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Dear Daughter: I hope you have awesome sex
August 13, 2013 6:34 AM   Subscribe

Ferrett Steinmetz's open letter to his daughter is a heartening riposte to the "rules for dating my daughter" cliché.

"...Because consensual sex isn’t something that men take from you; it’s something you give. It doesn’t lessen you to give someone else pleasure. It doesn’t degrade you to have some of your own. And anyone who implies otherwise is a man who probably thinks very poorly of women underneath the surface."
posted by greenish (100 comments total) 71 users marked this as a favorite

 
And as a reminder of why the letter needs writing, the very first comment:

"This was SO wonderful to read. My own father attacked me once for wearing a simple shirt that said “BOYS” on it. It was the 80′s. It was just a simple t-shirt.

Sex was vilified by both of my parents. And? It didn’t stop me from having it. It just made me feel ASHAMED for having it…. for many, many years.

I wish more parents would teach their offspring like this blog states. I have two sons. One is just getting old enough for his first “talk”. I hope I navigate the waters as deftly as done here."

posted by greenish at 6:36 AM on August 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


That's great. As the father of a 12-year-old girl I am equally disgusted with the "no dating until you are 35" kind of patriarchal bullshit. It is really hard for me to think about my daughter getting her heart broken, but I understand that it is part of life, and a hugely important part of growing up, so in some ways I look forward to it while at the same time being really sad about it.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:39 AM on August 13, 2013 [17 favorites]


Thanks for this.
posted by anotherpanacea at 6:45 AM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Related AskMe
posted by martinrebas at 6:46 AM on August 13, 2013




People would make jokes about having to keep boys away from my daughter, and I would point out that keeping assholes(with appropriate modifier for teenage boys, obviously) away from people I cared about was normal.

Then they would follow up with something that vaguely implied I was supposed to keep her from having sex. And I would reply that it's difficult for children to transition to adult interactions, but she was smart, and talked to us, so I imagined she would be OK(with appropriate modifier for younger women and drama).

And then they would imply that I was stating something radical by not threatening to castrate the entire midwest over the imminent sexual development of a younger woman that happened to be my daughter.

And I would calmly state "Well, she is going to have sex, hopefully."

And these people would freak out! "How can you say that?"

Uhm, cause I want her to be happy?

Exact same people used to ask me later if I was bugging her about "giving" me a grandchild.

Hey, morons, guess where those come from?
posted by dglynn at 6:52 AM on August 13, 2013 [99 favorites]


That's great... but to me he should just stay away from that daughter / sex area. The Internet doesn't make it his business.
posted by nicolin at 6:53 AM on August 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


At least he's moved on from telling women to "open source" their bodies.
posted by kmz at 6:57 AM on August 13, 2013 [8 favorites]


Maybe I'm getting older than I think, but I saw the FPP headline, cringed a little inside, and felt very grateful that my father did not ever, ever, explicitly address the quality or quantity of sex he hoped I would have. It of course was implicit in his regard and respect for me, and in his de facto feminism (he would have sworn he wasn't a "feminist") of wanting me to be treated fairly, seen and respected for who I was, and to have plenty of choices and opportunities in the quest for happiness.

That being said, yeah, as a girl and teen I always thought there was something very creepy about the inverse too--of knowing society is supposed to expect your father to be obsessed about your sexuality and wanting you to die a virgin. Plenty of mothers feel the same way about sons (and future/current daughters in law), but to express this makes you seem like a neurotic Freudian nightmare, not noble and protective, when the genders are reversed.
posted by blue suede stockings at 6:59 AM on August 13, 2013 [14 favorites]


He makes some good points. But on the other hand, what's been proven to more perfectly secure our young women's sacred chastity than overbearing jackass fathers obsessed with violent fantasies against their daughters' potential partners? It's foolproof!
posted by glhaynes at 7:02 AM on August 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


He certainly isn't the first one to go there, but it's unusual to see someone say "Actually, I am perfectly OK with my daughter leading a normal, full human life" instead of "OMG MY DAUGHTER IS A PRECIOUS ANGEL BABBY AND IF YOU GET ANYWHERE NEAR HER I WILL SHOOT YOU IN THE FACE AND SET YOU ON FIRE AND STOMP ON YOUR ASHES OH WAIT I FORGOT TO PUT YOUR HEAD ON A STAKE ON MY LAWN WHOOPS."

Which is really creepy and much grosser.
posted by louche mustachio at 7:03 AM on August 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


nthing blue suede stockings. . .

While I wish all the best things for my daughter, commenting on her sexuality or sex life in ANY way seems like the third rail of parenting for me.

And I can imagine it being a bit of a buzz kill for said daughter. . . .
posted by Danf at 7:04 AM on August 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


I'm an early adopter of this philosophy.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 7:05 AM on August 13, 2013


Also, teaching people that sex is dirty, dangerous, and sinful, and therefore you should save it for the one you love is just confusing.
posted by dglynn at 7:05 AM on August 13, 2013 [46 favorites]


Dear future daughter,

I promise I will never publicly opine on the possible nature of your nascent sexuality, nor offer my hopes appertaining thereunto, for to err in either direction is to become the Creeper Dad, and that ain't me.

Signed,

Sokka shot first
posted by Sokka shot first at 7:06 AM on August 13, 2013 [28 favorites]


dglynn: Hey, morons, guess where those come from?

STORKS LA LA LA LA MY LITTLE BABY ISN'T GOING TO HAVE SEX EVER
posted by filthy light thief at 7:10 AM on August 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


At least he's moved on from telling women to "open source" their bodies.

Yeah, I find it really really hard to listen to him talk about feminism because of this, even though I agree that "gotta get a shotgun!"-type jokes are lame-o creeptastic.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:10 AM on August 13, 2013 [7 favorites]


Clever patriarch!

His permission virtually assures his daughter will save it for marriage.
posted by notyou at 7:11 AM on August 13, 2013 [7 favorites]


Parents write about their kids intimate lives all the time, and we post about them on the blue all the time. For example, recently, not that girl's amazing story of bringing up her transgender child.

Yeah, there are issues of privacy, and of "ew, dad" in the future, maybe. But if I was the daughter, in this case, or the son, in the above-linked case, I think I'd be pretty proud. It's not for us to judge how these kids will feel, and it sure looks like their parents have their best interests at heart. Not only that, but they're sharing their experience and perspective to help others in similar situations.

It feels like a real shame to criticize that.
posted by greenish at 7:13 AM on August 13, 2013 [8 favorites]


Dude seems like a creepy Internet showoff. I hate people like that.

I always thought the overprotective dad thing was based on the reality that young men are often violent, manipulative, and coercive in pursuit of sex from young women.

I don't know of any dads who would be opposed to their daughters having a full sex life, so this guy isn't really saying much, he seems more like an attention whoring show off trying to get favorites and go viral by talking about his daughter's sexuality in public, which is gross.
posted by Unified Theory at 7:15 AM on August 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


This makes me really uncomfortable, especially given his history with the whole "open source boob project." Yes, I think more families need to be open, positive and accepting about sexuality, but his daughter's sexuality also isn't any of his business.

