Many (most?) dads are so frightened of a their daughters' sexual desires -- labeling them evil or dangerous -- that we hardly know those desires exist. But sexual desire is a natural human quality. It’s not doled out exclusively to the male gender.
Therefore, denying desire to girls is denying an essential part of who our daughters are.
Let's start by remembering that acting sexually does not necessarily mean having sexual intercourse. Kissing is a sexual activity; so don’t jump to the conclusion that in order for a girl to embrace her sexuality, she has to sleep around.
We dads have to open our eyes to the range of safe and healthy ways our daughters can express their desire. Doing this makes it easier for them to see the range of choices, understanding that there is plenty of middle ground between convent living and “going all the way.” Within that continuum, our daughters can find the potential of their sexuality – for today and for the future.
Hard as it may be to acknowledge with our own daughters, we must recognize that desire can’t be detached from healthy sexuality. If we talk to our daughters only about abstinence, then we leave un-addressed the central issue of their desire.
I think the question boils down to: how do we as fathers help our daughters view and use their natural sexual desire in a way that is true to themselves and their values, and is a source of power and agency rather than a source of manipulation, pain or repression?
A man who asks this question is not perceiving his daughter as a tart, encouraging her to be a slut, or becoming a candidate to abuse her. Indeed, I think fathers who think about these issues and discuss them openly with each other (and, in a developmental appropriate manner, with their daughters) make great strides in empowering their daughters.
What do you think? Share your comments below.
(Adapted from my book Dads and Daughters: How to Inspire, Understand, and Support Your Daughter.)