As my daughters grow older the inevitability of their sexuality being a more dominant factor of who they are and how they’re treated in the world is looming. And though their father and I have done our best to secure them with science and elevate their humanity through open dialogue that is free of shame or ridicule, I can’t help but wonder if what we’ve built as a sword and shield is enough to offset the impact of any peer or predator that decides to attack my daughters’ thoughts, rights, and freedoms.
As a former P.E and Health teacher, I think a lot about gender and sexuality as I’m raising cis-born girls. Am I doing my best to empower them to be open to the continued learning of themselves as a physical and spiritual being? Am I doing all that I can to refuse any definition of feminism and femininity that is toxic and counterproductive? Am I open to answering every question they have as scientifically, factually, and without fairytale as much as possible? Am I giving them the space for privacy so they can learn to create boundaries for themselves?
But what about dads? What responsibility do fathers have to holding themselves to these same principles I laid out above for myself? What role does a father have in cultivating their daughter’s confidence so that she may stand confidently against archaic attacks to her sexuality?
But then what if those archaic attacks and ideas originate in your own home?
Recently T.I. caught flack for a viral moment when he introduced his active participation in preserving his daughter’s virginity through visits to the OBGYN to check her hymen. Just to put this into perspective, T.I. is a southern rapper popular during the late 90s and early/mid 2000s, a time notoriously known for its misogenoir (misogyny toward black women). I’m sure his vigilance and caring are all part of his fear that his daughter will end up as one of the women he’d actively exploited during his rise to fame and prominence. Besides this being very disturbing, I am grateful that the rest of the world is aware of the patriarchal BS and two-sidedness that also occurs in the black community. I’m am sorrowful that T.I.’s daughter was embarrassed on a global scale, especially as she’s 18.
T.I. isn’t the only guilty dad who has publicly shamed their daughter when it comes to sexuality. I’m sure Ivanka Trump has experienced the same mortification that T.I.’s daughter is experiencing this week...
Why is it ok for fathers to embarrass their daughters in the name of protecting them? Who are you protecting them from? Guys like you?
All this aside, my deepest concern is for the regular guy raising a daughter with a vagina who wants to some how apply 13th century chastity belt philosophies to 2019. Our understanding of gender identity has evolved. Our understanding of the science of reproduction has evolved. Our knowledge of sexuality has evolved. Our sexual health practices have evolved... why are so many dads so vocally archaic about these things and why are the moms who live with them so silent about it when it’s doing far more harm than good.
For the most part my girls are fortunate... I’m a former P.E. and Health teacher and their father is all about gathering knowledge which has led to the purchase of many books, questions answered truthfully, and us being as emotionally available as we can be after a long day of work. Our family isn’t perfect but I’m proud of how well we work to continue age appropriate discussion on sexuality and sexual health. A bit of advice that’s worked for us:
1. Don’t make shit up... Use science: When explaining sexual anatomy, sexual intercourse, and anything involving sexual identity or gender identity there are tons of scientific books for kids that aren’t super graphic. Also if you’re ignorant or ill informed about these matters educate yourself.
2. Don’t get weirded out... Use empathy: When your kids feels or expresses something that you may not understand, take a moment to process that and then find a time to discuss it if you need time. But don’t make your child feel weird about their curiosity.
3. Don’t shame... Empower: Make sure that your child leaves every conversation with you about sex, sexuality, sexual identity, gender, rape or incest, feeling as if they can take action and that you support them.
4. Don’t be an overlord... Respect: YOUR DAUGHTER’S BODY IS HERS. It’s not yours to control. Even as her parental guardian you still do not own her body. Give her space to create boundaries and have privacy.
5. Don’t raise your sons differently: I don’t have this situation but I see it a lot in homes with multiple genders. We can’t raise boys to go out and do whatever they want while we raise our daughters to be repressed nuns.... it sends a terrible message to both genders.
Parents, but especially dads here, we got to do better. If you choose to avoid conversations with your daughter (or son) about sexuality and sexual health, someone else will have these conversations with your them and I’m certain it’s often not to your child’s benefit. And I get it that some people really are super religious about sexual self control, but keeping your child ignorant in an effort to keep them from making “bad decisions” has never worked at any moment in history and is completely irresponsible parenting...
I'm a former teacher and former college athlete, currently working in edtech. My mission is to get parents to partner with their child's teacher.