I don't know if I can quite articulate it, but I feel like even if he's trying to wrap it in some sort of "enlightened" attitude, he's still policing his daughter's sexuality to a large extent.
posted by darksong at 7:15 AM on August 13, 2013 [8 favorites]


I've got 1 simple rule for dating my teenage daughter: Kid, you'd better be prepared to deal with her shitstorms (and she's the one who's handy with a shotgun).
posted by drlith at 7:15 AM on August 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Main link was eh, but the URL of the second is enough to give me nightmares.
posted by mrgrimm at 7:15 AM on August 13, 2013


Wow. The Ferrett still exists?

I am experiencing this strange but more or less pleasant emotion. It's a mix of "wistfully nostalgic," "bemused" and "still just a tad irritated and creeped out by the whole thing." There is probably a word for it in German.
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 7:16 AM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


kmz: “At least he's moved on from telling women to 'open source' their bodies.”

Huh. I hadn't heard about that. That is... kind of weird.
posted by koeselitz at 7:17 AM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Unified Theory: I don't know of any dads who would be opposed to their daughters having a full sex life

Facebook, let me show you it.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:17 AM on August 13, 2013 [7 favorites]


I don't know this guy's history, but he seems to be saying, "Go on, dear, have fun, your heart will be broken, you will get hurt, it is not my place to protect you, but daddy will be here when you need someone to come running back to."

Which is sort of a passive-aggressive, Jewish-mom version of the overprotective father he says he doesn't want to be.
posted by swift at 7:24 AM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I always thought the overprotective dad thing was based on the reality that young men are often violent, manipulative, and coercive in pursuit of sex from young women.

This is true but it is not absolutely true and the idea that it is has a foundation in pretty ugly sexism about both young men and young women. Which is to say, treating teenage boys like they're all potential rapists is pretty sexist too, and perpetuates rape culture even as--because of rape culture--we paradoxically have to be aware of the prevalence and commonality of rape.

It's a really thorny question.

I don't know if I can quite articulate it, but I feel like even if he's trying to wrap it in some sort of "enlightened" attitude, he's still policing his daughter's sexuality to a large extent.

It's the idea of the father being the gatekeeper of a girl's sexuality. Giving permission to have good sex ("darling, go out and play") implies that it's his to give even if, on the surface, he's saying that it's not his to give. It's patriarchal, as notyou says, even if it's not immediately apparent that it is. It would be different coming from a woman because there's a different sort of weight given to these words when they come from a man.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:27 AM on August 13, 2013 [23 favorites]


Ugh, this fucking guy. How much more creepy slime does this guy have to excrete into the internet before he stops getting attention for it?
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 7:30 AM on August 13, 2013 [7 favorites]


I've seen lots of dads do that horrible mock-threatening ha ha only serious thing. Tip to overprotective fathers: you are not making your daughter more safe, you're making her less safe my making it clear she can never ever come to you with any boy-related problems she might have. You're not making your own life better either, just setting yourself up for decades of an adversarial relationship with your son-in-law and giving your daughter a good reason to move far away.
posted by echo target at 7:32 AM on August 13, 2013 [11 favorites]


[mini-rant]
Come on, Blue! Let's focus on the message, not the messenger.
[/mini-rant]

For a slightly more humorous take on fathers and daughters, I recommend Chris Rock.

"Sometimes I am walking with my daughter, I’m talking to my daughter, I’m looking at her, I’m pushing her in the stroller. And sometimes I pick her up and I just stare at her and I realize my only job in life is to keep her off the pole. Keep my baby off the pole! I mean, they don’t grade fathers, but if your daughter is a stripper you f*&$#@ up."

Warning: link is NSFW.
posted by zooropa at 7:34 AM on August 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


PhoBWanKenobi: It's the idea of the father being the gatekeeper of a girl's sexuality. Giving permission to have good sex ("darling, go out and play") implies that it's his to give even if, on the surface, he's saying that it's not his to give. It's patriarchal, as notyou says, even if it's not immediately apparent that it is.

That's a fair point. I don't think that is at all what he is trying to do, but I can see that reading of it.

I get the feeling like some people are maybe letting the perfect be the enemy of the good here. While his take on the subject of his daughter and her sexuality may not be ideal, it is certainly an improvement over the dominant paradigm, no?
posted by Rock Steady at 7:36 AM on August 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


So I have a baby daughter, and my original thought was that this is a good reminder that sex is a part of a life well-lived and that if I want her to have a full and good life, I'm implicitly wanting her to have sex.

Other fathers are already developing these jokes about protectiveness and paranoia being at the core of fatherhood when your child is female. Even though I'm still mostly worried about whether she's gained enough weight from day to day, they're making jokes about how I've got to buy a gun and nonsense of that sort.

So I liked this little letter. I liked it because there aren't enough messages to fathers that aren't stupid.

But looking at the open source breast thing, this guy is obviously an asshole. He wrote a good post about how fathers can resist some of the worst stereotypes, but clearly it's coming from a really bad place.
posted by anotherpanacea at 7:37 AM on August 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


Yea, after one too many "No dating until much older!" comments and gun "jokes" (not sure if these are still jokes since my parents do have multiple guns laying about the house, though these were acquired after I moved out for college) from the parents, I figure they'll have to learn about who I'm dating through the grapevine. Never going to straight up come out and tell them because who knows what their reaction will be. Even though they seem to be more accommodating and open about everything, it's still not a chance I'd take. I've heard enough disappointment spouting from their mouths about pretty much every decision I've made that I'm not letting them sink their claws into the one area of my life I've managed to (more or less unless the brother spills the beans) away from them.
posted by astapasta24 at 7:40 AM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


My daughter leaves for college in a couple of weeks, so this is apropos for me.

To me, the big word in this piece is 'consensual.' I remember being a teenage boy driven by my hormones, and the thought of her having to fend off that kind of self-centered advance scares the hell out of me. But consensual sex, hell yes. I wish her the best.

(NOTE: She's smart and strong; I don't have many worries about her fending off unwanted advances short of rape)
posted by tippiedog at 7:44 AM on August 13, 2013


realize my only job in life is to keep her off the pole. Keep my baby off the pole! I mean, they don’t grade fathers, but if your daughter is a stripper you f*&$#@ up."


I don't recommend that Chris Rock bit at all. In fact, it's exactly in line with the shooting boyfriends and locking up daughters talk. It's not humorous. I like Chris Rock sometimes, but the "off the pole" crap is incredibly insulting. I see "off the pole" constantly, too, in like Mad Men threads about Sally Draper. Like WTF?
posted by sweetkid at 7:46 AM on August 13, 2013 [7 favorites]


anotherpanacea: But looking at the open source breast thing, this guy is obviously an asshole. He wrote a good post about how fathers can resist some of the worst stereotypes, but clearly it's coming from a really bad place.

I'm not really familiar with that whole thing, other than the post koeselitz linked to above, but couldn't it just as easily be, "But looking at the whole supporting his daughter's healthy sex life thing, this guy is obviously a good dude. He had a bad idea about non-sexual touching, but clearly it is coming from a good place."

Again, I'm not familiar with the guy's history and I'm not trying to defend him personally. I feel like there must be more to it, given the harshness he is getting here from some people I respect.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:46 AM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I didn't know about the open source breast thing either when I posted this other FPP to an article Ferrett wrote about how aggressively hitting on women in public is terrible for women and not flattering really. There are a lot of comments there that talk about how he seems to have moved forward from the open source breast behavior.

