The other day at work, I had a few clients not able to come it, which meant I had too much free time to think. So, I apologize if this is long. Don’t tell my supervisor this is what I was doing at work!
But really, what motivated this was sitting around at work reflecting on a conversation with my boyfriend. I hope he doesn’t break up with me for writing about this, but he shouldn’t because it has nothing to do with him (and cause I love him and I’m awesome!). Just an observation of how we, as a culture have it deeply ingrained it us to not trust anyone else and assume them to be dangerous, I believe, has been a major contribution to why our culture so readily gives up liberties for a false sense of safety.
So here’s the scene. BF and I are watching The Cleveland Show (because we’re intellectuals like that). And the episode is about Cleveland’s concern over his teenage step-daughter maintaining her virginity and his teenage son losing his as quickly as possible. I like this episode because it just lays the double standard out there so nicely. At one point Cleveland actually says “All women need a man to tell them what to do with their body. That’s just common sense.” But before this conflict even gets set up, Cleveland, in an attempt to bond with his new step-daughter, invites her to the “Daddy-Daughter Dinner Dance.”
Here is where the first part of our discussion came up. BF said the idea of father-daughter dances are creepy and doesn’t understand them. Having been a daddy’s girl for life, I was really shocked at this. Why? Maybe I’ve been missing something, and maybe there is some deep-seeded patriarchy that created this—in which case, ok, but does that have to color and define how we continue to live out this custom? I always thought they were a really cool way to encourage fathers to be involved in their daughter’s lives, especially when fathers have the overall reputation of being emotionally distant breadwinners. He said “then why a dance?” meaning dancing implies romance and sexuality. I suggested that most school dances, especially I assume these ones, involve very little dancing and are really just excuses for hanging out with friends and in this case, spending some time with family. We shrugged and continued watching.
So, blah blah episode goes on. Cleveland takes the family to church and the pastor asks children to pledge their virginity to their fathers—this actually happens in real churches as well, it’s not made up for TV. So a bunch of girls stand up and proudly say “I pledge my virginity to my father!” …K? Roberta, the step-daughter refuses, saying it’s her life, her body, she’ll do as she pleases. Jr., the son, stands up and says “I pledge my virginity to my father!” So, flash to car ride home, Cleveland is shamed because his son is now “gay” because he wants to be a virgin. Hold your Questions/Comments! J
So flash to the end, past the young adolescent boys buying a deformed prostitute and Cleveland telling his son about the need for a young man to get rid of his virginity like…fuck, idk, insert some really good metaphor. And the show ends happily with Cleveland and Jr. at the Virginity Ball dancing to that song that goes “Daddy if it’s alright/ I’m only going to kiss you on the cheek tonight” about a dad being proud of watching his daughter grow up. So now here again, BF says this song is creepy, what kind of dad kisses their daughter on the lips?
I had to stop and ask “So, this song is creepy and fathers and daughters bonding is creepy, but girls pledging their virginity to their fathers isn’t?” He corrected me and said that was “just as” creepy and they all went hand in hand. Of course he’s thinking pedophilia. I’m thinking father’s using their daughter’s virginity as a bargaining chip in society and controlling their sexuality.
Now, yes pedophiles are creepy. But I feel really sad that the idea of fathers and daughters bonding emotionally and being affectionate automatically connotes something sexual. I think it shows how really paranoid we have gotten that we can’t even trust a normal father. Are their predatory, incestuous fathers? Yes. Are they the majority and does that mean we should be distrustful of all fathers? No!!! At one point, men made a lot of progress in their attempts to be more warm and connected to their families. And I loved it! Fathers were allowed to be emotionally invested and caring. A few men transcended that 1950’s ideal of “a man provides financially, a woman provides emotionally.” A few did both! And women did both! It was awesome! But, something happened that spun that around. And I don’t know what it was. But suddenly it was creepy for men to hug their children in public, which is worse than it being “not manly.” L
The thing is, I know this is not just BF. BF doesn’t want anyone to know this, but he’s a big dumb sap when it comes to kids and pets. I’ve seen him with kids and he gets that like misty eyed “oh my god you’re so adorable, let’s play Legos and Army men!” look (no matter if it’s a boy or girl he has this same idea, so yeah, go BF!) I know that this is how a lot of men feel, and how a lot of women feel. But, if a man is outwardly affectionate toward, they are a pedophile. If a woman is outwardly affectionate, they are a caregiver. I believe men would be just as much caregivers if we didn’t have such taboos on what both men and women “should” be and do.
So, the other issue that kills me? WHY PLEDGE YOUR VIRGINITY TO YOUR FATHER? Why was that not the first and strongest creep out moment? I cringed at it! Like, physically you could have seen me cringe! Again, for me at least, it just goes back to using your daughter as a bargaining chip. Fathers feel a really creepy sense of satisfaction knowing their daughters are virgins and some odd pride when their sons aren’t. I’m going to stop saying “virginity” here, because that’s morally loaded and I’m going to say “Vagina.” So, these fathers—again this is a real practice—are now in control of their daughters’ vaginas, what goes in, what comes out. Penises and babies. The idea being that, if a girl wants to have sex, she must get her father’s permission. He owns her vagina. I’m not going into the double standard for a boy, that’s a little too obvious. If you don’t know it, come back when you’re slightly more intelligent. But really, this idea that it is no longer the property of the girl is what gets me. I understand discouraging teens from having sex and agree, even though it’s never going to stop them. But the idea here is to take it away from them. And not even to give it to the mother who, as we discussed is the more emotionally involved parent supposedly. But to give it to the breadwinner, the rule-enforcer, the “king of the castle.” So it’s just saying that sex should have nothing to do with emotions, but economics and rules. It is kept as a bargaining chip for marriage, a contract grounded in economic need. Why isn’t this same standard applied to men? Why the shame that your son wanted to be a virgin. Obviously I understand the humor, derp. But stepping away from the show, why?
That said, so I’m not accused to being a sex-loving freak who’s children that she will naturally have, because all women have children eventually, will all grow up to be whores because I work full time and encourage my daughters to be as slutty as possible as early as possible, I hope that if I ever have kids (btw, I have a borderline phobia of pregnancy) they would talk to me about sex, get contraception what have you. But I would never be offended if they didn’t or if they went to Planned Parenthood and got it without parental consent, that’s their right which I don’t believe in stepping on. But I don’t think it’s my role to control my kids genitals or tell them when to have sex or who with. Are they going to screw up? Yeah, probs. And I’ll be there for them when that happens. They will cry and be screwed up for a while, that’s life. They will also cope. Never underestimate the coping abilities of children.