Dads of Teenage Daughters: You’re not the Gatekeeper of her Vagina
Dads of teenage daughters, we need to talk. Not all of you, just some of you. Just those of you who are guilty of having attended a purity ball or are in the midst of planning one. You know, those creepy father-daughter dances (or HA, balls) where the girl pledges to her dad (gross) that she’s going to remain a virgin until after marriage (or until she dies) and the father pledges to be her human chastity belt. Those of you who, without an ounce of shame or dignity, proudly wear shirts that proclaim, “Guns don’t kill people, dads with pretty daughters do.” I hate to break it to you, but you’re not the gatekeeper of your daughter’s vagina.
The issue isn’t so much that you’ll be there to kick some heads in if necessary. By all means, support her emotionally and be involved in her personal life. The problem is that there isn’t a prevalence of mothers sharing “FWD: FWD: FUNNY HAHA” posts on social media about harming the suitors their teenage daughter brings home. There aren’t movies about preserving your teenage son’s virginity on prom night at all costs. There isn’t a set of “rules for dating my teenage son,” (though there should be, and “don’t threaten violence on my son” should be on there). It’s yet another iteration of the double standard where sexually active males are regaled, while females are slut-shamed back into the Stone Age. It’s the teenager version of the toddler adage of “boys will be boys.” But instead, now it’s the problematic “your teenage boy is a hormonal shithead, and my daughter is incapable of making good decisions and setting her own boundaries.”
If you think it’s just “hormones,” I’m afraid to ask what you believe runs rampant in young women’s bodies. Cotton candy? The wistful hopes and dreams of unicorns? A prebiotic soup that smells like potpourri? If you think that only teenage boys have inadvertent and persistent sexual urges, you’re probably also likely to believe that women don’t watch porn. The difference is that our society tells young women that it’s of the utmost importance to protect our “flower” (barf), and that we’re too naïve to see that men are only out to take it from us (double barf).
If you think that this is only a matter of protecting your kids and not about the social implications we impose on women, you’re not thinking hard enough. Or at all. What we’re telling young women is that sex is evil and needs to be avoided or we’ll lose our “virtue,” but we’re telling boys that it’s A-Okay as long as it’s just “outercourse.” Instead of telling teenage girls to be careful or that boys are “only after one thing,” tell young men to control their impulses. Better yet, show them how to respect the women in their lives by leading by example.
Also, before you even think it, I’m very aware that I’m not a dad with a teenage daughter, but that doesn’t mean that adolescence is a foreign concept to me and that it no longer applies. You say “I was a teenage boy once” like I wasn’t once a teenage girl. In a world of Brock Turners and “she shouldn’t have worn that, she was asking for it,” yes, this mentality still affects me as a grown woman. In a country where the men in congress get to decide my (and other women’s) reproductive rights, effectively saying that men know how to make choices for women better than women, yes, this still affects me. It affects me every waking day of my life, whether I want it to or not, so the fact that I’m not a dad with a teenage daughter is entirely moot.
Instead of threats, teach your children how to make good choices and how to respect the word “no,” and instead watch them show a lifetime of good judgment. Lead by example; strong respected women (and men, and non-binary humans) raise strong women, threatening men do not. Besides, what if your daughter wasn’t even into boys? Would you threaten her girlfriend with a shotgun?