I don't think he's "obviously an asshole."
posted by sweetkid at 7:50 AM on August 13, 2013 [9 favorites]


I can't speak for anyone but myself, but even if his message is on the surface, a positive one, everything he's written in aggregate (including the Open Source Boob Project and his 'I can't believe this made people mad I'm so shocked and hurt look at the good i do' response to the backlash) comes across as another creep who just adapted a "Sex Positive" stance to keep up his creep talk.

Everything he says comes across like one of those guys who always talks about how much he "loves" women, like one would talk about wine or cigars.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 7:50 AM on August 13, 2013 [8 favorites]


Well, the two together suggest a troubling trend of telling women that they ought to be ashamed if they're not sex-positive enough.

This may be well-meaning, but it also looks a little tone-deaf. He's the person who said both things, and that makes me worry that he sees this as his special project, to get women to lighten up and let men touch their breasts and not be so uptight. Which, yuck.
posted by anotherpanacea at 7:51 AM on August 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


Sorry, here is the FPP on coffee I had originally posted.
posted by sweetkid at 7:52 AM on August 13, 2013


Well, the two together suggest a troubling trend of telling women that they ought to be ashamed if they're not sex-positive enough.

Yeah, that's the impression I got, too, and why I generally distrust him when it comes to discussing models of positive sexuality.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:53 AM on August 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Thanks sweetkid! I'll dig into that.

Maybe he's just a complex and multi-faceted dude who wrote something weird once. But I worry that the trend is towards working out some of his personal issues in public using other people's bodies as his canvas/blank page.
posted by anotherpanacea at 7:55 AM on August 13, 2013


I don't care who this guy is or what he wrote previously, but as the father of a college-age daughter I kind of liked this article. If you can get past the sex part of it, the deeper message seems to be that the role of a parent isn't to prevent your children from getting hurt; it's to help them heal after they get themselves hurt.
This is something I wish more of today's overprotective parents would pay heed to.
posted by rocket88 at 7:59 AM on August 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


PhoBWanKenobi: Yeah, that's the impression I got, too, and why I generally distrust him when it comes to discussing models of positive sexuality.

That's well said, and I think you are probably right, but I do still think that this article is a positive contribution to the discussion, and I think a lot of sex-positive fathers (like me) are glad to see something closer to their perspective being put out there.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:03 AM on August 13, 2013


Ugggh, the coffee guy again? Yeah. I can do without him.
posted by mochapickle at 8:06 AM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


the coffee article was excellent. See, we all have different opinions, etc...
posted by sweetkid at 8:07 AM on August 13, 2013


How a guy can raise a sexually daughter in America:

1. Make it clear that sex is good

2. Make sure that she plenty of sex positive female relatives around her

3. Ensure she knows what a clitoris is, ideally by plainly discussing it with the sex positive female relatives around her.

4. Be a decent male model, which means, among other things, you view and appreciate women beyond sex.

5. Make it clear she can come to you for advice if she wants to.

6. Make sure she understands the mechanics of sex, pregnancy and STDs.

7. Teach her that her body is her own

8. Her room is her domain. Other than ensuring health codes aren't violated, she can do what she wants with it.

9. Other than caring that she's safe, not giving a damn about her sex life.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:12 AM on August 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


It's a fine sentiment, but I agree with those who say it seems he's showing off for "cred." And the open source boob thing was gross and definitely harms his message.
posted by agregoli at 8:12 AM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


It also seems patriarchal for him to be seeking attention and plaudits for his enlightened attitude toward his daughter's sexuality.
posted by Unified Theory at 8:16 AM on August 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


A generally great recommendation for the The Good Men Project . Articles like this are important in dispelling the macho bullshit many men adhere to without being able to express any specific rational.

For me, this was the most powerful part of the piece:

I’ve held you, sobbing, after your boyfriend cheated on you, and it tore me in two. But you know what would tear me in two even more? To see you in a glass cage, experiencing nothing but cold emptiness at your fingers...

Two opposed images, the pain that relationships can sometimes cause, and the loneliness isolation almost guarantees.

I've had wonderful friends of both genders throughout my life, and it's been confounding to see the gender attitudes that people learn to apply... to themselves. As this article is about young women, that's probably the best focus to take.

There has been a theme of women coming to terms with their sexuality over the years on MetaFilter, and as a man, I've generally found it to be tremendously positive. Posts about women challenging societal stereotypes (with varying degrees of success), comments about transformative personal experiences, and just the act of so many voices having these discussions in an authentic place.

The only thing I have to say on the female side of the equation is that I once had a very beautiful friend – stunning – who was an absolutely amazing person. Yet, she sometimes wished she was less pretty. Her entire life, the messaging had been that she was a beautiful women, therefore she was weak, and at the disposal of the carnal nature of men who simply wanted to use her for sex. She loved wandering and exploring, yet she declined to do a lot of things because it had been beaten into her that rape lurked around every corner. I doubt most of the messages were intentional, but they were there. Consequently, she didn't do a lot of the things that she wanted to do, in the way she wanted to do them, because she was simply afraid that she was too pretty to be on her own.

Now there may be some truth to that, that women who are alone can be victimised and abused at a higher rate than men. That's not the point I'm making. The point I'm making is that she internalised it so extensively that she almost blamed herself for being pretty, which is madness. It wasn't her choice, and we live in a society that constantly promotes natural beauty as a very desirable asset. She's eventually managed to do a lot of the things she wanted to do, but she waited a long time.

Also, it affected her own relationship to sex and herself. She had a particular problem with the terms give it away, putting out, taken to bed and all of the other loaded terms applied to sex. She said it made the act of sex cheap in itself. There was no way around it, her sex was a precious object. So precious that not even she should enjoy it. She always found herself overwrought, wondering if men liked her for her, or if they were after sex. She second-guessed herself. She came to recognise it in time, but she always hated 'the programming' – that women 'give' sex, and men 'take' it. From the get-go, it's structured as the woman losing something.

That's all I have to say about the women's angle, for I have very little to contribute about that. But I also came in to make the point that not only does the demonisation of female sexuality affect women, but men. It's also been a stark difference I've noticed in cultures. There are cultures where the power balance between genders is relatively neutral, and attitudes toward sex seem to carry much less baggage, so it is possible.

That women's sexuality is to be 'taken' then by default means that men's sexuality is about 'taking'. Aggressive. Dominating. Forceful. This seems just as corrosive to men as it is to women, and may well be one of the many roots of sexual violence. If a woman refuses a man, she is not refusing to share sexual pleasure, but she is rejecting the man's power as a man. What a blunt and stupid association. Yet masculinity can be so wrapped up with 'taking' sex and the power aspect of it, they become one in the same. It becomes difficult for men themselves to separate sex from power. It's the mirror image of the woman's isolation and fear.

If women are told to be afraid because sexual predators are everywhere, what men by default then have to be sexual predators. Thus, inside every man lurks a sexual predator. It's like the sexual version of original sin. You may not have committed an action to justify the label, but you have the potential to. We all have the ability to commit murder, but we don't start out telling children they have a murderer lurking inside them, do we?

Sex is obviously a complicated subject, and it probably has always been. It is inspiring to see a man treat his daughter like a human being rather than an object he created. Seeing that her sexuality is her own, and has nothing to do with him. He can focus on the important stuff, like helping her learn how to choose men that will respect her – rather than perpetuating the culture of sex-as-fear.

