Ferrett Steinmetz is tired of being told that he should point guns at his daughter’s boyfriends.
There’s a piece of twaddle going around the internet called 10 Rules For Dating My Daughter, which is packed with “funny” threats like this:
“Rule Four: I’m sure you’ve been told that in today’s world, sex without utilising some kind of ‘barrier method’ can kill you. Let me elaborate: when it comes to sex, I am the barrier, and I will kill you.”
All of which boil down to the tedious, “Boys are threatening louts, sex is awful when other people do it, and my daughter is a plastic doll whose destiny I control.”
Look, I love sex. It’s fun. And because I love my daughter, I want her to have all of the same delights in life that I do, and hopefully more. I don’t want to hear about the fine details because, heck, I don’t want those visuals any more than my daughter wants mine. But in the abstract, darling, go out and play.
You’re not me. Nor are you an extension of my will. And so you need to make your own damn mistakes, to learn how to pick yourself up when you fall. I’ll help. But I think there’s value in getting lost. I think there’s a strength that only comes from fumbling your own way out of the darkness.
Because consensual sex isn’t something that men take from you; it’s something you give. It doesn’t lessen you to give someone else pleasure. It doesn’t degrade you to have some of your own. And anyone who implies otherwise is a man who probably thinks very poorly of women underneath the surface.
Yes, all these boys and girls and genderqueers may break your heart, and that in turn will break mine. I’ve held you, sobbing, after your boyfriend cheated on you, and it tore me in two. But you know what would tear me in two even more? To see you in a glass cage, experiencing nothing but cold emptiness at your fingers, as Dear Old Dad ensured that you got to experience nothing until he decided what you should like.
You’re not me. Nor are you an extension of my will. And so you need to make your own damn mistakes, to learn how to pick yourself up when you fall, to learn where the bandages are and to bind up your own cuts. I’ll help. I’ll be your consigliere when I can, the advisor, the person you come to when all seems lost. But I think there’s value in getting lost. I think there’s a strength that only comes from fumbling your own way out of the darkness.
You’re your own person, and some of the things you’re going to love will strike me as insane, ugly, or unenjoyable. This is how large and wonderful the world is! Imagine if everyone loved the same thing; we’d all be battling for the same ten people. The miracle is how easily someone’s cast-offs become someone else’s beloved treasure. And I would be a sad, sad little man if I manipulated you into becoming a cookie-cutter clone of my desires. Love the music I hate, watch the movies I loathe, become a strong woman who knows where her bliss is and knows just what to do to get it.
Now, you’re going to get bruised by life. But I won’t tell you sex is bad, or that you’re bad for wanting it, or that other people are bad for wanting it from you if you’re willing to give it. I refuse to perpetuate, even through the plausible deniability of humor, the idea that the people my daughter is attracted to are my enemy.
I’m not the guard who locks you in the tower. Ideally, I am my daughter’s safe space, a garden to return to when the world has proved a little too cruel, a place where she can recuperate and reflect upon past mistakes and know that here, there is someone who loves her wholeheartedly and will hug her until the tears dry.
That’s what I want for you, sweetie. A bold life filled with big mistakes and bigger triumphs.
Now get out there and find all the things you really love, and vice versa.
This article originally ran at Theferrett.com under a slightly different title and is republished on Medium.
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You might also like a mother’s letter to her son:
An Open Letter to My Son About Sex
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Very nice to read this, Ferrett! 🙂 Thanks for sharing…. :)))) All the best!
I must disagree. Our children are human as we are and bound to make mistakes. But God’s plan is perfect. A man and a woman being intimate is a picture of Christ and the church. The two become one flesh. When you have multiple partners and sex is just something fun to do, it is no longer a precious gift to save for the the person you will share your life with, it’s just pocket change. Spend it whenever and wherever you please. The results? Unplanned pregnancy? Don’t worry- there’s an app for that. Abortion. Disease? Well, hopefully you were… Read more »
Man, I am so happy I a not religious. I am so happy that sex has always been positive for me and not dirty and scary, leaving me “unpure” and in a “bad condition” for having it, which oddly, is only a condition ascribed to girls in religion, never boys.
Well, I’d much rather hear fathers and mothers telling their sons and daughters that they are strong, autonomous and wise enough to make their own decisions. That their bodies belong to them, and that no one else gets to decide what they do with them. That having sex (or not) doesn’t have anything to do with their value as person. That virginity is a myth, that sex is healthy, and that marriage is something to be undertaken seriously, and not because you’re desperate to get laid and terrified to have sex without it. And how to keep themselves safe, not… Read more »
Hah! Couldn’t agree with you more, Randi! 🙂
Renee – I think the entire notion of saving ones self for marriage and the entire scenario you painted about exchanging purity rings etc IS beautiful. But it is not the only choice. A person’s sexual life and choices are their own. Whether my daughters save themselves or not, I want that choice to be theirs alone to make. I’m not religious by any means, however my understanding of the Christian faith leads me to believe that God supposedly gave us all free will to make our own choices… does that not speak to the virtues of not preaching abstinence… Read more »
Your rebuttal is a wonderful example of religious drivel and ignorant dogma that prohibits freedom and perpetuates a farce.
