The only thing worse than the discomfort of your daughter being asked on a date is your daughter distraught because she’s never gone out on a date. And yet, modern parents still express their fears that sex crazed boys will lead their daughter astray and off the pure path. Excepting the extremely religious, I doubt any of these parents intend for their daughters to arrive at the bridal bed “intact”. Seriously – how outdated is that concept? How many modern parents were virgins on our wedding nights? How many of us have only been sexually intimate with our spouse? A few – but not most. Why do we expect our children to be different? Specifically, why do we expect our daughters not to explore their sexuality?
Recently, two modern fathers I know who had children with independent, strong women believe that the very thought of their tween or teen girl becoming interested/flirtatious/sexual with boys is a reason for cold sweats, testosterone surged mania to protect their daughter from boys. As if the way a modern woman needs or wants to be protected is by Daddy stomping, sulking or otherwise trying to intimidate the potential object of her amorous, and likely temporary, interest. As if boys are uncontrolled, sex-crazed animals.
The girls in question deftly handled the situations by clearly expressing boundaries on what they would and would not say, text, send or do. They were in control of themselves and the situation. The boys in question respected those boundaries and continued interactions were friendly, daresay normal. Frankly, it was easy to be proud of everyone involved.
But the parents of the girls, particularly the fathers, were incensed.
Let’s be clear – girls have sexual desires and curiosity. And statistically, most teens become sexually active (defined as vaginal intercourse for heterosexual teens) around age 17-18 and curious by the age of puberty (let’s say age 12 on average). And rather than protecting our daughters from their natural sexual curiosity by making it a forbidden topic, we should teach the power of choice – of setting their own boundaries and of exploring their bodies. We should teach them to expect their partners to want them to experience pleasure and joy in sexual experiences – just as they want for their partner. In fact, I recently told both my sons a secret to successful sexual relationships - masturbation is for your own pleasure, sex is for your partner’s pleasure – if you focus on what makes your partner feel good (and if your partner does too) – you simply cannot go wrong. Which includes if your partner wants to stop, you stop. No questions.
Making sexual curiosity into a verbatim topic doesn’t change the likelihood of sexual curiosity (that’s 100%) or sexual activity (close to 100%). It just means our daughters cannot trust us to help them figure this next natural phase of their lives out. It means we leave them to learn from their girlfriends or worse, from boys who likely have no idea what would feel good to a girl. We make it an uncomfortable topic full of shame rather than a topic full of discovery and power. Shame is part of victimhood and the last thing we want for our daughters is to be set up as victims in their sexual lives. Peggy Orenstein’s new book, Girls & Sex, chronicles the implications of not talking about sexual pleasure and sexual curiosity with our daughters through interviews with over 70 young women. It’s a must read for any parent who actually wants to “protect” their children.
A girl who grows into a woman who is independently confident, loves her body and respects her sexual nature will be more confident articulating what she wants and doesn’t want physically. Encouraging her to believe in herself and her worth without a “protector” or a “man” will make her an equal to the partner she chooses. Encouraging her to love her body will make her expect others to treat her body like the glorious wonderland that it is. Ensuring she knows that its normal to become sexually aware and curious as a teen and young adult – and that doesn’t mean you are ready to become sexually active – helps her develop healthy sexuality. It’s wonderful for her to know she will be capable of experiencing and sharing the pleasure and connection that comes with thoughtful sexual relationships.
Sexploitation recommends that we start talking about sex with our children in FIRST GRADE so that it’s just a normal topic of conversation. Tween and teen daughters need to know that we know she’s growing up and we wish her healthy, respectful and exciting relationships. But like everything, she needs guidance as they discover all the facets and facts of life. Strength comes from confidence which comes from knowledge which comes from the people who mentor and teach her. So stop protecting her virtue and raise her to be a strong woman who makes informed choices, respects her self and her body and takes care of herself.