Further he does not have to live in the macho prison himself. As he frees her to be herself, so he frees himself from the responsibility of controlling her sexuality. As I write this, I realise that I don't think a lot of men consider their models of women's sexuality to impact their own, but they do. There are probably a lot of men out there who would rather see sex as a fun, collaborative effort than some kind of animal conquest. A lot of men who would rather focus on their daughter's general happiness, than constantly worried about their sex lives, and what men are 'taking' them.

Great essay and great post. Also really liked the comment above that talked about the care beneath the point of sex. That his is a man dedicated to his role of raising an independent person, rather than subjugating an offspring.
posted by nickrussell at 8:27 AM on August 13, 2013 [12 favorites]


Because consensual sex isn’t something that men take from you; it’s something you give.

Ugh. It's something you do. Describing sex as an item that gets traded around instead of as an intimate interaction really kind of bothers me. Sure, make sure your daughter knows that she is the one who decides what to do with her body, and that you recognize you can't protect her from heartbreak when she's ready and willing to take the risk. But she's not "giving sex" to someone at that point. She's engaging in a close relationship that may or may not last or end well, and if things go sour she could feel hurt.

Of course, she could feel hurt if she lost someone she shared personal secrets with even if she didn't have sex with them, or she could feel fine after having a FWB relationship that ended without drama. Sex isn't the only way people become vulnerable. And she could be the one to hurt someone, too. Having sex comes with a certain amount of responsibility, not just freedom.
posted by mdn at 8:31 AM on August 13, 2013 [11 favorites]


I think what irks me so much about the way he's presenting it is that he uses this format: A. You will do this thing, and B. here's how I will react. But he's not there yet -- they haven't gotten to the point where the hypotheticals have become reality. Will he be so caught up in demonstrating his position of wisdom that he'll forget to listen to her, really listen?

Also: "Ideally, I am my daughter’s safe space, a garden to return to when the world has proved a little too cruel, a place where she can recuperate and reflect upon past mistakes and know that here, there is someone who loves her wholeheartedly and will hug her until the tears dry."

Vowing to love your kid unconditionally is not groundbreaking parenting. It's something most parents do. But these terms he uses... I'm squicked out by this hovering, posturing sort of custodianship, and he did the very same thing in the coffee essay.

My dad was always the quiet, supportive type. He never made speeches, but I always knew where I stood. He never romanticized about swooping in and drying my tears -- he tried to teach me to own my decisions so there'd be less need for tears.
posted by mochapickle at 8:44 AM on August 13, 2013


Growing up in a very religious culture with a strong focus on "traditional" (i.e. relatively modern Westernized) family roles meant that sex was Bad Bad Bad unless it was done in The Proper Way through The Proper Channels etc etc

If I wasn't such an unrepentant (heh) auto-didact I would have been mostly clueless, like a lot of my peers. It was a taboo and scary subject. On the night before my wedding my dad actually tried to give me the "talk", which included several specific instructions about what was allowed and what wasn't. It was very strange and gross and I had to cut him off and explain that I already knew quite a lot about sexual health, probably more than he realized it was even possible to know, and that the particulars of it were really none of his business, but if he wanted to know more I could recommend some light reading.

While my personal experience was less than optimal, I was lucky. Unfortunately I'm sure this has something to do with my being male. For some reason (probably patriarchy) this religious sex-negativity is much more harmful to women than to men. My little sister's first sexual encounter occurred when her boyfriend raped her, but she was so caught up in the cultural-religious bullshit that she'd been taught all her life that she immediately believed it was her fault, confessed to her parents and to her bishop, was called a "slut" by our mom and put on church discipline by the bishop and basically spiritually berated for a year for "losing her virtue", her "most precious gift". Meanwhile the young rapist lied to everyone and went merrily on his way, serving a full time Mormon mission and pretending to be the pious golden boy that everyone thought he was supposed to be.

It wasn't until a few years later that my sister, through resources wholly unconnected with that religious culture, realized and understood that what happened that night was not consentual and was indeed rape. She's a much healthier person now, but I get sick in my stomach when I think about all the damage that could have been avoided if we weren't so. fucking. AFRAID of our own bodies.

We have two very young sons and so the prospect of raising teenagers/young adults is still an abstract in my mind. But I've promised myself that I won't let my kids grow up believing that sex is some untouchable pandora's box. I suspect it will also help to accept the fact that as they grow up my children will need increasingly less physical protection, but increasingly more unconditional, non-judgmental support.
posted by Doleful Creature at 8:51 AM on August 13, 2013 [9 favorites]


This thread seems to be piling on the criticism, which I'd normally think was unwarranted for a guy who seems to have a mostly-reasonable-if-not-perfect viewpoint. But when you publish an "open letter" to someone, the actual audience isn't that "someone" but rather the internet as a whole (has an "open letter" ever been published anywhere but the internet?) so I guess he's sort of asking for it.

I have a daughter. She's very young, but I expect she'll have sex one day. I'd rather she enjoy it than not. I'm not going to make a public declaration about how she should experience it, though. If she asks for my help or advice, I will give it to her. When she's still fairly young, I may give her unsolicited help or advice, because that's a parent's job. She doesn't necessarily get to make her own decisions when she's 14. One day she'll be an adult and then I will have no say in the matter, but part of parenting is being able to say "no" or "you have to" even when your child wants to make a bad decision. People without kids seem to think that you can treat kids like little adults who only need to have the facts explained in a reasonable manner and they'll make the right choices. That is not how kids are. Sometimes you have to say that, "No, you can't have cookies for dinner" and sometimes you have to say "No, you can't go to the party with the kids who I know got pulled over driving drunk last month" or whatever. Shotgun jokes are over the top, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't have any say at all in who (boys or otherwise) your teenage daughter associates with.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 9:26 AM on August 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


Dear Daughter,

If I ever write a letter that is anywhere even remotely like this one, I promise not to publish it on the internet, and especially not along with your photograph.

Love,
Dad

P.S. Try to stay away from guys who admire Robert Heinlein.
posted by Ratio at 9:51 AM on August 13, 2013 [25 favorites]


Yeah, definitely not going to listen to anything the Open Source Boob Project guy has to say, especially when he intends to address women. Any credibility or authority he could have had on this topic is null and void. The message is solid, but there has to be a better spokesperson for it.

It's vitally important to point out that prohibiting your children from acknowledging sex as a mutually enjoyable, intimate shared experience is vile, patronizing, and toxic. I'd suggest, though, that receiving calm and consistent encouragement toward an increased level of comfort with self-education, nuance, experimentation, and exploration is likely more resonant than reading a letter from your dad that basically says, 'No worries, kiddo, I won't get mad at you for wanting to get busy, and I won't threaten violence upon anyone who wants to get busy with you!'

In my experience, the most important thing is to simply encourage your kids to seek out their own values independently, totally uncoupled from any/all of your hangups; to that end, the "promise I won't get mad" aspect is extraneous. The only real input my parents had in my life was demanding that every school I went to -- seven schools in five years, at one point -- prohibit me from attending any and all classes, meetings, or discussions regarding reproductive health, sexuality, STDs, etc. At the same time, my local public and school librarians were instructed to prevent me from checking out or otherwise accessing any books about biology, gender, or health. I knew "Our Bodies, Ourselves" existed in theory because I could see it on the shelf; in practice, it existed in an alternate reality.