I am a 26 year old that had a father exactly like this.
I have friends around my age who had a range of different upbringings eg. overbearing father/mother, none at all etc etc.
I feel that I have a much healthier association with males than my close friends and a wonderful confidence about myself that many other girls are not lucky enough to have.
I have become a much more balanced, happy, confident woman because of the way my father was with me and I wouldn’t have changed it for the world.
Here’s the problem, men are able to compartmentalize sex. For men it’s usually purely physical, especially teenage boys. There is no maturity behind it. BUT girls, especially teenage girls are driven by emotions. Yes, the physical desire also feels good, but she will feel a connection that is emotional. And like all teenage relationships, it will end. For the teenage girl who has had sex, that she psychologically feels was meaningful, her heart will be torn. And you’re promoting her hurt, essentially. And if she happens to get pregnant before she has accomplished anything besides teenage drama and hormones, you’ll… Read more »
I’m sorry, but what science is this based off of? Men are able to “compartmentalize” sex whereas women feel the most “emotional” side of it? What rock did you grow up under?
Get your sexism out of here.
I’m with Alan. Men get emotionally attached too. And women can be very casual about sex. Bridget, the answer is to teach our children how to be responsible. Not just in terms of birth control but also in terms of their emotions. Relationships are a skill, just like catching a ball or riding a bike. We need to teach our kids how to deal with their feelings, as well as their bodies. Your teenage years are supposed to be spent getting your heart broken. 😉 You learn a lot from that. You get strong from that. You get to know… Read more »
This guy is weirdo. Any guy who sits and thinks and writes about his daughter’s potential sex life is just off. I would never want my father thinking about whether I am having good sex or not. If I found out that my father was writing op eds about my potential sex life, I’d go into Witness Protection and demand for a parental divorce. What a pervert.
Unless you’re unfortunate enough to have religion, the only concerns regarding sex are health, safety and unwanted babies.
Too many people are TOO loose these days with sex.. I’m tired of hearing the term repressed and things of that nature. Sex is incredibly powerful. People swear that it doesn’t have any worth. Sex is just sex. I would love to see their attitude when they walk in on their spouse getting screwed by someone else. This is exactly why we have so many std’s extra marital sex and pre marital sex because people don’t honor/respect anything. We encourage these young girls to be sexually liberated and then when they grow up, she meets the man of her dreams,… Read more »
We encourage young boys to be sexually liberated as well. Even more, actually – we still love to call girls/women nasty names because of their sexuality. “Why should a man have to deal with a woman that has had 50-300 partners?” Eh. I hope you know people don’t lose body parts or their capacity of loving someone by having sex with many people, or a lot of sex with not so many people, whatever. The same goes for men. And I hope you didn’t mean to sound sexist here. If anything, you don’t have to deal with ANYONE. I just… Read more »
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I don’t have the words to tell you how beautiful and refreshing this is. I wish there were more fathers like you. Thank you for not just thinking these things, but saying them.
what a brilliant and beautiful piece of work.
Absolutely amazing. I am the father of three wonderfully diverse teen aged daughters and you have just given me much to think about. I have joked before, never in their presence, that my policy with boyfriends (or girlfriends) would be, “You break her heart, I’ll break your legs.” The humor of that in my mind was aimed more at more own powerlessness (really? I’m gonna break your legs? Not likely.) at ultimately fulfilling that self imposed mandate of protector. Like you, I am aware that life is full of heart break and pain and rightfully so, for that is how… Read more »
Beautiful post!! I love this article. You are awesome.
For those who think sex is something wonderful and should just be tried out. How do you feel when you significant other cheats on you? And what give you any reason, or what is your basis for feeling offended or hurt? After all, its just another act, right?
cheating is not just sex, it’s betrayal, which is sex in a completely different context, and it might not even be sex, it could be something as simple as kissing to some people. Sex is in abundance, love is somewhat rare and very difficult to find. There is a difference between having sex for enjoyment, and being exclusive. Be safe, wear condoms, make safe decisions, have a lot of sex, but don’t give your heart out so easily.
Poor logic. Cheating implies that the couple made the agreement that they would have sex only with each other. So if someone cheats they are betraying trust and breaking a prior agreement. It’s not just about the sex. Not to mention plenty of people do not bar their partner from sex with others. Including the author of this article. You were raised to believe a few things about sex. 1. It is bad if you are too young, no matter what you think or feel. 2. It is some magical experience that needs to be exclusive and sacred. 3. It… Read more »
So you’re effectively saying that if a 10 year old enjoys being fondled by a 50 year old man then that should be perfectly acceptable? There are some ages that sex is too young for, ie: when the people involved are not mature enough to handle the emotional repercussions of sex as well as the physical ones – pregnancy and STD’s for one. You really want to advocate that young people – who are reckless by nature regardless of having relevant knowledge – be allowed to rampantly sleep with all and sundry? Its that kind of thinking that leads to… Read more »
Woah woah woah, I don’t think he was implying that at all. But in America, an 18 year old boy can be imprisoned for having consensual sex with a 17 year old girl– under the logic that a 17 year old female is far too immature for her “yes” to have any weight compared to the rapacious deviousness of a male who is essentially her peer. Everyone matures at a different rate, and unfortunately young people are going to make mistakes regarding sex no matter what. Personally I think this father’s attitude– one of openness, support and honesty– will be… Read more »
Statutory rape is the law. The 18 year old should know that having sex with 17 year olds is illegal. If he does it anyway he can go to jail and bend over for his cell mate who will be of age, at least LOL. I have no sympathy for law breakers. If you do the crime, you deserve the time.
