Hug Your Daughters

As daughters age and develop, Hugo Schwyzer argues, it’s important for men to overcome their discomfort and continue to show affection.

“I was always daddy’s little girl. We did everything together. He was my hero. My father was always there with a hug for me; when I was little, he let me climb all over him like he was a jungle gym.

And then my body changed. I developed early; I had boobs by 11. And all of a sudden, my Dad stopped hugging me or touching me. He went overnight from being my best friend to being remote and critical.”

I read that in a student’s journal earlier this semester (quoted with permission). I’ve read and heard similar things countless times over the course of nearly 20 years teaching gender studies and doing youth ministry. Ask any family therapist who works with teen girls, and they’ll report the same thing I’ve heard: story after story of fathers withdrawing physical affection as soon as their daughters hit puberty.

Most fathers won’t explain what’s changed. Many of my students report their fathers simply said, “It’s not appropriate anymore” when they were asked why they’d stopped giving or accepting hugs. More commonly, the daughter doesn’t ask why her dad isn’t embracing her any longer, as she’s too embarrassed or confused. Often, she’s scared about what the real reason might be.


Dads offer their own reasons. Scott, who has two daughters aged 15 and 12, tells me he has this overwhelming fear he might get an erection if he held one of his girls for too long. “I have no sexual desire for my daughters,” he says, “but I’m so scared it might be inadvertent, just a physical response. And if one of my girls noticed, wouldn’t that be more damaging than just not hugging in the first place?”

Other fathers worry less about what their own reaction might be and more what others might think. “Maybe it’s paranoid,” remarks Todd, the father of a 14 year-old girl, “but I feel like every man who touches a girl is seen as a predator. Even dads. So I wonder what people might think if they see me being too affectionate with my daughter.”

I don’t want to dismiss concerns like these too quickly. Many men do admit to being uncomfortable around their developing daughters, and they do figure it’s better to err on the side of caution rather than risk doing something that might have awful incestuous overtones. Erections, which are not always evidence of desire, often come as a unwelcome parasympathetic nervous system response—but imagine trying to explain that to a 15 year-old girl, or just as bad, not explaining it! And Todd is right—we do live in a culture that is deeply suspicious of adult men’s interest in teenagers, even if those adults happen to the fathers of the young people in question.

But here’s the thing about being a dad. Doing what makes you excruciatingly uncomfortable is part of what you signed on for when you became a parent. You get up in the middle of the night to change diapers and give bottles, even though your body can barely stand the sleep deprivation. You pull a trembling toddler off your leg on the first day of preschool, leaving her to the care of her teachers, and you sit and cry with guilt in the car. (Most dads I know cry harder and longer than their kids on these occasions.) And when that little girl starts to develop a woman’s body (too soon, you protest silently, it’s too soon!) you need to keep right on hugging her.

One widely-believed myth about father-daughter affection is that if a dad stops hugging his daughter, he’ll drive her to seek affection from other males. I’ve heard of pastors who urge fathers to embrace their girls as a “prophylaxis against promiscuity,” and even some therapists take it for granted that there’s a demonstrable connection between paternal touch and a daughter’s sexual decision-making. But as Kerry Cohen points out in Dirty Little Secrets, her forthcoming study of teen girls and promiscuity, no study has ever shown a link. (The actual research on adolescent sexuality shows that parents have much less influence on decision-making than we like to imagine.)


The reason we should hug our daughters has nothing to do with preserving their virginity. It has to do with reminding them that no matter how overwhelming the changes of adolescence may seem, a father’s love is a constant in the midst of what seems like daily upheaval. Just as importantly, it’s an affirmation that their bodies aren’t as big a problem as our daughters fear that they are. As boys (and, sadly, older men) begin to leer and other girls begin to judge, girls desperately need reassurance that their bodies are not dangerous distractions. A dad who doesn’t freak out that his daughter has boobs can provide that reassurance as few others can.

Dads, like all adults, need to be careful not to foist unwanted affection on young people. Forcing your daughter to hug you when she clearly doesn’t want to is violating; it’s no better (and possibly worse) than shying away from her embraces. On the other hand, it’s not a great idea to put your daughter in the position where she feels she has to ask for normal affection. There’s a delicate dance here, as there always is with teenagers. A little awkwardness is normal.


As every father knows (or will find out), good parenting involves being both consistent and adaptable. No matter how tempting it is, we can’t treat our teens as we did when they were toddlers. Slowly and steadily, we need to give our kids more autonomy, more freedom, more permission to separate from us. At the same time, we need to love them just as intensely as we did when they were little creatures who sat on our laps and clung to our necks. That means both acknowledging the reality of the onset of puberty without being dismayed or discomfited—or at least without making our discomfort clear to our daughters!

Fathers (and father figures) have a vital role to play in the lives of young women. In a world where so many men seem predatory and unreliable, in a culture where so many older men sexualize teen girls, a loving father figure can provide an indispensable reminder that men are not inherently weak. Girls need dads with the maturity to soothe their own anxieties about their daughters’ burgeoning sexuality. And they need dads who will remind them—in words and actions and hugs—that their bodies are never a problem.

Photo Ms. Phoenix/Flickr

About Hugo Schwyzer

Hugo Schwyzer has taught history and gender studies at Pasadena City College since 1993, where he developed the college's first courses on Men and Masculinity and Beauty and Body Image. He serves as co-director of the Perfectly Unperfected Project, a campaign to transform young people's attitudes around body image and fashion. Hugo lives with his wife, daughter, and six chinchillas in Los Angeles. Hugo blogs at his website


  1. I’m confused.. My boyfriend told me he needs to be honest with me and told me when my 15 year old daughter hugged him he got an erection. He told me he loves her, does find her physically attractive, but it isn’t a sexual thing. He often gets erections just when he feels good or really happy , which I’ve seen before and has never been father figure to her but I still am confused. Is it normal for a guy to get an erection when feeling good or happy about something? He also told me its not a sexual thing for her. I just don’t know how I’m meant to feel and need answers.