When I got my period for the first time, I assumed the intense pain and all the blood meant I was hemorrhaging to death. My teachers and parents thought it was downright hilarious that I immediately chose to lock myself in a bathroom stall sobbing and writing out my last will and testament instead of just briefly excusing myself to the nurse's office to ask for a pad. Undeterred by reality, my mom started calling me a slut and accusing me of fucking her new husband when I was 11, and my dad started suggesting that I was gay less than a year later.
In the end, I managed to reach legal adulthood without having the slightest idea what sex or sexuality actually involved, on a physical, emotional, or psychological level. The only information my parents would give me was that so much as kissing a boy was likely to result in pregnancy, and that pregnancy was not only completely irreversible but permanently life-ruining. To make absolutely sure I wouldn't get knocked up under her roof, my mom took my bedroom door off its hinges when I turned 13 in hopes that I would be duly cowed and unable to be alone with anyone. Surprise pockets of ignorance on related topics persist to this day; the mind-bending shame is inextricable. And the last time I brought this up, my mom just shrugged and said, "Well, you didn't get pregnant, did you? You're welcome."

tl;dr - Parents, don't do that.
posted by divined by radio at 9:59 AM on August 13, 2013 [18 favorites]


Yeah, definitely not going to listen to anything the Open Source Boob Project guy has to say, especially when he intends to address women.

It's really weird that when I posted an article this same guy wrote, people seemed to be able to get over the boob project and talk about the actual article (and also how Ferrett might have been changed by the backlash to boob project) but in this one it's taking over the thread.

Time of day? Audience? I don't know what's happening here.
posted by sweetkid at 10:13 AM on August 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


Also, I'd never heard of this guy before, and now I'm looking at his blog and yup, it's chock full of smugness and clumsy self-congratulation.

What makes people write this way?
posted by Ratio at 10:14 AM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm still irritated. You know, this whole message would have been better served by a tweet:
"Kiddo, you gotta do what you gotta do. But be safe, be true to yourself, and know that I love you no matter what."

He'd still have 27 characters left over.
posted by mochapickle at 10:14 AM on August 13, 2013 [7 favorites]


Regarding the appropriateness of caring about quality of (sex) life with children, I have to disagree with... well, I guess many of you. I felt inspired a few years ago by an article about a New York school sex educator who went above and beyond just the facts to discuss things like decision-making, feelings, and what feels good. I do want my son to (someday, not now) enjoy sex. A good sex life makes for a better life in general.

My kid, 15 or so at the time, had received plenty of facts-based sex education. With his father's blessing, I bought him a book that contains, with humor, warmth, illustrations, and exhaustive information, kind of the full range of everything -- the solo, the partnered, the off-the-beaten-track. When it arrived, I told him that his parents want him to enjoy every aspect of life. Here was another reference to add to his library, and as with any topic from cooking to politics, he should always feel welcome to talk about it. I put the book on the table behind the sofa. By that evening, it had disappeared into his room.

There are other topics I feel I must chat with my son about that other parents (and non-parents) would find inappropriate, I guess. Things like pornography -- the politics of it, the portrayal of sex vs. the reality of sex, etc. He is a teenager, attending college early -- but still just emotionally 16 -- with constant access to the internet. His discoveries need to be mediated so he can develop his values in a positive, healthy manner.

I know sex is a squicky topic for many, but caring about your kids' attitudes toward it and future enjoyment of it doesn't need to cross lines.
posted by houseofdanie at 10:21 AM on August 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


I was lucky enough to be able to enroll my daughter in a sensitive and explicit sex ed program (through the local U/U church) so I didn't have to talk about sex with her (well, yeah, the "facts of life, when she was young, but after a certain age girls do not usually want to talk about sex with their dad. Their mom, maybe not either.) I did say, at a certain point during her first serious relationship (age 17) that her boyfriend didn't need to stay in the guest room. 'Nuff said.

Societies who allow their adolescent children to have sex are healthier in most other regards as well, although I know there are plenty of Americans who are still horrified by the idea of their child (especially their girl) having sex before marriage.
posted by kozad at 10:37 AM on August 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's really weird that when I posted an article this same guy wrote, people seemed to be able to get over the boob project and talk about the actual article (and also how Ferrett might have been changed by the backlash to boob project) but in this one it's taking over the thread.

I obviously can't speak for MeFi, but I think it might be because the article you made your FPP about was specifically addressed to men, while this one is specifically addressed to women (or rather, one woman in particular).

In a broad sense, I feel like it's considered to be more acceptable for a man with a history of sexist behavior to write about sexism for an intended audience of other men, and much less acceptable when he is intending to write for/to women. As in the Hugo Schwyzer debacle, I am generally incensed by men with known histories of gross, creepy, or downright abusive sexist actions claiming to have "moved on" so that they may more authoritatively present themselves as people who possess the wisdom, humility, and credibility required to address and/or speak to the concerns of the very gender they had previously maligned. My suspicion kicks into overdrive when they are moved to use a public forum to congratulate themselves for reaching enlightenment.
posted by divined by radio at 10:48 AM on August 13, 2013 [19 favorites]


I think that's a fair point, speaking to men v speaking to women. I still like the overall tone of the "letter," though, especially as a reaction to "I'm gonna kill any man who gets near you etc" - it's nice to have SOME sort of response to that from men. It's one of the things I see constantly unchallenged even by progressive types.

Also I think this guy is several degrees below Hugo Schwyzer, but that's a different story...

The fact that it's called The Good Men Project makes me think that as a project, they are working toward being good men, if not there already, and they recognize the issue that there is some work to be done for men in order to be responsible parents, friends, lovers, coworkers, and sons of women.
posted by sweetkid at 10:57 AM on August 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Weirdo or not, I wish my dad had fostered this attitude instead of forbidding me from ever seeing my first boyfriend again upon discovering that we had been engaging in some novice experimentation. The pain and humiliation have stayed with me long after I was able to acknowledge on a logical level that I wasn't a "problem kid" for having those desires and acting on them in a safe and fun way. If only my parents had had the guts to have an earnest discussion with teenaged me about sex instead of screaming at me to keep the door open and "all four on the floor" whenever anyone, even just a friend, of the opposite sex came a-calling. (After a while, as I'm sure you can imagine, nobody wanted to hang out at my house.)

All in all, even if this guy is kind of a creep, I would probably have enjoyed having him as a dad when I was a teenager. There are some crappy alternatives out there.
posted by Mooseli at 11:36 AM on August 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


I thought Ferrett's mea culpas about the Open Source Boob Project here were pretty good, and that Scalzi's take on it here is just about perfect.

I'm not saying that Ferrett didn't deserve the criticism he got, but maybe, "a pox on any words you speak forevermore," is overdoing it.
posted by Myca at 11:53 AM on August 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


I bet he also has a good attitude towards menstruation. Quick, someone get him a medal!

I can't fault the overall concept but this just feels a little too self-congratulatory for me.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 12:20 PM on August 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


"But she's not "giving sex""

"Give sex" sounds like a poor translation. "Hello, would it be pleased to give me sex?"

