Protecting Our Daughters Does Not Mean Acting Like We Own Their Bodies
My first child was a beautiful baby girl. I was a young father, and shocked to find that a large percentage of people — regardless of gender — would ask with a wink and a nudge what I was going to do when my daughter eventually started dating.
My answer was, has been, still is, and always will be, the same: I’ll be happy that she found someone in whom she is interested, and I’ll wish her success in her relationship(s).
What young women really need is for us to genuinely and completely embrace and support the idea that the rights to a person’s body belong solely to that individual.
That seems pretty obvious and elementary, or it should, but that’s not the response those asking me expected. It’s also not the response I heard from so many of my peer fathers.
Too often we romanticize the idea of the overly-protective father who cannot stomach the thought of “his little girl” dating. We’re amused by, and thus we perpetuate, the stereotype that he should be driven to temporary insanity and threaten violence at even the notion that his daughter may choose to engage in consensual sex.
This is a dangerous and disempowering message.
By wearing and applauding “Rules for Dating My Daughter”-type t-shirts (including those with threatening messages involving guns, ass-kickings, etc.), we’re complicit in portraying the parent as a dictatorial authority over the young woman’s body.
This isn’t, of course, restricted to t-shirts. The same theme shows up in sitcoms, personal jokes, country music songs, etc.
If we want young women to feel comfortable, confident, and in control of themselves and their bodies in social and sexual situations, we need to abandon the “possessive parent” rhetoric, instead projecting, with unwavering consistency, the belief that young women should unilaterally determine the details and parameters of their own sexuality.
This is not to say that we should not be protective of our children. No reasonable person begrudges a loving parent the desire to see their child…