In Praise of Sexual Empowerment

Thursday, June 24, 2010

There are things I want for my daughter as her Mother. I want her to have good friends who love her. I want her to have healthy food and a healthy body. I want her to have a good education and work ethic. I want her to be able to navigate racism, sexism and other stupidity without these things taking a chunk our of her soul. I want her to know that her father and I will do everything in our power to keep her safe, and that we love her above all else in our lives.

There are also things I want for my daughter as a Woman. I want her to be treated fairly in the workplace and earn a living wage. I want her to find a partner who loves and cherishes her. I want the decision to have a baby to be her decision, and while I coo at my imaginary future grand babies, I am also fine if her decision is to remain child-free.

As a woman, there is another thing I want for my daughter. And this is the one that seems to really stir up the emotions of OTHER women.  Are you ready?

I want her to be sexually empowered and satisfied.

It was this post on whether or not I would purchase condoms for my teen on Blogher's Facebook Feed that set me to thinking.

My snap response was "Of course I would." Then I read the first comment:

"My daughters are of the mind that their bodies are sacred and no boy or man is worthy of their gift without the promise and commitment of marriage. We have discussed it at length many times. My girls are never left in a position where they would be compromised and left to need condoms or other birth control."

Oh. Oh my. Oh dear me. Envision me gripping my head and holding it as if in massive Pain. Where to start? With the assumption that every woman is heterosexually oriented?  With the idea that girls are to control boys with their sexuality or promise thereof? With the idea that females are above enjoying the pleasure of sexuality Outside marriage? The whole morally "holier than thou" tone?

You know I had to wade into that, right? And I did. And it got ugly. 

I forget sometimes that the things I see on TV are real. I forget that there are people in the world who would happily deprive women of particular rights because of their gender. I forget that those people may be living right next door to me. 

The heart of this debate goes much further than "Do I think my teen should be sexually active?"

Um. Hell no. The thought of it makes me throw up in my mouth a little. Do I WANT Emily to be sexually active?  Hang on for a few moments while I curl into a fetal ball and weep while sucking my thumb.  I can't think of any parent who looks at their child and thinks "Hope you go out and have some sex today!" - ESPECIALLY parents of young women. 

Terrance and I have a joke that every time he looks at his daughter, he sees every female he ever was unkind to, or had sex with and didn't call afterwards, or any of the billion other things that young, single men experience. 

As a woman, I think of  the possibility of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, and heartbreak and the other billion things that a young sexually active woman experiences.

In short, I see a younger Me. 

When I was 16, I went to the local planned parenthood and got myself placed on the Pill. I had a boyfriend, and I was in love with him. We had been dating for about 6 months, and it was clear we were moving into a different "type" of relationship. 

Now, I had "information" about birth control. My mom had not failed to tell me to not get pregnant. I knew what condoms were and what birth control pills were and where to get them. In fact, at 16, I had a two year old sister, so I was pretty clear on the consequences of sexual activity. 

However, at age 16  I was also stretching out. Knowledge my parents had not shared - like how good it felt to be with someone you are attracted to physically, or the pleasure that can be given and gotten from a variety of sexual activities - was kicking down the doors into my brain. It felt good. Really, really good. And I liked it. And I was good at it.  In the transformation of child into adult, it is part of the things we learn to keep from our parents. Unlike grades at school, or cheering for them on the sides of sports or arts events, Sexuality is a somewhat lone path of discovery.  

I was on the pill for over a year before my mother figured it out. She was Furious. Furious! I stood before my parents and told them it was none of their business if I was sexually active. I was being responsible and taking care of myself.  It may have been one of the very first times I drew a line between what they had a right to know, and what was mine. I got grounded. I got lectures about how they did not "condone" my sexual activity. It wasn't surprising, I didn't expect they would cheer and bake me a cake.

Did any of that stop me? No. Of course not. The young man I was dating and I continued to have sex. Alot. And it was really great. When he and I broke up in my sophomore year of college, I found other partners. During that time, I learned the differences in partners. That everyone does not do "it" the same way. That there are some people with whom sex is really, really great ....and others, not so much.  I learned what my body liked.

I also learned that sexually empowered women are looked upon with disdain or high praise. There doesn't seem to be a middle ground. You are either "putting it all out there" or "saving it until marriage". What a shitty choice to hand to young women.  This choice fundamentally denies the pleasure in sexuality.  It strips out the Human aspect of the female and makes her an object that represents one way or the other. 

What I want for Emily - more than access to birth control, which I will happily provide - is the knowledge that Her Body, Her Sexuality is a Gift. To be Shared or not Shared with whom she chooses. I want her to know that Her Sexuality  and how she expresses it is fundamentally HER business - be that as a lesbian, or bi-sexual, or celibate, or abstaining , or straight, hetero vanilla sex. 