(Anyway, I just don't want my daughter to do anything that will jeopardize her bride price.)
posted by klangklangston at 12:46 PM on August 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


This man is an awesome father. Treating his daughter with respect and support and not as an object or possession. I'd like to know what his letter to his son would be.
posted by flyfsh_peter at 1:15 PM on August 13, 2013


This makes me really uncomfortable, especially given his history with the whole "open source boob project." Yes, I think more families need to be open, positive and accepting about sexuality, but his daughter's sexuality also isn't any of his business.

This.

At best it's well meant, but his track record isn't encouraging and a better parent would have the same attitude about wanting his daughter to have a sex life without feeling the need to announce this on the internet.

Here in the Netherlands for the most part we don't have that uptight attitude about teenagers having sex, so this really isn't an issue for us. There probably is a need for the US to start actually talking about why this "no sexting my babby" is such a dumb attitude, but I'm not sure this was the right way.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:19 PM on August 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


My kid, 15 or so at the time, had received plenty of facts-based sex education. With his father's blessing, I bought him a book that contains, with humor, warmth, illustrations, and exhaustive information, kind of the full range of everything -- the solo, the partnered, the off-the-beaten-track. When it arrived, I told him that his parents want him to enjoy every aspect of life. Here was another reference to add to his library, and as with any topic from cooking to politics, he should always feel welcome to talk about it. I put the book on the table behind the sofa. By that evening, it had disappeared into his room.

When I was 14 or 15, I spent the summer at my Gramma and Leo's in Big Bear, CA, ostensibly to earn a little money helping Leo with maintenance on his rental cabins in Sugarloaf and a couple of little houses he had down in Lucerne Valley. Leo was my Gramma's boyfriend; they'd been together since well before I was born (and stayed together until dementia overcame them both several years ago). They passed away late last year, about a month apart.

Anyway, one night I was poking around the guest room -- my room for the summer -- looking for something to read and found a dog-eared sex-ed manual tucked deep into the nightstand drawer. It was a 1950s version of the book you describe -- illustrated, biology, psychology, physiology, and, err, technical advice.

At first I assumed it was Leo's. He was an immigrant from Austria and he'd taught himself English by reading anything and everything, especially newspapers, and hey, here's a whole part of human experience he needed to translate from German to English and that he wasn't going to get from Newsweek or the Wall Street Journal, so why wouldn't it be part of his self-directed language lessons? Over the summer I read it cover to cover, always careful to replace it back in the drawer exactly where I had found it.

Several years ago I helped my Dad and my Uncle move Gramma and Leo into separate elder care facilities, and as we sorted through 50 years of detritus, I hoped we'd come across that book. It wasn't much use as a sex-ed tome by then -- it was mostly out of date way back when I'd read it. I wanted it as a reminder of the sensitivity and care with which Leo (and perhaps Gramma) had taken to see that I had a fuller understanding of my sexuality. Of course, they knew that I'd eventually find it in that drawer, and they knew that in so doing, I'd be much more likely to read it than if either of them had suggested it.

Leo never had children of his own, and my grandmother had struggled with alcoholism and drug addiction when she was parenting my dad and my uncle until finally sense prevailed and a court awarded custody to their father. Nevertheless, I've always thought that ploy with the book was a clever bit of parenting.
posted by notyou at 2:21 PM on August 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Whenever I think about parenting advice of any stripe (and for any topic) this is the quote that always runs through my head, care of Mr. Vonnegut, Jr:

Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It's hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It's round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you've got about a hundred years here. There's only one rule that I know of, babies -- :
God damn it, you've got to be kind.

posted by Doleful Creature at 2:24 PM on August 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ok but Vonnegut never said that.
posted by sweetkid at 2:30 PM on August 13, 2013


sweetkid: “Ok but Vonnegut never said that.”

You are wrong. He did say that. It's the last few sentences of the seventh chapter of God Bless You, Mr Rosewater. I have it open in front of me right now. Feel free to look it up yourself if you'd like.

Also, the quote Doleful Creature gave is not listed anywhere in the link you provided.
posted by koeselitz at 2:35 PM on August 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


[citation]
posted by koeselitz at 2:40 PM on August 13, 2013


Uh ok. Omg
posted by sweetkid at 3:04 PM on August 13, 2013


(Sorry if that came out more intense than I meant it; I just kinda like Kurt Vonnegut.)
posted by koeselitz at 3:06 PM on August 13, 2013


Thanks for the apology and clarification
posted by sweetkid at 3:08 PM on August 13, 2013


Yeah, b.c of the sunscreen thing, everything thinks KV wrote nothing...

But just remember, Mark Twain NEVER said anything about summers in San Francisco. That's the most important thing.

posted by mrgrimm at 4:24 PM on August 13, 2013


notyou, that's a beautiful story. I think I love Leo.
posted by houseofdanie at 4:28 PM on August 13, 2013


"...Because consensual sex isn’t something that men take from you; it’s something you give..."

[facepalm]

Because a sex act is a transaction, one exchange of the basic monetary unit of the Sexual Economy, and the currency is only minted by women.

Everything I have ever read on that website is pure 100% cringeworthy and creepy. It is like they don't even understand there is a concept called "subtext."
posted by charlie don't surf at 4:49 PM on August 13, 2013 [9 favorites]


charlie don't surf: "Everything I have ever read on that website is pure 100% cringeworthy and creepy. It is like they don't even understand there is a concept called "subtext.""

This bears repeating. The so-called "Good Men Project" was almost immediately hijacked by a bunch of know-nothings intent on opposing feminism at every turn. It should be taken with a whole bushel of grains of salt, if it's taken at all.
posted by koeselitz at 5:04 PM on August 13, 2013 [8 favorites]


This bears repeating. The so-called "Good Men Project" was almost immediately hijacked by a bunch of know-nothings intent on opposing feminism at every turn. It should be taken with a whole bushel of grains of salt, if it's taken at all.

I am so glad this is being noticed and pointed out. I actually came here to say something like this.

The Good Men Project can pretty much be summed up by people like Hugo Schwyzer and this fuckface Ferrett fellow.

I really alarm myself by saying this, but the reality for me is that men will be men, and even when you get men together in something like the Good Men Project, it's going to be usurped by typical male horribleness. I am a man, but ANYTHING where men are front and center is going to typically devolve into Brief Interviews With Hideous Men material.

I mean seriously, people ... This doofus crowing about how wonderfully enlightened he is about his daughter's sex life? And the Hugo Schwyzer thing? Was David Foster Wallace not prescient?
posted by Unified Theory at 6:39 PM on August 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


I never really got this trope. It always kind of pissed me off with its inherent hypocrisy, too. Where the fucking fuck did your daughter come from, Angry White Dude With a Gun? Unless she was born in a test tube, it seems like you probably did to someone else's daughter what I'd like to do with yours, so chill the fuck out and try being original instead of just recycling the moronic bullshit your culture tells you you're supposed to do.
If anyone had ever threatened my life for wanting to date their daughter, I would instantly, and as brutally as possible, sever all communications with that girl and sit back and watch her relationship with her father suffer. Joking about murder isn't something normal people do.
posted by GoingToShopping at 7:48 PM on August 13, 2013


Joking about murder isn't something normal people do.

And yet this damn trope is so common.
posted by sweetkid at 8:11 PM on August 13, 2013


Has anyone here actually been threatened with death by a father for dating his daughter?

