Last week I read a fabulous post from The Good Men Project. The article called Dear Daughter: I Hope You Have Awesome Sex was a father’s frank conversation about challenging some of the myths overprotective Dads (yes I default there sometimes) have around their daughters. It got me to thinking about the conversations I have had and will continue to have about sex and relationships with my daughters.
Let’s Start With Relationships
My parents are of a generation where the subject of sex was simple.
It only happens within a marriage and mainly for the purpose of pro-creation.
I am from a background where all the talk was about remaining a virgin till marriage….well let’s just say it was easier said than done. Do I want my girls to remain virgin’s till they are married? Well frankly it’s none of my damn business what they choose to do with their bodies once they have turned adults. As a Dad it is my duty to teach them about relationships. To talk to them about the emotional and physical changes that happen to them. About expectations. About boundaries. The same conversations that I have been having with teens for nigh on the past two decades and indeed the same internal conversations that one has about the role of sex as part of adult life and as part of relationships.
For me this is the starting point. Whilst for some the roles may be reversed I find it nigh on impossible and a bit disingenuous to have a conversation about sexual health, consent and even discussions about sexual orientation until we talk about relationship first and foremost.
Not All Relationships are Equal
Well they are but trying to discuss them is not always easy especially when it sits outside of the scope of the model you are used to. One of the biggest challenges as a father is to challenge the once held preconceived notions I held about what kind of relationships I want my girls to be in. I make no apologies in stating that the ideal template in my head was that they would marry a well educated, respectful black male who would love them like the way I love my wife, their mother. The thing is this though what right have I to determine that template for them? What if that is not their preference? Have I asked them? Should I ask them?
Some of this change of heart came about with people in my friendship circle who I have seen and still see go through some troublesome challenges because they bucked the trend. Interracial or Intraracial Dating. Gay or Bisexual. Models which at first disrupted my schema of the world but also taught me a hell of a lot. What if my daughters fall in love with and live with someone who is not of Black Caribbean descent? What if their orientation was not straight and they still wanted advice about love, sex and relationships from one of the few adults in their life they feel 100% opening up to? How do I marry up that agape, unconditional love, that I always tell them that I have for them unless I am totally present if they asked or did this?
I add that I still can’t fathom relationships outside of monogamy. Be they gay or straight. I still struggle to understand the concepts of polygamous, polyamorous and or open relationships. Not that this is some kind of template for their lives but it makes me wonder, how many Dads, Mums or other responsible adults take all these factors and awareness into consideration when talking to their offspring about relationships and sex.
All About Listening
One of the dearest people in my life lives thousands of miles away. We talk mainly online and yet she is one of the most insightful persons in my life. She encourages me about the art of listening. Often as parents we can beat ourselves up whether we are doing a good job or not. People like her remind us not to beat ourselves up. Our children are grateful that we are open enough to have a conversation, and it’s ok if we don’t have all the answers.
Whilst we are not defined, by ourselves at least, by our sexual identity, sex is a pleasurable thing.
My wife and I are not going to sit down and talk about the intimate details of our sex with our daughters (or anyone else for that matter)but we do realise and appreciate that there is a lot we can share with them. First and foremost it is about respecting themselves. Boundaries. Being aware of learning about themselves and their expectations of themselves and others. Whether we want to admit it or not I am sure many of us enjoy healthy and beautiful sex lives. Surely as parents we have a duty to ensure that we pass on what we have learned about what constitutes great relationships and sex.
Whilst it may make them cringe when we put it like that I agree with the Dad I referenced at the beginning of the article. I want both of my daughters to have awesome sex when they chose to make such a decision.
(By the way I know both of you are reading this and will come back and ask me questions in the not too distant future. I love you and am proud to be your Dad.)