    • Men get their egos twisted and their feelings hurt when a female tells them something about themselves. Wow!
      Anyway, my cousin who is a 47 year old male said this in a conversation with other cousins around. He said that many fathers touch or eben molest thie daughters and it goes unnoticed for years. His niece was molested that way and no persn had a clue. Her real dad was the culprit. It happens So mwn, if you want to break the cycle, stop getting your little feelings hurt when a female says she does not want to be hugged by dad

    • A mans body will throw out an erection for absolutely no reason just because it can! Obviously hormone level has something to do with it as well… A woman’s body can have similar responses too, as you know. I can be sitting with a woman next to me, her leg or arm touching me and get an erection. It doesn’t matter if I find her attractive or not.
      Your boyfriend getting an erection because your daughter hugged him isn’t a big deal, it may be confusing for you but I think he is telling you this in an effort to avoid any concern had you seen it on your own and come to the wrong conclusion. Honestly most guys wouldn’t have said anything, finding it more uncomfortable to broach the subject .
      A woman under the age of 18 that has a nice body *will* be found attractive/appealing to a guy regardless of his age or relationship to her… And something will pop into his head, consciously or unconsciously. There’s no point in asking him about it because wether he tells you the truth or lies about it, it still happens and most men don’t/won’t want to admit it due to how its typically viewed in this country, even if you actually have no interest at all in whoever you happened to look at.

      Besides the reasons above that were mentioned as to why some fathers quit being affectionate to their daughters I think this is an important addition; when a daughter’s body starts to mature fathers will, on some level, find her physically attractive, and I think this is the reasoning behind it. The father isn’t actually interested in her but he feels his body is betraying him and is partially confused/repulsed at this and concerned for what his daughter might think if she noticed it. I think most parents probably aren’t capable or willing enough to be open with their kids in discussing something of this nature so they would rather avoid it, even at the cost of their relationship with them worsening.
      My family are all huggers/kissers and its made for a tight knit family, about half of them willing to openly discuss sexually related issues. …my wife’s family on the other hand, not even close! Heh, its taken her a while to get used to my family hugging her! Her family fell pretty far from the hugging tree, hehe… And honestly I think her family not being more open and loving with each other that way has caused problems and issues that I get the joy of trying to fix, heh.

  2. Holy vitriol on this comment page.

    On a more emotional note, this article has me in tears. I miss my parents, and wish I could hug them, especially my dad. He still kisses me on the cheek when we say “goodbye”. It is something special to be touched by other humans.

  3. Robert Ferreiro says:

    WoW……all these feelings….some so sad…but there are woman that feel that men do not always think about the woman/girls feelings….There some great Dad’s out there I am sure..I have come across a few…but have also come across a few different one’s….AS woman are not the same..SO too are men…I am a person who never had a daughter but had young people that showed me so much love with small hugs that it still with me 6 years on…I miss the warm feelings…YOU Dad’s are so lucky and enjoy the investment and it will give you the returns…and Ladies..young…old or in between be upfront with the MEN in your we that are seen as uncles’s friends will love you even without the hugs….You are so special…Thank you for the time you give me…

  4. Laramie White says:

    My daughter is 23 years old and just graduated from the University of Wisconsin in Madison this past May. I still hug her, just as I did when she was little. Yes, sometime we feel awkward at time s but we come from a hugging family (my wife’s side of the family). Just this morning I walked pass her and grabbed her by the arm and she stated you are touching me..I told her I will always touch you and show you I love ya.

    My dad never showed his children affection by hugging us when we were growing up. Not until he became older in his late sixties did he tell us he loved us or would hug us. We all noticed the change in him at this time. My father in law would always give me hug whenever he would see us, even though the kids would complain about his hugs in a kidding way.

    I don’t feel anything sexual whenever I hug my female relatives or daughter. Yes, men will always have sexual thoughts during each day but feeling this way towards my own child would be just Nasty to me. When she was little we discussed with our children what touch was appropriate and which was wrong. To tell us if she / he someone touched him / her the wrong way, so we could take action against that person.

    We need to continue to tell our children we love them, just as we did when they were little. To let them know we still can discuss anything they may be going through in life with us. This leads to them having a healthy and loving relationships with others. Trust them to make the right decisions in life.

  5. Be careful

  6. No wonder Americans have so many issues if hugging is seem as wrong. Sheesh. You even almost succeeded in transferring your paranoia over here but fortunately several newspapers ran articles that made it clear there is nothing wrong with hugging a child (who isn’t uncomfortable with it), including kids who are your students or at nursery (preschool) and there was an article about a school making it clear they encourage hugging (or cuddling as many of us still call it here) their students. As for the extremely paranoid idea that men want to access their daughter’s bodies: most men are not child molesters – and if your dad was one, you’d know it long before you hit puberty. On a side note, correct about the erections – heck I still get the occasional spontaneous one, and massage parlors know that touching certain parts of the body (not even the intimate parts) can cause an erection. Nothing to be ashamed of – it’s the intent that counts.

  7. My dad has always hugged me but i found it odd that he wanted to rub baby oily in my body when i was ill at 16 i said no but he carried on anyway, he is now no longer in my life thank god

  8. Honestly, I don’t really like hugging my dad because I feel like he wants a hug all the time. For example, before work, after work, at night and maybe once in between. But I don’t want that. I think that a simple Hug goodnight would do it. I’m 16 and I love my dad, just I don’t want to be treated as a little girl. And I’m not sure the kind of affection my dad gives me is appropriate because he’ll touch my legs and he’ll wrestle with me on my bed or he’ll try to playfully pull me off my bed when I have short-shorts on and obviously my shorts are riding up. It’s very uncomfortable. And I wish I knew what to tell him.

    • yes.i know the type.And no-its not appropriate.Hes looking for something.You’re a good woman though.must have gotten it from your mom.

