I was over reading Sci-Fi Dad's blog today. As I have been in general, I've been a bad, bad cyberfriend to Sci-Fi Dad and his wife, who is expecting. I'm behind on the pregnancy and life updates, how their little bunny is doing (especially with her new glasses), and so forth. I finally did my Google reader scan this morning (after clearing it the other day when it had over a 1000 unread, and since then, up to 200---you people impress me with your loquaciousness) and I was impressed to see that the bunny has a redecorated room and that Sci-Fi dad has been busy on his many blogs and columns, yet still took time to answer reader questions.
Out of 14, 2 were dedicated to how he would deal with a teenage daughter/sexual creature.
It suddenly struck me that we are all very, very keen to ask men this question: how will you handle boys (read: slavering sexual beasts---nudge nudge wink wink, you know) coming on to your daughter (read: precious pure princess angel)?
Hmm, that presents a concept (stereotype) that troubles me on several levels.
It presumes that boys are sexually aggressive, implies just a wee bit at least that boys lack finer feelings and only want one thing, and from it we can infer that girls are sexually passive and require a dad to protect her innocence. It also shines a light on the gender-driven cultural dysfunction of sexuality both for women (madonna and whore) and men (hormonally driven out of control sexual creatures). And that's just at a start.
It honestly just struck me, this idea and thought.
I've asked this question too. I've joked about it, and all along, completely missed the implications of what I was saying---and the classic stereotypes I was perpetuating.
Speaking as a female who once---albeit it quite long ago---was a teen who dated boys who were also teens, I can say that at least in my experience this isn't the case.
Parents of course need to guide, arm and support their children, but I believe this goes equally for boys and girls. Even though it was over 20 years ago, I'll never forget the boy who questioned, oh-so-emotionally, why there was such a pressure for sex, and why holding hands didn't mean enough anymore.
Bottom line, talking about sex with kids is tough, but we must do it, and do it honestly, conveying to them the biology and sociology of it...with the same tone and undercurrent that displays our respect for them, and our understanding of them as individuals, and that their peers are individuals too---not nameless, faceless stereotypes out for any particular thing.
I did have to use No with more than a few boys more than a few times. It doesn't always work, I know that. And things happen where we have no control. However, setting that aside, speaking again from my experience, No can work quite well. In part, this is good sense: spending time with boys who were good people (and there are plenty) and choosing situations in which I felt safe.
That's because I learned I had choices and control, and an identity in and of myself, not related to what the opposite sex thought of me. I wasn't entirely free of desiring boys to find me desirable, or being boy crazy---not by a long shot. But I used my good sense. I also was able to usually rise above the idea that I had to be Pretty, and that my worth and value came from the superficial. I usually recognized that I had brains and personality and in the end, they'd last a lot longer (or so I hope).
That's what I hope to teach my girls.
I tend to have the lead on sexual education in our family. I'm not sure whether it's because I'm with the kids substantially more, or because we tacitly agree it's a girl thing. In truth, I think it's because my husband was raised with a lot of euphemisms, whereas my parents, although they didn't exactly have an open policy about it, did do their best to make themselves available and communicated a fair amount (more than some, less than others). Plus, my mom gave me books (you know the ones) and I'm a fairly open person and have less discomfort discussing this topic. To his credit, my husband responds to questions and queries openly and honestly, and I think he even breathes during the conversation too.
Most importantly, I encourage a healthy and loving and close relationship between my girls and their father. He is their first man they know, and I model and shape the base of how they think of men by how I treat and talk about my husband, just as he molds and shapes how they think of men by how he is in their lives. He works hard to be close and involved, a parent, not a fill-in, and in my opinion, it shows.
I hope it shows later in life, too.
So when people ask my husband---my girls' father---how he will handle Those Boys Who Come Sniffing Around, he responds with humor, which I think indicates his confidence that his girls will manage just fine.
But that's the funny thing: they always direct the question to him, and never to me, really. That's sort of ironic if you know the two of us well, and consider who we each are individually as people, rather then our gender.
I wonder why it is that we are so curious about fathers and daughters, and not so much about mothers and daughters, when it comes to the developing sexuality in our children. I wonder whether mothers of sons experience it differently.
When it comes to how my husband will handle boys in his daughters' lives, I think the young men have a much better shot with him than with me. (A) He's a much nicer person than I am in many regards, and (B) he's much more...hmm...how to explain this without totally doing the wrong thing...err...he's much less likely to give people---boys---a hard time.
He jokes about how he and I will double-date with the girls until they are 25 at least, and I joke about how boys will have to have the first date here at the house over the dinner table and that I will have to vet them before my girls can date them.
Here's the difference: he's really kidding and...I'm not. I'm serious. My girls will not date any boy I haven't met.
What will I do if I don't like one? We'll see. Maybe their dad's joke will turn into reality, after all.
Copyright 2008 Julie Pippert
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