When I was a young married with a baby girl, our daughter's father would joke that she wouldn't be allowed to date until she was 35. Well, 30 if the prospective boyfriend was a member of the royal family. I'd laugh at his little joke, but it always annoyed me just a bit, though I wasn't sure why. (The fact that it was feeble and repeated waaaaay too often didn't help, but it was the actual content of the joke which bugged me.)
Not too long ago, some commenters on a blog I was visiting were speaking of the future dates of their infant girls. A couple of the daddy-types came out with the typical Big Protective Daddy comments. "The first guy to stick anything in her," said one, "and I'll stick something bigger into him." (Charming, no?)
Here's a thought that most parents of very small children don't really understand: One day, you will be the parent of an adult.
Think about that for a sec. Your baby will one day be an adult
. And you will still be the mom or dad. This is good, of course. This is why you strive so hard now - so that your child will one day be a fulfilled, contributing, card-carrying member of adult society.
It's a long way from here to there. No surprise you can lose sight of the reality of the end goal. And how does we get that baby from totally innocent, helpless dependent, to fully-functioning adult, anyway?
Well, we don't get them there by pretending that our children, boys and girls, will never be full adults, adulthood which includes sexual maturity. Just like learning to walk, learning to potty, developing language, gaining judgment and capacity for abstract thought, there is a developmental curve for sex and sexuality. This process takes years, of course, but eventually, children will become sexually mature adults.
As a parent, I have to accept that at some point, when he/she is ready, my child is going to have sex
. All we parental types are still somebody's kid, after all, and we're all having, or have had, sex. Sex is normal, it's inevitable, it's healthy. (You know what? I've heard tell it's even fun!!) Optimally, it will happen at the right time, with the right person; it will be respectful and caring. Optimally, it will be their choice
. For both our sons and our daughters.
My baby girl is now almost twenty-one. I'd be a fool to pretend she's not an adult in all senses of the word. I've been watching and guiding her passage into adulthood for a few years now. She's a young adult - she's got a lot of life, living, and maturing ahead of her (though she's a very mature young woman for her age). She still needs my guidance from time to time. (And is now mature enough to actually seek it out!) Still, she is an adult. How can I be a resource to her as she manages this area of adult life if I'm pretending she's still seven years old? If I deny her an active role, disallow her right to choose whether, when, and who - how does that help her?
Okay, now we're coming to the crux of this post. Why did that stupid joke, why do those 'protective daddy' comments exasperate me so? Because they are based upon the assumption that females are passive recipients of sex.
Females have no drives of their own, they have no sexual volition. They make no choices. If they are having sex, it's because someone required it of them.
"My daughter couldn't actually want
to indulge with her boyfriend!" these parents wail. "It must be his
idea, the filthy creep." Well, I hope for your daughter's sake that this isn't true. I hope that the sex she has, happens when she's ready, that it is joyful, respectful, mutually desired and mutually satisfying.
Just like you want for yourself.
Updated to add related link: Talk Sex with Mary
© 2006, Mary P