    • Alicia, I don’t think your dad is necessarily a creep. I believe that maybe, as you said it, he still feels you’re his little girl. It’s very important to find a way to tell him that (maybe ask for the help of a school counselor or something) in order to preserve your relationship with him or at least get the matter straight. I wish you good luck with your struggles!

  9. Wow, I’ve never known of any man to get an erection when he hugged his daughter. My daughter is grown and has a son of her own. I still hug her and always will. In fact, If I leave her house and don’t hug her she’ll phone me and ask if something is wrong. And for that matter, I also hug my grown son.

    There appears to be a lack of understanding that many dads know when it’s appropriate and not. When my daughter was maturing and she got her first bra, I couldn’t even look in her general direction without her asking what I was looking at.

    I wish people wouldn’t make it sound like men have no clue about things or worse yet, know their daughters.

    “A son is a son until he takes a wife but a daughter is a daughter all of her life.” this is a fact in my life.

  10. To Michelle Preter, for your judgemental information, I grew up with the best dad in the world. I had excellent relationships with my male friends. I love men just like any other female, but I indeed, have the right to have and express my views on daughter dad relationships. I have worked with young girls in England and the USA and had listened to girls as they speak of these things. If you would take the time to listen and respect what young girls say and no hush their voices,then maybe your accusatory attitude could run on the lines of a more compassionate woman. I have daughters and nieces also, and from what their conversationsare about, there is a need to not always be so mashy huggy with dad and other males, unless it is a “sweetie-fella.” I remember myself, not wanting to hug men when I was a girl. That doesn’t make a female feminist, man hating, or any of the terms you people seem to need to throw at a female who likes to choose who she is all huggy huggy with. If a girl wants to hug her dad, that is fine, but at the same time, you have to respect her if she does not like hugs. Stop trying to change a girl just to satisfy her dad who is oh sooooooo sad because the girl doesn’t like his hugs. My goodness what is this world coming to? Must you all, always make everthing about the man? Dad must get over himself. He can’t have the world in his hands.He is only a man and his daughter has a mind of her own and she is not his property.

    • What a peice of work you are! Can you even smell the poo your shoveling? Everyone else can! Put up a picture of yourself, take ownership of these comments so we can see it running down your face. Lol

    • I’m sorry, I can’t hear you over the sound of your hypocrisy.

  11. Michele Preter says:

    aye, what has the world come to? and jean you have some deep seated misandry, maybe your father wasnt the best or the last few boyfriends you have had were disrespectful assholes. either way, the article is about the fathers discomfort in the matter, not the woman’s. Hugs are very important, otherwise we would grow up to be stone cold bitches like yourself. and yeah, you are hung up

    • From Michele’s comment:
      “aye, what has the world come to? and jean you have some deep seated misandry”

      You Michele, are not qualified to analyze me, nor did I give you permission to. That is what is wrong with the gender situation problem, in this country. Men and women who are confused cannot not seem to accept the fact that a female, girl or woman, can love her dad without wanting to have her breasts in close contact with dad. She can be perfectly normal and feel this way. Maybe, Michele, it is you who has the deep rooted, problem. This is America and last I heard, people are free and generally have body autonomy, or were you still in the cave under the rock, when people achieved body autonomy?? A female can feel anyway she want, just as we allow men to have control over their bodies. They dare women to mess with their territory. You are a woman and are helping to set a bad precedence, when we scold and threaten, and try to make females think that something is wrong with them when they protect their own breasts.I f I was qualified to make tha anaysis, I would say to you Michele, that you are a woman hater and part of the problem women have toay!!

  12. Please, Please stop over analyzing hugging your beautiful children. We are meant to hug each other(all the time if necessary). The human touch is so important, when we are young and yes when we are older too.
    As a divorced Dad who was(and is)around his children all the time, I want to keep hugging my grown children. I am proud they return the hugs too.
    Both are pretty well adjusted and am proud of that fact. I like to hope that I was a small part of their well being. My son especially like to hug people when he is saying goodbye and won’t be seeing someone for a while.
    Please keep hugging your children-ALL the TIME.

    • Men are sexual all the time. They never stop feeling the urges. I look forward to the day when men’s arrogance and egotistical attitudes will allow them to humble themselves and admit that girls and women DO feel awkward hugging their dads, uncles,and other men who are not mates. Get over yourselves. The bad, attitudes you all build up in your hearts is what is destroying this world and the females in it. All of you men who disregard a female’s opinion about her OWN body are pathetic. This is what angers females. We do have the right to have privacy for out bodies and don’t always want you near us. And some of you try to just make us want to hug you. Well, get over yourselves. You don’t own your daughter’s body and she can decide if she does not want to hug you!! For real !!

      • To Critical says:

        Jean with respect. In an earlier post you stated, “…you do not have the right to label a person…You don’t know me…”. Well i have to say that you don’t have the right to claim that all men are sexual all the time. I would agree with you that their are men that have sexual feelings towards their daughters. I would agree with you that these men are wrong into pressuring their daughters into inappropriate affection. However I think most of the people, women included, in this post are simply trying to tell fathers to not shy away from consoling their daughters needs just because they are maturing. I would agree that while giving autonomy also comes distancing your affection nothing in this world warrants a person togive up on showing their love. I give my mom a big hug when I know I wont see here for a while… is that supposed to be sexual? When I say good bye to by girl-friends they often approach me with a hug. I don’t take this as an assumption of their sexuality toward me I instead understand it for what it is… A simple gesture of their respect for me as a friend. Whether you believe this or not women, on average (qualifier learn to use them), are more physical than men. Not necessarily in a sexual preference but more in their understanding of relationships (hence why women or considered nurturers). And in a world where fathers are supposed to protect their daughters from those evil predators you speak of, I think that a simple hug is more than warranted.