I think some of you are taking an Internet joke way too seriously that, in the real world, is more of an urban legend.
posted by Unified Theory at 8:59 PM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


men will be men, and even when you get men together in something like the Good Men Project, it's going to be usurped by typical male horribleness

Department of Part of the Problem.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 9:27 PM on August 13, 2013


Those Unitarian Universalists LOVE getting it on.
posted by ReeMonster at 12:15 AM on August 14, 2013


Unified Theory: "Has anyone here actually been threatened with death by a father for dating his daughter? I think some of you are taking an Internet joke way too seriously that, in the real world, is more of an urban legend."

Man, there have been many, many examples of this pointed out to you, and you still don't believe it? Seriously, if you need it said, yes. Almost every single dad of every single woman I've ever dated has had this passive-aggressive man-thing going on. Sure, they aren't all waiting at their doors with shotguns - but surely constantly joking about how you're going to shoot and/or maim anybody who touches your daughter counts as menacing in itself, doesn't it? And yes, again, I have known a lot of fathers who made those jokes. Constantly. It's one of the most tedious tropes out there, because it's a mask covering up ridiculously sexist and patriarchal behavior.

I mean, go back and check the second link of this post. That's not a harmless joke - it's the worst kind of sexist patriarchy, the kind that says that women have no agency whatsoever. And I have to say that "it's just a joke" is itself a very tired cliche that means almost nothing at this point. Jokes are not "just jokes." They have meaning.

I totally agree with you on the main link, by the way. At the very least, I think it's ridiculous that this guy would air out family business on the Internet in such a self-serving way. But I still think this dad-protecting-daughter trope is really deeply sexist, and it's a problem that needs to be dealt with. Particularly since a lot of people take it to an insane extreme. I dated a woman once whose father was extraordinarily protective; he basically summed up that shirt, informing me regularly that he wasn't my friend and wasn't going to be my friend, that he would destroy me if I hurt her, that I'd better shape up and get a better job, etc. It was not fun, and I wasn't even the object of the patriarchal bullshit. I can only begin to imagine how awful it was for her to put up with that all the time.
posted by koeselitz at 12:30 AM on August 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


The whole boob project thing was really weird to me, because I'd been reading the Ferret for ages, he was the guy with the crazy sex stories, who played magic, and wrote about relationships. He then did a really stupid thing, apologised for it, and came in a lot of people's minds that guy who had a terrible idea. The Ferret blogs a lot, a bit of an old school tradition these days, and tends to blog everything that comes into his head, with a few exceptions. This means he posts some somewhat raw, unedited things. I think the critisms of this article are perfectly valid, but I think the purpose of it, to address the idea that men should hate the idea of their daughters having sex, is reasonably admirable.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 12:34 AM on August 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Has anyone here actually been threatened with death by a father for dating his daughter?"
Sort of! I've mentioned it on metafilter before, but when I was a young rascal interested in other peoples daughters, I got to meet parents with a pretty diverse set of strategies for containing the existential threat I represented, and they had widely varied levels of success:

My first serious girlfriend had a mother who was TERRIFYING; she was a captain in the Air Force, had biceps about the size of my torso, and made a point of showing me her very extensive gun collection. I lived in perfectly valid fear that this woman would hunt me down and look me in the eye while she slowly disemboweled me with that giant bowie knife of hers should I ever cross her wrong. Being an immortal teenager, this had an unshockingly small effect on me or my teenage ability to judge risk, however it did have a very large effect on her daughter. Her daughter knew that she would never be able to go to her mother with any problems she had with me, because instant disemboweled partner. She also knew that she could never go to her father, who was incidentally pretty awesome, because he would tell her mother who would then follow my unfortunately axe based scent like a wild predator drone and promptly disembowel me. When we ended up in some, ultimately very mild but to us really scary, trouble we knew her parents couldn't be a resource for us because I would end up flayed on a stick floating in the Potomac. While I really really can't claim that I was a relationship genius, I thankfully did not end up an asshole or an abuser because, looking back, her mother's disposition indeed would have left her really vulnerable to that.

My second serious girlfriend had parents who were totally different, and despite us both being pretty young and very teenage stupid, we were never made to feel the least bit intimidated by them. Curfews were negotiated rather than imposed, it was made clear that I was always invited for dinner (with advance warning appreciated) and, much more importantly, they made a significant effort to really get to know me for who I was as I was. I was brought along for trips to the local Shakespeare theaters, a family obsession for them, included in an awesome thanksgiving with their relatives 400 miles away when my own parents were splitting up, and generally made to feel as if I had a second home. This had a number of important effects on me where I knew I could trust them for help if we ever needed it, up to and including a ride home whatever the circumstances were or the time was, and if I had any fear in my interactions with them, it was a fear of disappointing them. Looking back though, I think the effects this kind of strategy had on their daughter were, at least in a general sense, even more important. She never felt any need to lie to them about me at all, she knew she could rely on them for help and support if she ever had any kind of problem with me, and her relationship with me was not something she felt a need to compartmentalize away from what she had learned about relationship from her parents. I could be an integrated, though if need be totally disposable, part of her life – which was so much healthier than option one was for my first girlfriend.

There really is a cultural expectation that the suitors of daughters should live in fear of parents, you must not have conservative relatives with kids on facebook, but there are so much better ways for us to interact that are so much better for everyone involved with resources better than this creepy shit. MetaFilter's own Maias has done a bunch of journalistic work looking at the differences between how Dutch parents and American parents deal with this kind of thing that I’ve found pretty enlightening – especially in terms of the differences in results.

For me? Even though their daughter and I broke up years ago, I still think of my second serious girlfriends parents as a second set of my own parents. I just got the sweetest birthday card from them from across the ocean that totally made my day and I love them to death. So much more awesome than wondering if I’ll end up scattered across the bottom of the Chesapeake.
posted by Blasdelb at 3:50 AM on August 14, 2013 [15 favorites]


"Has anyone here actually been threatened with death by a father for dating his daughter?"

Indirectly, but there was no question of the intention. On date 1 or 2 with my now wife I was taken upstairs by her rather large father and shown his collection of guns and items from Vietnam, several of which were deadly. He was just "showing me some cool stuff" but it was pretty clear why. We did end up getting along just fine, but he was always a little bothered that I was dating and then marrying his first daughter. It was odd since I had grown up in a family where it was expected and encouraged that I would want to go out and meet somebody and have some fun and then make a life with them - I mean why wouldn't you want that for your kids? I sure do.
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 9:21 AM on August 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


tends to blog everything that comes into his head

Herein lies the problem.
posted by Ratio at 10:51 AM on August 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


I posted before on bull elephants straightening out the rogue young males. I think a physiological change occurs when you become a parent. I know I felt it again when I had a daughter. Some fundamental change in mental chemistry occurs. I didn’t become risk-averse exactly (otoh, I was psychotically addicted to adrenaline before), but the idea my life was no longer completely my own was more ingrained. I was more connected.

