If I had a dollar for all the times I’d heard mention of how the father of a newborn daughter is going to have to get a shotgun to someday ward off the boys -- I’d be a zillionaire.
It’s almost as if there’s this programmed script we can’t let go of that dictates the desire in us to keep our daughters pure, virginal, and untouched by any kind of sexual encounter.
My 16-year-old daughter, who looks like a cross between Sofia Vergara and Lana Del Rey, would beg to differ. And I would fully support her on this.
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I don’t know about you, but the last time I looked, the Victorian age was over. What on earth is it about daughters that make us assume that we should want their potential suitors dead?
I, for one, feel differently.
“Get a shotgun.” Such violence. And though we know (and hope) that much of it is meant in jest, the underlying meaning reads as: “She’s a girl, and she’ll need to be protected from the sex she may very well want to have.”
Which brings us around to the question of, “Are young women sexual?” Well, duh. Yes.
Of course young women are sexual, and guess what? They want to have sex, and by sex I mean the kind that involves a penis -- or another vagina if she’s a lesbian. What are we actually doing for them by preventing this from happening? Do we really think that we are preserving them in some way, perhaps guarding them from the big bad world of boys and men? In my opinion, all we’re really doing is showing them that we distrust their decision-making -- if they so choose to be sexually active in their teens.
I get it -- teenagers are still children, and they need guidance. But guidance is about guiding, not about owning. We don’t own our kids. We bring them into the world to live lives, and those lives aren’t our lives -- they’re their lives. Why can’t we just respect the choices and mistakes and victories they make on their own -- especially if those experiences are sexual in nature?
I lost my virginity at 14, under the most romantic and mystical circumstances imaginable. I didn’t go insane from it, nor did I become a raving nymphomaniac. I just went on and had more sex with a few other boys until I found myself in long-term monogamous relationships. How did my parents feel about it? I don’t think they had the nerve to stop me, honestly. I did notice that they both witnessed how I remained a good and happy person, however, and I believe they enjoyed watching me find myself as a human being.
My ex-husband’s life was the same. We lived life, had fun, went to school, experimented with sex, went to concerts, made mistakes, achieved brilliance, failed, succeeded, created, and experienced life -- and by the time we got married and brought our daughter into the world, we were ready to stand back and watch her grow as the individual we knew she was.
And she grew. She went from our little cherished baby all the way to the 16-year-old hottie she is today, and never once did we mention the shotgun or slut-shame her into thinking that her sexuality was wrong or worthy of being repressed. She got the lessons: wear a condom, protect yourself from STDs, don’t get pregnant, and always, ALWAYS tap into your own self-respect for your sense of boundary and limitation.
Right now, she’s been with the same boy for a year now. He’s her true childhood sweetheart, and they’re adorable to watch together. In fact, I’m not sure anyone’s ever loved me as much as this guy loves my kid -- and I’m happy for her, because this is what life is about; experience, love, connection. And she’s happy -- what more could a mother want than for her child to be happy?
While my own mother was a little jealous of me when I sprouted into the Brigitte Bardot clone that I was at 16, I don’t feel even a pang of jealousy over my daughter’s beauty or sexual appeal. I’ve lived my life -- I’m good to go.
And when that child came out of my body, I knew she was her own person; I knew she wasn’t a reflection of me, and that her destiny was not be my replica. That she grew into a sexual butterfly was not of my making -- it was of my witnessing. I just didn’t stop her from being herself.
What I did do was give her the tools she’d need to understand life as a beauty, as a sexual creature. I showed her the rights and wrongs, the ups and downs, and I remain open to her for honest and forthright communication.
And when those talks need to happen, when she wants to share with me what’s going on in her life -- she snuggles up close to me, just like the little girl she still is in some ways, and she spills her heart out, knowing that she’s safe and that I am not there to judge or condemn her. In this way, I get to keep a bead on her reality, as well as the opportunity to guide her, as a mother should.
Image via Dori Hartley of the author, at the same age as her daughter now