        • To Critical says:

          Let me also qualify my definition of a hug with respects to a growing women. A short embrace that is initiated by the women and respects her self established boundaries.

        • Christopher says:

          That’s the most sense made in this entire debate.

  13. This actually made me cry, because I realized that this is exactly what happened between my father and I. My father and I were like two peas in a pod, and then suddenly he became terribly awkward around me and hypercritical. I commend all the fathers who rise above these nonsensical feelings of awkwardness. It is so much worse to have lost that special connection with your little girl.

    • your father is a good man.dont be so critical.maybe he exagerated a bit -but he erred on the side of caution most likely out of respect and a selfless kind of love and pride.he wants you to grow strong and become independant.find the man of your dreams etc.others choose to use this early bond to exploit their daughters sexually-they groom their daughters to have sex with maybe he could be a bit more affectionate-but all the same he deserves respect.try to talk to him and work it out.

  14. I can’t say this enough, don’t force a girl to hug in a tight front hug if she is incomfortable. There are many other ways to show affection to sons and daughters. Yes, a dad who is breathing and alive can definitely feel breasts, no matter how much he denies this fact. Let us all please be appropriate.

  15. Mr. Hugo, don’t blame mothers for all the ugly things that men do. My friends and I talk about this all the time. Dad can grab his daughter’s arm or hand and walk together in affection. He doesn’t need to come in contact with her chest, at all. If a girl is uncomfortable, why would you want to tell her she is wrong ?? You men are all the same!!!!!!

    • OK, if a teenager or young woman says she is uncomfortable with hugs, then that should be respected but many women are comfortable with hugs from their fathers and would like them to show them innocent affection. Just because you are hung up with it, Jean, does not mean all women are. You do not represent every female in the world.

      • Mr. Sean, you do not have the right to label a person as “Hung up”, just because they do not want dad to hug them too closely. You don’t know me and i believe you would not welcome my labeling of you as an arrogant man who thinks men can have all access to their daughter’s bodies.

        • Jean, please back off off Sean. He already said that if she is uncomfortable “then that should be respected” no one is saying we need to force our Daughters to hug us. Do you honestly think Dad’s just want to force their daughter to hug them so they can “cop a feel”??? You must have had a bad experience or something. Don’t put all men in the same box woman!!!

        • Jean, perhaps you were labelled ‘hung up’ because of your horrible attitude in the first post you made. The article SPECIFICALLY STATES not to force hugs on people, and there are plenty of accounts of daughters (and sons) being sad that they don’t get much physical affection from one or both parents. So stop trying to force your sexist man-hating opinions on everyone. For you to associate hugging with sex makes you EXTREMELY perverted.

          • Well, it’s too bad I came too late, but PJ, for Pete’s sake pay attention and read between the lines. You are insulting a teenager who is sensitive about this issue. Stop it.

            • Actually, my apologies Jean, after reading your later posts I see that you are not a teenager. I’m sorry. What can I say? You sounded like one.

  16. CuriousCoot says:

    Overcome your fears? Would that be the fear of being pilloried in the public media as a pervert? or would that be the fear of being accused of being a pervert? Or would that be the fear of ending up with a cellmate named Bruno?

    Why don’t you start with changing the mind of the f’ing Witch hunters out there that have been preying on men for 50 years! Hell I am so damned scared of children I won’t stay ina room alone with any!

    Just remember these little news items guys: Little Rascals Day Care and the McMartin Day Care cases! Just do a little Wiki search on Day care sex abuse hysteria…. THEN go tell me to hug an adolescent again…..

    Sorry but I just cannot take the risk! It doesn’t matter even if you are innocent…. just ONE accusation is all it takes for a man’s life to be completely ruined! JUST THE F’ING ACCUSATION!!!!

    So go look elsewhere when you are looking for a solution to this problem.

  17. My sisters and I don’t like to hug men and dad either because our chests are there. We like to shoulder hug and arm and hand grab. Sometimes we just cheek touch . Don’t you all know that some girls feel awkward hugging men. Do not force them, because all my girlfriends feel the same way. It’s not about dad all the time. Stop forcing girls to hug people. It is not good.

  18. My dad once told me, “You are my daughter, and you always will be. I will love you, and do my best to show it every chance I can.” I can’t say I was always comfortable with hugs, and even now have a hard time hugging friends, siblings, extended family, but never my dad. I knew that with my dad I was always safe and loved. And his hugs are never “weak” but full bear hugs meant to show his great love. The more I remember that in the rest of my life, the easier it is to accept love from others. Parents or great caregivers really are vital for a child to learn that lesson, I think.

  19. My dad only gives me awkward “one arm” hugs and has done so since I first developed breasts at age 12. I’m now 45 and he still avoids coming into a contact with my breasts like the plague.

    Sad, because I have given hugs to a lot of guys in my life, and I don’t even think about the fact that they can feel my breasts. It’s not sexual unless that’s the idea. Otherwise, a hug is just a hug.

    • OK. I just want to thank Hugo for his informative article. I needed to hear that the awkwardness I am experiencing for the first time with my 15 year old daughter is normal. It helped to hear that our Daughters need us to get over our own anxieties and guilt (or whatever it is) on our own. We still have a responsibility to show them in words and actions that their bodies are not a problem. We really don’t want to mess them up in any way. Let’s just be the best Dad’s we can possibly be.

  20. I am 19 year old in college, and I have no problem hugging my father in public, even in front of my friends. We are a very affectionate family, and I love my dad. I encourage all fathers to hug their daughters like mine does, because even if you can’t say “I love you”, you can show it every day with a hug, for actions speak louder than words. Show your daughters that you love them, or they will get into trouble seeking that love elsewhere.

  21. Christopher David Petersen says:

    Wow, I feel you were writing that article for me. My daughter is 12 year old and I can feel my hugs painfully slowing down and our relationship drifting away. I don’t want to slow down the hugs, but for some reason, I feel uncomfortable doing it as she gets older. THAT WILL STOP IMMEDIATELY! You are right – I need to break through that uncomfortable barrier. Thanks for giving me the insight.