And I think a lot of teenagers aren’t plugged into that – their dependency and all of our interdependency. Mostly because that’s how they’re wired, but also in part socially in the U.S.
What I don’t get is why the threat approach isn’t balanced with the support end of it. Sex is fine. In fact I want you to be safe having sex, not drive drunk, use protection, etc. and failure to do so in a manner that endangers my daughter can result in extremely dire consequences.
Maybe because it’s just easier to do the tough guy act? I dunno. But it seems far easier to raise a child to not need you to do that (unless they need you to do that). We (in the U.S.) do that in a lot of other ways. I’ve found positive attention more useful. In fact, I train people to fight for their lives and I find positive attention more useful.
Negative attention gets all the allure for some reason. Perhaps it’s the feeling of power, but I’ve grown to suspect it suppresses uncomfortable feelings (inadequacy, uncertainty, even sympathy which can be painful in some cases). Probably the same deal here. I don’t feel that way so I don’t know.
I do talk about sex with my kids. But I can’t help think other lessons haven’t bled over. Honesty. Teamwork. Mutual respect.

I agree with the general tone of the letter but I gotta go with the folks who pick nits with some of the phrasing: “Because consensual sex isn’t something that men take from you; it’s something you give.”

Consensual sex is exactly that. Mutual. Sharing each other.
“go out and play.” – etc.

OTOH I think the phrasing is indicative of that protective switch that seems to go off in adult males. I mean he’s saying, essentially – don’t let some asshole tell you you’re no good for enjoying sex and stay away from assholes who do.
I couldn’t agree more. And I think that there’s Dad’s bailiwick. Not the sexuality. The assholes hassling your kid - for whatever reason – yeah, those are the guys that need the message that you’re willing to go the distance for your kid.

Beyond that though, I am, in fact, your friend if my daughter likes you. I presume you too don’t want to see her slipped Rohypnol at a party, that you’ll drive her home if she’s drunk, that you’ll call me (or your own parents if they’re cool) if you’re both drunk, that you don’t want to be a father in your teenage years so you’ll ask me to buy protection for you if you’re too embarrassed, etc. etc.

Communication is a critical tool but, while by no means do I think parental authority should not be reinforced by whatever means to the otherwise pretty foggy young mind (I did some stupid things as a kid myself), the threat of force can limit otherwise open communication.
You want to know everything. It’s not communication or information that destroys lives, it’s prejudgment and silence.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:20 PM on August 14, 2013


"...a better parent would have the same attitude about wanting his daughter to have a sex life without feeling the need to announce this on the internet."

I don't really agree with this. I sympathize with the uncomfortable reactions that many are having, but I think they're part of the problem.

First, though, I want to say that I agree that this particular guy's history is problematic. So, for the rest of my comment, let's pretend that someone else, without a creepy history, wrote the linked piece.

Second, my comment is going to be regrettably heteronormative, as I'm not sure how to deal with these issues beyond that context. Our culture is heteronormative, after all, and that's shaping these patterns and behaviors.

Basically, our culture still has remnants of the patriarchal sexualization of daughters as being their essential quality as women. It is not comparable between the genders — you can have Buster-esque "motherboys", but it's invariably culturally denigrated where, in contrast, "daddy's girl" is seen as cute and attractive. Normal. "Mother's boy" is pathological. Any hint of sexual attraction of a mother for her adolescent son is understood to be deeply perverse. But such an attraction from a father to an adolescent daughter is culturally presumed to be just under the surface (and, in fact, it actually is, given the rates of father-daughter incest).

The mother-son occasions in Arrested Development's "motherboys" is a source of creepy humor. But father-daughter dances are a hallowed tradition in many communities in the US, and so is that very special father-bride dance. And the father "gives away" the bride while the mother does not and sons have no one that plays such a role.

And fathers are seen as the protectors of their daughter's chastity. They are presented precisely as jealous, not generically parentally protective. They describe themselves the way that jealous lovers describe how they feel about suspected infidelities.

This is why there's so much discomfort with a father discussing a daughter's sex life as this guy is doing. If this was a mother who had written this, would there be any complaints that it was creepy? Okay, maybe a few. But I feel certain that the overwhelming majority of responses would be positive. It's only because our culture already sexualizes the father-daughter relationship that makes this father presenting this message, publicly or privately, "creepy".

I think that going along with this intuitive response is acquiescing to the creepiness inherent in how our culture understands adolescent women and particularly how it understands adolescent women in relationship to their fathers. If you think that (safe) sex is good, and recognize that most adolescents are sexually active, then it's hard to understand what's wrong with a parent giving their child an explicitly positive, empowering message about sex. Would we be uncomfortable with a mother writing/saying this to a son? Well, I don't think it would provoke as much discomfort, but it would provoke some. But, again, that's because culturally we presume some sort of sexual subtext to opposite sex parent/child relationships.

I'm sorry, but I'm just not going to agree with Freud on this. But even if I did, I'd still argue that any latent sexualization that's there is pathologized by how our culture responds to it.

Our culture itself is deeply creepy about fathers and daughters. Saying that a father being positive about his adolescent daughter's sex life is just as creepy as being negative about it, and that the correct response is to carefully have nothing to do or say about it whatsoever (but the mother can talk about it) just underscores the presumption of sexuality in a father-daughter relationship. It's validating that attitude, but in a different way. We call as much attention to what we carefully don't talk about as we do to the things we carefully talk about.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:13 AM on August 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ivan, I've been thinking about your comment for about an hour now, and what you said encouraged me to flip this to a mother/son parallel and weigh that out.

But I can't disagree more with your last paragraph: Saying that a father being positive about his adolescent daughter's sex life is just as creepy as being negative about it, and that the correct response is to carefully have nothing to do or say about it whatsoever (but the mother can talk about it) just underscores the presumption of sexuality in a father-daughter relationship.

I don't think this boils down to just fathers and daughters. The same essay from a brother to a sister, an uncle to a niece, or a grandfather to a granddaughter, would be similarly disturbing to many. But it also holds for same-sex parents or queer parents: A mother to a daughter, in many situations, would also be disturbing to many. My lesbian friend having this conversation with her heterosexual son also feels weird and intrusive.

Datapoint: While my mother and father wisely and neatly skirted the whole topic (mostly because I was/am fanatically private about this sort of thing and they were respectful of that), I grew up with a protective brother who would go into these caveman rants about how he planned to interrogate future boyfriends. And I would get so mad at him -- not because of any incestuous overtone, which quite frankly is insulting to imply, but because here was some dude thinking he had the authority to exercise some sort of control over me, either by denying my experience or magnanimously and vocally deciding he wouldn't. And it made me so angry.

It's a huuuge jump to fold one's arms and diagnose the reason as implied sexual connection -- I reacted poorly to this essay because a) it's an intrusive, intensely personal topic between most parents and offspring, regardless of opposite sex pairings. And it's intensified by b) a male assuming a level of authority by telling a female what it's OK to feel and think. It's a lot of the same issues I had with the coffee essay.
posted by mochapickle at 5:53 AM on August 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I saw this on Facebook today.

Dads Against Daughters Dating t-shirt

I think it's hilarious. LMAO.
posted by Unified Theory at 9:37 PM on August 30, 2013


Yeah that's not hilarious or LMAO really though. Because this whole thread.
posted by sweetkid at 11:42 PM on August 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


It's weird that this is even a question. If someone made a shirt that said "FATHERS SHOULD BE SHOT IN THE STREET," would that be totally peachy-keen because, hey, it's "just a joke"?
posted by koeselitz at 4:34 PM on September 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Honestly? Yes. It would also be a lot funnier than the Dads Against Daughters Dating.
posted by klangklangston at 6:09 PM on September 1, 2013


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