A Father Talks to his
Daughters about Sex
By Theodore Richards
I am writing all three of you, even though I know that none of you are really ready to hear this right now. It’s one of those things – sex – which takes some thinking over, some writing down. We aren’t used to talking about it, you see. And fathers, especially, aren’t used to talking about it to daughters. It is as if there are no words for it in our language. Not sex per se, but the authentic dialogue about sex that doesn’t make the female body an object.
Let me explain.
You will be told a lot of things about sex, and most of it will be bullshit. Even the parts that are technically true will be bullshit.
For example, most people will tell you about the biology and safety issues around sex.
The biology part is straightforward; there are people who can explain it better than I can. The best thing I can do is to talk about it openly, so you understand that it’s nothing dirty or scary.
As for safety, people will tell you many things that are true. You do need to be careful. But if I only told you the scary parts of the world and none of its beauty, you may never want to leave the house.
And, sadly, women will tell you that your sexuality is an object for exchange just as much as men. They will say that you should only “give it up” to the boys who do certain things for you.
They will call this empowerment.
But what I really want to tell you is that your body and your sexuality are yours, a gift to yourself, not a means to an end. People will tell you that you shouldn’t “give it up” to a boy who doesn’t respect you. I am telling you that if you see sex as something you are “giving up” you shouldn’t have it. A boy – or a girl, for that matter – should respect you whether you have sex or not.
Sex is not a transaction, not an exchange. Even if the exchange is of the socially accepted variety. To treat it as such is to deny your humanity, even if you are getting a good bargain. Patriarchy has done this to women for millennia and it will try to do it to you. In our capitalist world, you will learn soon enough that everything – your bodies, your minds, your ideas – is a product, and every interaction is transactional.
As your father, I have come to realize that the best thing I can do to undermine your degradation is to tell you that you are free: free to have sex because you want to, when you are ready. I’d be expected to say this to my sons. For some reason, we are comfortable telling our girls that they can go to school like boys, that they can get jobs like boys, but that there is something dirty about their enjoying their sexuality like boys.
I can say from experience that the genuine intimacy of sex commingled with love is what we all seek. After all, that was how you got here. But, like many ideals, it can be elusive. While sex without love is not the ideal, there are many things that should probably be done with those we love:
we shouldn’t garden without love;
we shouldn’t get drunk without love;
we shouldn’t cook or eat food without love;
we shouldn’t read or write poetry without love;
we shouldn’t make revolution without love.
But we tend to get more worked up about sex. This is because we think we own women’s bodies.
As your father, I am here to tell you that I don’t own yours.
Remember this: love comes in many forms. I would submit to you that the worst sex is the kind that happens without self-love. That is, if you love yourself enough to enter into an honest sexual encounter, there is nothing I, or anyone else, ought to say about it.
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