  22. Hugo, I’m not yet a parent, but I think this might be my favorite thing you’ve ever written. Very well said, and very wise.

    • Eagle33 says:

      Telling men who are concerned about their actions being misinterpreted as pedophelic and being branded a `Child abuser`:

      “But here’s the thing about being a dad. Doing what makes you excruciatingly uncomfortable is part of what you signed on for when you became a parent. `

      Translation: Man up and take it.

      Is FAR from wise.


  23. Yes, Hugo missed the boat once again, and in typical Titanic fashion….but…

    My father was/is not demonstrably affectionate, but there is no doubt in my mind that he loves me and wishes the absolute best for me in every kingdom imaginable. I feel his love – tremendously, tangibly, and without a second thought. I’m fully capable of appreciating his love and affection sans the dramatic bear hug. Bear hugs are nice, mind you, but not mandatory.

    And no, I don’t expect either of my parents to perform something “excruciatingly uncomfortable” to please me. Parents are people too!!

    • Eagle33 says:

      That’s a good point, Elissa

      There are other ways of showing love that don’t have to involve big hugs or kisses. I wonder what Hugo would think of those parents if they didn’t meet his criteria; “Physical affection everytime”.

      • dgz3120 says:

        Its a really good point. Smiley faced fascism.

        “Hugs are good, so if you don’t want one we are going to physically force you to have one”

  24. Eagle33 says:

    Edit: “But here’s the thing about being a dad. Doing what makes you excruciatingly uncomfortable is part of what you signed on for when you became a parent. You get up in the middle of the night to change diapers and give bottles, even though your body can barely stand the sleep deprivation. You pull a trembling toddler off your leg on the first day of preschool, leaving her to the care of her teachers, and you sit and cry with guilt in the car. (Most dads I know cry harder and longer than their kids on these occasions.) And when that little girl starts to develop a woman’s body (too soon, you protest silently, it’s too soon!) you need to keep right on hugging her.”

    Men didn’t sign up for getting falsely accused of rape or child abuse should their actions be misinterpreted by people who don’t know them (media, hysterical populace). So your condescending lecture is null!

  25. Eagle33 says:

    Once again, Hugo, you miss the mark with this article.

    It’s not because men simply withold physical affection for their daughters. The other half of the equation is that society tells men not to do so because behaviour like that is branded as pedophlic, the ones giving affection labeled having “Lustful Intentions” by people who don’t understand.

    A man’s life can be ruined by the cry of “Rapist” or being suspected of inapporpriate conduct with a girl. So it’s no surprise men are reluctant on public displays of affection towards their daughters.

    The fact that you don’t address this in your article (even a simple few paragraphs will do) and continue looking at it being the fault of men themselves just shows you’re more about seeing them as problems on two legs rather than the human beings and individuals they are.

  26. ngz3120 says:


    Also, from r/twoxcromosomes. Classic dysfunctional feminist thinking, she is projecting her own thoughts on to a male and blaming him for them, surprisingly she is just self aware enough to realize that shes doing it, but she not enough to put the realization into practice, talk about dissonance.

    “Ever since puberty hit this has been on my mind. I worry that my dad is looking at my chest (and I catch his eyes going there for a second every once in awhile) and so I shy away from him. I can’t walk around the house with no bra and a shirt on around him, I just can’t. I don’t want to put him in the position that he’ll look and make us both uncomfortable. We don’t hug anymore. Part of the problem, I think, is that I read incest erotica (usually dad/daughter) but have absolutely no interest in that in real life. None. But I’ve got in my head that dad’s sometimes are attracted to their daughters and it squicks me out to think of my dad like that. Bleh, I hate it. I always find myself slumping my shoulders forward to minimize my boobs when I’m around him.”

  27. ngz3120 says:

    The coven at r/twoscromosomes are discussing this article, there is zero empathy of mention of men being targeted for false accusations and profiled as sex criminals by the feminist movement as you would expect but there are a few surprisingly honest, self aware and illuminating comments.

    “Yeah, the shift was more dramatic with my mother. I went from being her daughter to being competition. It really sucked.”

    “My Dad started withdrawing when I hit puberty, too, but it might have turned out okay if his second wife hadn’t convinced him that the only reason I wanted to hug him was because I actually wanted to sleep with him. And then he told me that my desire for physical affection was inappropriate. That incident is the worst memory of my entire life – and I have some bad ones.
    I love my Dad. I just wanted a hug.”

    “My mother, on the other hand, was a different matter, and I think puberty was the catalyst. From about the age of 14, I didn’t have a mum, just a female housemate who occasionally cooked meals, and made rules I had to obey – no affection, no conversation, no nothing. I’ve struggled over the last few years to figure out why, as she treated my younger siblings radically differently.”

  28. Cortex Vortex says:

    I notice that this piece was part of the “Good men” project, can you imagine if there was an equivalent “Good Women” project the screams coming from the feminists. Unfortunately we live in a society where women have rights but their responsibilities are never spoken of whilst men have responsibilities but their rights are never discussed. I appreciate the comments re the fear of the accusation of child abuse and commend the author for raising the issue but all the good work is undermined with the missandrist comments such as “leering” and the stupid suggestion that old men are responsible for the sexualisation of young women. It seems that in Western culture, a male writer is not allowed to comment on Gender issues without some condemnation of males.

  29. Natasha says:

    Regardless of your affiliation (feminism or mra), the fact that fathers are overwhelmingly saying they are afraid to hug their pre/teen daughters because of what might be said about their motivations, is a disgusting commentary on the esteem in which we hold men.

  30. There are quite a few fathers who would love to be able to lavish affection on their daughters. However, when we have a society that is so invested in vilify men and creep-shame them by accusing them of being pedophiles, you find that men have to keep their distance for their own sake.

