steer their daughters into a balanced understanding of sexuality, we must broach sex not as a calamity to be avoided, but an eventuality to be prepared for. That means the jokes about sending her to a nunnery? They gotta go. We can encourage responsible sexual behavior, even religiously based behavior (i.e. abstinence until marriage) without shrouding sex in a cloud of dirtiness.
Our children take their cues about sex both from their parents and from their peers. Parents have to work overtime to counter the false narratives and myths about sex that kids inevitably share with each other. Girls whose fathers make chastity belt threats are not likely to approach their fathers for guidance about sex. Yes, Dads, there are decisions your daughters will need to make about having sex beyond just “Don’t have it until marriage.” Even though most fathers I know would be more than happy to delegate that conversation to Mom, girls still need fatherly input.
But this means you have to be mindful that your little girl will not always be so little. She will grow up and she may want to have sex. It’s a fact of life. There is nothing gross or disgusting about that simple fact. There is nothing shameful about her having breasts, a butt, or an attractive body. And furthermore, the negative mindset that we project on our daughters about sex will seldom prevent them from having it, anyway.
Dads, your daughters will become sexual human beings. Deal with it. She absolutely needs you to.