I’ve seen t-shirts that showcase an intimidating list of Ten Rules for Dating My Daughter:
- Get a job.
- Understand I don’t like you.
- I’m everywhere.
- You hurt her, I hurt you.
- Be home 30 minutes early.
- Get a lawyer.
- If you lie to me, I’ll find out.
- She’s my princess, not your conquest.
- I don’t mind going back to jail.
- What you do to her, I’ll do to you.
The idea is that threatening and scaring our children will make them follow our rules. Obviously.
More evidence people feel that way, in the Frequently Bought Together list on Amazon.com, shirts with these messages were linked:
- Guns don’t kill people, Dads with pretty daughters kill people.
- Yes, I do have a beautiful daughter; I also have a shotgun, a shovel, and an alibi.
Some people think the messages are clever. I don’t love them because I think they send the wrong message. You can’t be trusted to think for yourself, so I’ll do the thinking for you and scare you into compliance.
One problem I have with that is it doesn’t teach personal responsibility. If we don’t allow our teenagers to make decisions and be responsible for their own actions when they’re under our guidance (when we can discuss pros and cons and help them consider other, more experienced perspectives as they approach new situations), how do we think they’ll magically figure it out when they’re on their own? Also, are we sure we want them trying out this whole Think For Yourself / Make Your Own Decisions and Consequences Will Follow thing when the stakes are so much higher? Do we want them unleashed and unpracticed in problem solving and decision making when they step foot onto a college campus?
I’d also like my kids to make choices and decisions because they believe in them–morally, spiritually, philosophically–not because they’ve been scared shitless into believing lies. Because, seriously, how many parents have been angered by the way some kid treated their daughter (simply referencing the shirt above, because girls can be horrible to boys too) and they killed the kid and buried him in their backyard? Or even ended up in jail because they took it upon themselves to “teach that kid a lesson”? Very, very few. It’s just a lot of talk. Big, blustery, hot-aired bullshit.
Here’s a confession: when I was a teenager, there were things I didn’t do because I was afraid I’d get into trouble. I knew I’d be breaking the rules and I was scared of the consequences, so sometimes those threats work to elicit the desired behavior. But you know what? There were some rules that I did break. One of them? I had sex. Even though my dad was (and still is) the guy who’d be first in line to buy those t-shirts up there, it didn’t matter. I wanted to have sex, and I did. Because, like it or not, it’s my vagina … and nobody else gets to be the boss of my lady bits.
So, you can imagine my excitement when I saw this picture on Facebook:
I loved it, so I shared it. It was well-received on my Facebook page. But then I saw it on HuffPo and was surprised by some of the comments. (How am I still surprised by the comments on HuffPo???!)
- “Um, no. My daughter, my rules.”
- “If she’s under 18, you better believe I make the rules.”
- “What a moron. I guess he wants to be a grandpa fast.”
- “Parenting fail.”
- “What a load of crap … That dad has no balls.”
- “Mom makes the rules. The daughter don’t make any rules till she graduates from college, has a job, and a place to live that isn’t with mom and dad. Then she makes the rules…”
- “It’s stupid. As are coed dorms and 1-12 coed health classes and gym classes.”
So, to be clear, there are parents who believe their daughters’ vaginas belong to them and they get to decide how and when they’ll be used for as long as those girls live in their house. Several people believe that teenagers can’t be trusted to make any decisions, especially not those that include what goes on with their own bodies. And there’s one dude who thinks that having boys and girls in the same gym class, even as young as first grade, is a recipe for disaster … because with all of that temptation, none of them will be able to resist Making The Sex, right?
Do these parents pick out their teens’ outfits too? Do they decide how they’ll wear their hair? Do they send a note to school with their 17-year-olds telling them what to buy and eat for lunch every day? Surely those parents don’t let their kids drive, right?! I mean, just think of all the decisions they have to make for themselves. They certainly can’t be trusted with that kind of independence.
When it comes to our kids having sex, it’s not up to me or my husband when they do. It’s just not. We talk openly with the Boy and the Girl about sex. There’s no question we won’t answer. We’re honest about sex–the reasons people have sex, the possible consequences of having it, both good and bad. We don’t tell them they have to be married to have sex. We don’t tell them they’re bad if they have sex. But we tell them that it’s a big deal with potentially far-reaching ramifications that are pretty complicated if they’re sexually active before they’re ready to be–emotionally, physically, mentally.
Our kids will have sex when they want to … and that’s what this Feminist Father’s t-shirt is about: Everyone should have sex on their own terms … not ANYONE else’s. Not because they’re pressured. Not because their physically forced against their will. Not because they’re rebelling against rules. Because they’re ready and want to have sex.
Sex is a big deal. For some people it’s uncomfortable and scary to think about their kids as sexual beings. And so to deal with it, they project that fear and try to scare their kids into abstinence.
I am not the hymen patrol. Neither is my husband. Our kids are in control of their virginity–just like we were in charge of ours. So rather than trump it up and scare the bejeezus out of them for having perfectly normal desires, we’d rather talk to them about the realities of sex–all of them. We’d rather tell them the truth and make sure they know that THEY are in control of their own bodies. The decisions are theirs to make–for good or bad.
Knowledge is power. Always.
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