    Between the general attitude toward men in public with children, especially girls, and the fact that false sexual abuse claims is standard ammunition in divorce proceedings, what do you expect men to do?

    That’s right…we should just “man up” and deal with it because that is what we are supposed to do.

    You want dads to be more doting? Then fix this system that castigates them for being men.

  31. Michele M says:

    I agree that fathers showing physical affection is important, I also think that hearing the words “I love you” are equally powerful. My father was not an affectionate man growing up, I think partially due to the fact that he was an injured war veteran and was always in constant pain, but I remember very clearly something he said to me when I began a very painful divorce “No man will ever love you as much as I do”. Ever since that moment, I knew, rock solid, that my father’s love for me was eternal.

    I am happy to say, however, since his knee replacement surgery and a dramatic reduction in his pain, and since becoming a Grandfather (4 times) he has been more affectionate with all three of his children and has been wonderfully and equally affectionate with his grandchildren, two girls and two boys.

  32. ngz3120 says:

    I started out being more affectionate with my daughter, but in public women would shoot looks if she was “too” affectionate with me and after my divorce, I had my new partner take over her bathing and dressing just in case something came back on me.

    So Hugo, what do you prescribe for our sons, or is making sure our daughters are ok the priority here?

    • Ngz, that’s really awful that women would shoot you dirty looks if they felt you were being too affectionate with your daughter. All the more reason for fathers to be more affectionate with their daughters. So that we can see men expressing their love for their daughters and have a more healthy perception of it. I think it’s because we don’t see many examples of men outwardly showing non-sexual love and interest to females in general that some women and even men will look at a non-sexual expression of love from a father to a daughter with question. And that’s sad.

      I also don’t think Hugo’s article was trying to say that daughters were more of a priority over sons.

      • ngz3120 says:


        Fathers are not responsible for women’s bigotry and the male as sex predator stereotype that we are all born into is a political construction designed and spread as part of feminist agitprop, crimes by men are collected up while crimes by women are omitted and the crimes by men are then conflated with men in general, its a political game that fathers aren’t responsible for.

        Making things more difficult is the fact that 1 in 10 people in America are falsely accused of abuse of some sort, its generally men being accused by their present or ex female partners. A fathers affection can be turned around and used against him.

        Hugo consistently pedestalises females and casts males as their lessers, protectors and providers. He is not directly saying that daughters are the priority and fathers are a problem, he is saying it by omitting mother to son and daughter affection and father to son affection.

        • dgz3120 says:

          The real tragedy is women, like with other forms of child abuse and domestic abuse, might well be doing ,more damage to family members through sexual abuse and feminist agitprop protects these pedophiles and protects their abusers.

          “Women who are sexually abusing children causing their victims more injuries than men. It writes the Norwegian newspaper Bergens time. They quote four researchers at the Psychology Faculty at the University of Bergen, who has written an article about it in the Journal of the Norwegian Psychological Association.

          Women abuse is similar to those of male sex offenders, writes Bergen’s time, but women’s abuse often occurs in close relationships, and, therefore, more detrimental to the children.

          For victims, it is also particularly great shame associated with abuse from just women, “says Nystad Haugland, researchers at the University of Bergen. She says that research even indicates that violence carried out by women sometimes get reported as abuse by the men.

          Inge Nordhaug at the “Regional ressurssenter if vold, trauma og sjølvmord in Vest” leading the evolution of research on family violence, and violence against children as a specialty. “The research has often said that 80 percent of the assaults come from men,” he says, “but there is certainly a dark figure here.”

          He says there are several reasons to believe that the proportion of female offenders is more than 20 percent. Nordhaug says:

          “There is a double taboo on women as perpetrators. Women are mothers and often a primary person for children to bond with. ”

          He further says:

          “The media is a female teacher who becomes pregnant by a 15-year-old boy described as a” tragedy “. But if a male teacher had done something similar, it will be spoken of as “grotesque”.

          Inge Nordhaug believe that men are more often described as demons, but that other feelings and words used when women are abusive. “They become ‘victims’, while the husband is the ‘perpetrator’ – one who is guilty.

          Thanks for the tip, J, GenusNytts reporter from Norway.”

          htt p://

          • Look at the thumb down, another feminist wants to protect female pedophiles and oppress their victims.

      • “because we don’t see many examples of men outwardly showing non-sexual love and interest to females in general that some women and even men will look at a non-sexual expression of love from a father to a daughter with question.”

        What a man-hating statement. Is that what feminism has come to?

        • dgz3120 says:

          and she is unaware of the hate that’s encoded in her words.

          • Please explain to me what aspect of my comments where man-hating.

            We are so culturally inunadated with images of a man’s lust for a woman and a woman’s priorty in being an object of lust that any sign of affection and non-sexual love between a male and femle is currpted. 20 years ago no one would bat an eye if someone developed pictures of a naked baby. Now people call in the police if they see too much of a baby’s thigh in a picture. We do not see to many images or healthy examples of men displaying non-sexual love and interest in females.

            Do you disagree that most images in our social media center around showing a man’s lust for woman, but not really a man’s non-sexual love? Do you disagree that this harms both men and women and their perceptions of the narrow set of rules a male and female can have a relationship within? So when people DO see an expression of non-sexual love between a father and daughter, our over sexualized culture corrupts that. If we ignore the truth in that, then we can’t change it. And that is about the furthest thing from man-hating you are going to get.

            • This is the main man-hating statement:
              “. I think it’s because we don’t see many examples of men outwardly showing non-sexual love and interest to females in general. . .”

              Even in society at large, people don’t assume a father showing affection to his daughter is because of some sick sexual lust. Only feminists see affection between fathers and daughters as some sort of sexual thing. That’s one of the worst examples of misandry imaginable.

              which is not even close to the truth, particularly if you actually have human interaction with men who are fathers.

