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My daughter is more than her virginity

Posted Sep 18 2009 12:00am

Why is it before marriage we’re either whores or virgins? Is the label of ‘bad girl’ always going to be associated with sexual activity? And how sexually pure is a ‘good girl?’

These are questions I’ve never asked myself while raising boys for the past 16 years. Why? Because my sons don’t have a stigma attached to their virginity status.

Think about it, ever tell your son he looked promiscuous because the length of his shorts was too short? Have a well-meaning teacher tell him he’s too manly and better layoff the weightlifting, wear long-sleeve shirts and make sure his biceps weren’t prominently showing? Really, we wouldn’t want his reputation ruined.

If I said something like that to my 16-year-old son, he’d think I was joking – or off my rocker.

But what if I said something similar to my daughter when she was a teen? How would she react? Already, at six months, I’ve learned raising a girl is different. She holds herself and interacts differently. When she babbles, she wants to be more than noticed – she wants a conversation. We have girl talk. Not only that, she’s softer, gentler and sweeter than my sons were.

I dream of her growing up to be intelligent, dedicated to her passions, have strong morals, be kind, honest, independent and successful in whatever she endeavors.

So why is society going to place my daughter’s worth on her virginity status or sexual experiences?

Sure you could argue this affects males too, but if you called a guy a ‘slut’ chances are he’d grin with some pride. I’ve never seen a man cry after such a remark or have his social status knocked into the mud. Ever.

So please explain to me how abstinence rings, purity balls and virginity pledges became such a big deal in the last decade? These weren’t around when I was growing up – they’re a fairly new phenomenon and aimed at young teens. Frankly, I think it’s creepy.

That being said, I’m not clueless. I found the recent rash of paparazzi on ‘crotch watch’ with young celebrities offensive and ridiculous. I get peeved when I walk into department stores and see inappropriate attire for girls hanging on racks. I hate how teenagers are exposing themselves and posing very intimate photos on MySpace or texting them to a boyfriend.

It’s disgusting how their self-worth is based on sexuality. Now, I’m not saying females can’t enjoy their attractiveness and appreciate the details of being a woman. It just needs to happen in a healthy, balanced manner.

Let me repeat that in plain terms: Girls are more than their breasts and vaginas. My daughter is more than her sex life. So. Much. More.

So why don’t I view purity pledges, dances and rings as a positive solution? Because its still placing a girl’s value on her sexuality. It’s still the focus of her self-worth and relationship to the world. That, and I’m sorry, it’s outright weird and psychologically wrong to associate a girl’s thoughts of abstinence and sex with her father.

Recently, a friend explained his understanding of a purity pledge. It was wholly unlike the documentaries, Wikipedia definitions and publications I’ve seen. I respected his viewpoint and we had a great conversation. And while I appreciated his soul-felt religious connection to the symbol, I still find it wrong.

Why? A daughter shouldn’t have to pledge her virginity to her father, or anyone else, regardless of how it’s worded. It is hers, and hers alone.

It’s not a ‘gift’ she gives a partner, but rather a gift to herself. A person’s sexuality isn’t something you can give to someone else. It’s simply something that’s shared.

Of course, I absolutely believe fathers, and mothers, are incredibly important in helping establish healthy and moral sexual behaviors. I think the biggest impact is keeping the door open for honest communication about feelings, situations, provide support, sex ed and outline acceptable and safe behaviors. Also, I think it’s very important for girls to see how their father treats their mother, grandmother, sisters and other women they know. If he treats them well, then his daughter knows what a healthy relationship looks like. If religion is important to the family, it should be used as a foundation and reference.

But a public display of a purity ring (so others know she is a ‘good girl’) and a promise from my daughter? No way. The only promise that’s going to happen in my house is from me to her.

What kind of pledge is that? To always love and support her unconditionally, teach her strong morals, provide the path to a great education, help her gain skills to be confident and independent and, mostly, to just be the best mom I can be.

Hmmm … that’s same promise I gave my sons.

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