What is she is 18 and he is 17?
Sex is supposed to be the ultimate experience in bonding with your spouse. It’s designed by God to be that way. To give every piece of yourself to your husband or wife. Don’t let society and all it’s ridiculous views on sex make you think otherwise. The act of cheating isn’t how it’s meant to be. Don’t get it twisted with something that it was never designed to come with. I feel for you if that happened to you. It’s something that will crush most people. However sex is not a fraction of what society takes it for.
That’s a interesting way to look at sex, especially because sex between some species doesn’t involve bonding at all.
Cheating is about the sex, it’s about the betrayal of TRUST. If you make a promise and break it, that’s where the anger and pain is, not in the sex itself.
Look, you gotta test drive the car before you buy it.
Good for you Dad!!!!
Amazing. I so wish my parents would have spoke to me this way. It brings a tear to my eye imagining all of the battles we have had and all the unnecessary shame. Thanks for the writing.
I wouldn’t marry someone i haven’t had sex w. I love it and am open minded about it and in no way want to wake up one day realizing that my husband doesn’t share that w me. And there are alot of men out there, trust me, who don’t share that. I want to marry someone i already know is compatible w me. Not end up divorced or worse. .. unhappy and sexually dissatisfied for the rest of my life.
I’m gonna teach, lead and inspire my daughter well, trust her, let her make her own mistakes and successes and always be there for her whether she flies or falls. It ain’t about me, it’s all about her. If I ever threatened her or her partner with a gun, she’d take it from me and talk or knock some sense into me. You only infantilize infants. Good piece.
Thank goodness! What a fantastic article and so refreshing to hear someone with such great aspirations for their daughter’s life. No wonder so many people have commented, people seem to have very strong opinion. The news today in England is discussing whether the age of consent should be lowered from 15 to 16, can you imagine people’s response to that when they seem upset and the possibility of enjoying sex! Sex is a choice you should be able to make, an informed one preferably. You can’t do that if you’ve been taught that the opposite sex is plain horrible and… Read more »
Well I remember the age of consent used to mean the age at which people could be married; in our country – just a smidgen before the 20th century – it was age 12 for girls and 14 for boys. I found this insightful about different cultures and times: http://www.nairaland.com/450419/age-marriage-medieval-times-paedophilia (just ignore the last word it’s just referencing a title there “Age of Marriage in Mediaevil times or Paedophilia” it is telling different ages from early Roman times through Mediaevil till now) History is great! We learn that things haven’t always been as they are now. I absolutely agree with… Read more »
Wonderful article, and, after a few early squibs, some great, thought-provoking comments too (frogma and dox1842 should win prizes).
So glad “10 Rules For Dating My Daughter” has had the kicking it deserves.
What a beautiful article. I wish you were my father! Raising young women in an open environemnt that teaches them to enjoy the experience (when they are ready and armed with knowledge regarding pregnancy and STD prevention) without shame is a huge step in the right direction. As a single, 40 yr old woman with no children, and I am amazed that I still face judgement and criticism from others regarding sex. Amazing that a single, adult woman is still looked down upon for enjoying a physical relationsip with a single, adult man, while men are still praised for the… Read more »
I really love this article. A lot of people on here seem to think he’s telling her to have sex, but that’s completely untrue. He’s just telling her that he doesn’t control her or her body. He’s telling her to be herself and do what she thinks is right when it’s right for her. In fact, he admits he’s uncomfortable with the idea of her having sex, but she can do what she wants because it’s her body. So often today we see fathers high fiving their sons for having sex, but condemning and being ashamed of their daughters when… Read more »
Like it. It’s reality. Girls will get hurt, and dads can’t prevent it. Girls are not wrong or bad for having sexual desires or falling in love with the wrong dude. (Let’s see…which woman among us hasn’t fallen for the wrong guy at some point? Did we want Dad pointing a gun at him?) You can threaten, cajole, and engage in general dad-harrumphing, but it won’t prevent your daughter from finding a way around you. And face it, Dads, your daughter is equally as involved in getting around you as her young man…so be someone she can trust when it… Read more »
“Dad-harrumphing” is the most delightful word I’ve seen all week. (I agree with all your other words, too!)
I loved this man’s words. My children are young teenagers and I really don’t want them sexually active at this young an age however I have spoken to my son who is 13 about sex being a priveledge not a right. I have told him how this act should only be done in a loving and trusting way. I have reminded him how there are diseases out there and he has to be the master of his own health and destiny. But most of all I spoke of how to respect a woman who is prepared to share the act… Read more »