              • Excuse me but how does “I think it’s because we don’t see many examples of men outwardly showing non-sexual love and interest in femals ingeneral…” equate to “any sign of affection from a a father to his daughter is sickly sexual”?

                Come on. Get real. Our culture focuses largely on female sexuality and the ability for a woman or girl to be sexy. We don’t infact see many positive examples of men showing non-sexual interest in women. I am talking about on a media scale. I am not talking about daily interactions between famly members.

                Don’t use me to peddle your own hating perceptions Eric.

          • That’s what feminism can do.

  33. I think this could easily be expanded to fathers specifically and parents in general showing affection to their children — boys and girls. I can say that probably the hardest part of my childhood was not the repeated tragedies, but the fact that I was unloved. Being alone and without any emotional connection and lacking physical affirmations of love, safety, and security is massively destructive to the healthy development of a child.

    I’m seriously messed up in the head as a result of my childhood, but I think many of my biggest struggles result from the fact that I was unloved. I had a very close relationship with my father before he died when I was 10, and my mother was distant, neglectful, and abusive. The last time anyone told me they loved me was my dad a few days before he died. That was 12 years ago. I can count on my hands the number of hugs I have gotten since that time as well.

    This lack of love and affection as a child has made me develop a pathology where I need everyone to love me now. It makes standing up for myself and saying no almost impossible because I want everyone to like/love me. I try to take everyone’s side and no one’s side so that everyone will like me. Of course, this sort of back and forth personality really results in just about no one liking me.

    I have an uncontrollable need for affirmation and paternal affection, so I develop strange friendships with older men. I have gone so long without feminine/maternal love that I am completely and absolutely terrified of rejection by women, as I very clearly associate it with the neglect and abuse I suffered at the hands of my mother. At the same time, I am equally terrified of affection and love from women while simultaneously desiring it more than anything, and I will push away women that want to be close to me as well as subconsciously filtering out all signals of attraction that women display towards me. (Basically, I either don’t notice, or if I do notice, I assume that the attention is not actually because they think I’m attractive but because there is something wrong with me)

    It is at a point where I have difficulty with any physical contact and the last time I was hugged — by a girl — the emotional result was so overwhelming that I just completely broke down and barely had the strength to strangle my emotions and get it back together.

    What is the moral of this long winded and woe-is-me story? Love your children. Express your love for your children to them often and authentically. Hug them, tell them you love them, make sure that they KNOW, without any shred of doubt, that you love them unconditionally. Children can adapt quite easily, but don’t make them adapt to a life without love or affection. The results not good and the suffering they go through is unimaginable.

    • CJ, thank you for speaking up. I can attest too that cold parents lead to very, very ill children. I believe that Mother Teresa herself said there is no poverty worse than loneliness and feeling unloved.

  34. My father wasn’t a touchy feely man. I don’t ever remember him really giving me a good hug. But I do have a picture of us together when I was about 5 and he was giving me a horsey ride at my brother’s baseball game. And that’s the only time I can really remember a carefree expression of physical love from him. It’s really important for fathers to give their daughters that validatoin and love. Otherwise, she will go looking for it from any man that will give it to her. Now my Poppop and Uncle PJ, they give the best hugs out of anyone I know . They just wrap their arm s around you and give a you full on hug, nothing held back. And there is nothing more wonderful then that. Expect if it had been my own father that hugged like that.

  35. My father withdrew all affection as soon as I hit puberty. Not just physical affectimotional all emotional connection as well. All I remember about my dad from the age 11 or 12 onward is a distant, angry man who endlessly criticized my clothes, my friends, and my interests, tried to control everything I did, never ever said “I love you,” and generally made me unhappy and upset on a daily basis. (FYI, I was a straight A student and very shy, so I wasnt exactly getting into a lot of trouble.) Our relationship has never really recovered.

  36. Couldn’t agree more with the commenters and the article. I should add that the same goes for mothers and sons. When mine were small (up to about 8 years old), I would threaten to hug them in public if they were misbehaving. (I also threatened their friends….) This did wonders to bring them to order. But in private, hugs were a very important part of our lives. The good feelings go both ways, even if the kids seem unwilling. “Oh, mum, do you have to?” “Yes, because I’m the mum, and that’s what we do…”

  37. Good advice Hugo. And I think this can be extended to fathers and sons as well.

    The only (minor) point I disagree with you on is about not forcing kids to hug you. Even when I was a teen and humiliated just to be seen with my parents, they made me hug and kiss them goodbye. While it mortified me at the time, it also was a daily reminder that my parents loved me no matter what. But as a teenager, they literally had to force those hugs and kisses on me because Lord knows I wasn’t about to do that willingly in front of my friends.

    I’m almost 32 years old now and I still hug and kiss both my parents every time I see them. I’m treating my son the same way. He’s already started protesting and wiping the kisses off, but that’s OK. He’s going to know I love him every day for the rest of his life, even if it embarrasses the hell out of him.

    • I think you’re ignoring some factors that are specific to teenage girls. Young girls are already getting a constant signal from our culture that their bodies aren’t truly theirs to control and that they don’t deserve full bodily autonomy. A father forcing his daughter to hug him risks sending the same signal.

      And there are plenty of reasons that a teenage girl in particular might not want to hug her parents. The way you roll everything up into teens being “humiliated just to be seen with [their] parents” and wave even that concern off as trivial, as if teenagers can’t possibly have legitimate emotional concerns, is frankly a little offensive to me.

      • Oh please. Offensive?? Give me a break.

        All I’m saying is that I’d treat my son/daughter exactly the same in expressing my love for them. If you’re offended by that then I’m offended by you. I never said teenagers don’t have legitimate emotional concerns. But I’ve yet to see a study showing kids are screwed up by getting too many hugs from their parents.

        How you can possibly try to say that a loving father with no history of abusive behavior mandating a goodbye hug sends the message that girls aren’t in control of their own bodies is just ludicrous.


      • Triplanetary

        Thank for your input, you manboobz bigot.

  38. Great article.

    Regarding the teen promiscuity problem, I think the best way to protect your daughter from teen promiscuity and poor quality relationships (sexual or otherwise) with boys is to show interest in her world, especially things she is good at. By the teen years, most children start to show signs of having abilities and talents in certain areas (like sports, art, science, politics, design, mechanics of cars or other things, reading, afterschool jobs, charity work, etc), and also interest in certain areas? Recognizing this and helping her develop a sense of herself as a having a place in the world as a subject, rather than as a object, is tremendously helpful. Some girls grow up with mothers who model this well and recognize these abilities and interests in their daughters – but for a father to recognize this in a daughter and mentor it is a priceless gift of strength and confidence she’ll carry around wherever she goes in life.

    • Emily: Do you think teen promiscuity a problem in itself? Should (female) teens not be allowed to be as promiscuous as they want as long as it is consensual and they’re above the legal age of consent?
      Or is the sinister whore/madonna complex at play where young women should not want to be promiscous and if they are there must be some defect about them (daddy issues, confidence issues or whatnot)?

      I suspect one calls it the problem with teen promiscuity because of other factors often associated with it: lack of use of BC with a signifcantly higher risk of pregnancy and/or STDs. But neither of these needs to be a given consequence of promiscuity – they are perfectly avoidable in this age. I believe that addressing these harmful consequences directly rather that taking a stab at promiscuity (presumably because one erronously sees it as a root cause) is way better that talking about the promiscuity problem. I posit that if you’re promiscuous because you want to be and you are so in a safe way for yourself and your partners then that’s a positive life-enriching thing. If you don’t feel for being promiscuous then that obviously is the right thing for you. The important thing is to help one’s children to have this insight about themselves and what they really want. And the latter part of your comment describes well ways to do this – but I reacted to your “promiscuity problem” statement.

      I don’t believe there is this automatic and inevitable connection between defect and promiscuity.

      • I think it’s misleading to tell either boys or girls that there are not consequences to sex; even well-protected sex has consequences, for both sexes, and is especially risky at this age when the brain is not fully grown – the parts that govern judgment and emotional regulation and provide capacity for intimacy are not there until the early 20s.

        I wouldn’t want to encourage teenagers to use their sexuality to act out issues that don’t really have to do with sex, like a need for recognition of one’s developing autonomy or one’s ability to connect with others outside the family in meaningful ways. At this age especially, this is a set-up for betrayal, consequences that affect the rest of their lives, and problems with confusion and conflicts about their sexuality.

        Third Wave feminism was important in recognizing the need both sexes have for pleasure and sexuality unfettered by meaningless patriarchal controls, but that’s over now. I think we’re now in the Fourth Wave where responsible parenting by both sexes, recognition of and management of work/parenting conflict for both sexes, and the man being part of the family rather than above and apart from it, is the focus.

        • Yes, there are consequences to sex and the consequences can take different forms. I think one should rather inform about these consequences rather that to say teen sexuality/promiscuity in itself is a problem. Not knowing about, not taking care of and not avoiding bad consequences are the problem. There are also positive consequences of having sex.
          I wasn’t talking about encouraging them to have sex, but rather to not make teenage sex into a problem in itself, thus demonizing it.

          It almost sound as if you’re argumenting for a rise in the legal age of consent up to the early 20s?

          What was right in third wave feminism surely is still right? And I don’t see how the aspects of fourth wave which you describe (all aspects I absolutely agree with btw) is in any way mutually exclusive with the ones you described as aspect of the third wave?

          Teenagers often think themselves more mature and adult than they really are, but the opposite is also very true. Adult people (like parents of teenagers) often think of teenagers are less mature and adult than they really are.

          • Well – adults have been teenagers and teenagers have never been adults.

            I would say exactly the same thing to a teenage boy, by the way.

            One problem is that people who have been traumatized by poor quality dads (such as a neglectful dad) often bury this trauma and think they are healthy. Their trauma is invisible to them, because they know no other world; as with teenage brains, not adult brains, the invisibility of this is all the more likely.

            It’s much better to deal with these traumas directly and mourn not getting what you needed from your dad.

            I think we need to do a better job protecting both boys’ and girls’ childhoods and not oppressing them by encouraging them to grow up too soon. When they’re in their early 20s, when they have reached economic autonomy, if they want to be promiscuous, there’s plenty of time to do that then.

            • You baffle me. Why the economical autonomy clause for having sex/being promiscuous? Is economical autonomy really a good indicator that their brain is fully grown? Does the brain grow slower when there’s a recession? It’s starting to look more and more like you actually are arguing for a hike in the legal age of consent to the early twenties…

              I believe it’s a common problem in parent/children relationships that the parents treat their children as kids for fat too long (some even never stops doing that). It’s the parents responsibility to gauge their childrens maturity and allow them independence and responsibilities accordingly – and allowing them to push their limits and occasionally fail.

              I will let slide the omission of poor quality moms and potential trauma caused by that, but I will point out that Hugo in his article did refer and link to a source saying that no studies has found a connection between paternal touch and a daughter’s sexual decision-making. If you have sources saying otherwise I would like to hear about them.

  39. Terrific article

    I grew up in a very old school, unaffectionate home. I didn’t enjoy it.

    I am a husband and father of 3 daughters. One is 15 year old. She remarks that I am the most “lovey” dad she knows. This is a very affectionate house. I love you is said dozens of times a day. My girls are confident as a result. I think men have to understand, with daughters, making them feel scure and safe is very important. Making them feel loved and cared for is more so.


  1. […] Link: Hug Your Daughters | Hugo Schwyzer | Good Men Project | 14 June 2011 […]

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  3. […] goes beyond contacts amongst adults. Some time ago, Hugo Schwyzer wrote an excellent post called “Hug Your Daughters,” addressed to the fathers in the audience. Somehow we don’t need to be asking mothers to […]

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