I want her to know that if she Does choose to be sexually active that it is a two way street. She deserves to receive pleasure as well as give pleasure. I want her to know that she is still a morally good person who has self esteem and self respect, whether or not she chooses to engage in sexual activity.

While it would lovely if I never had to consider my daughter as more than my baby, it simply is not true.  Part of the hardest part of parenting is preparing them to Leave us.

I plan on buying Em a vibrator for her 16th birthday. The very first thing I want her to learn is how to please herself. Even Ralph Waldo Emerson praised "Self Reliance" after all. 

9 Baleful Regards:

Amanda Nellie said...

There are a couple of movie quotes that sum things up pretty well.

The Breakfast Club: If haven't you're a prude. If you have you're a slut. It's a double edged sword.

Juno: I think kids get bored and have intercourse.

It's shown that in countries where birth control and sex education is freely available, the rates of teen pregnancy, abortion and STDs are low. Information never hurt anyone. If anything, telling your teens that herpes is making a comeback might scare them out of the deed or to be safe. I think that would be my reaction "Are you being safe?"

And it really isn't my choice to make. It's her body and as long as it's not someone who is inappropriately manipulating/abusing her (in which case I'd have to commit a crime) it's her choice.

p.s. Lots of attention from their daddies helps. When they don't get daddy attention they look for it somewhere else. Creepy? Yah, but all girls go through it.

Look at me write a book!

adrienne said...

can i just say (and i hope she never knows i'm putting it out there in cyber space) that my 2 year old daughter has been in the habit of, um... well, pleasuring herself against the bar of her stroller, shopping cart, high chair, etc... since the time she was old enough to sit up. i, for one, think it's fabulous and her father and i often joke that she will never need to rely on a partner- they'll just be an added bonus ;)

love your stuff lady!

Anonymous said...

Yes! yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes! One of the greatest, most fundamental gifts I can bestow upon my daugher is the ability to love and be loved. Greatly. Completely. And yep, that means sex. I want her to know ground shaking, lights flashing, soul busting passion in her life, in all its forms, in all its spectrums. It's the good stuff. The stuff that makes life grand, bearable even. Be safe, be smart, but love....with the caveat.. remember you can give a man/woman you're heart, your thoughts, your desires and you can even give them your body, but never give them your power.

Thank you for this! I was thinking I might be the only one.


CeCe said...

I don't have kids and I don't know how I'd feel about it but I do think you have a very realistic view on the whole thing and that is good. This is not the 1800's anymore-not even the 1900's. Things have changed and that perfect little rosy ideal of saving it for marriage is so unrealistic. If it's what a young person wants I think it's great but I don't think if it goes any other way it has to be a horrible tragedy. Educating and being supportive it seems is all you can do.

Lisse said...

I saw that comment on the BlogHer post and thought:

A) "Good luck with that"

B) "Is this a serious comment?"

I can tell you that my mother tried to raise me that way, and when I finally went off to college and attained freedom, it was not pretty.

There are huge gaps in my teenage experience that have left me somewhat socially stunted to this day.

Em is lucky that the strength her mother possesses is targeted at empowerment rather than control.

julia said...

Compromised???? What a strange word choice for sexuality. I read your posts on that thread, and thought, at usual, you very eloquently stated your position. Wouldn't it be lovely if teenagers didn't have sex? It bothers me when parents have on blinders. Everyone has sex. You may wait, you may be "slutty", you may abstain, but eventually, everyone has sex.'s completely normal.

Dawn said...

julia - you touched on something there - the word "compromised".

I looked it up for a definition and this is what I found: "In the negative connotation, compromise may be referred to as capitulation, referring to a "surrender" of objectives, principles, or material, in the process of negotiating an agreement. In human relationships "compromise" is frequently said to be an agreement that no party is happy with, this is because the parties involved often feel that they either gave away too much or that they received too little."

And therein lies some fundamental difference in opinions - The woman who posted on BlogHer, I think she views sex as a type of weapon, a game chip. As in "I don't give you what you want until I get what I want" ( presumably a wedding ring)

I find that worrisome on so many levels - As a Mom, as a Woman, as a Human. It rather goes into the other article I recently read on why books on "How I reclaimed my virginity and finally got a husband" are so popular.

In some ways, I suppose, you could say it is an oppressed group co-opting the mindset of the oppressor and then turning it back on them to gain leverage. That of course, continues to deny women fundamental power and decision making.

And Yes, I would be More than happy to believe that Emily is going to wait until her mid-20's when she has found the love of her life to explore her sexuality. But even I don't take drugs that are THAT good.

I wonder, too, how many marriages would not have happened or outcomes been different if the women were sexually more aware of what they liked or how they and their partner "fit". Sex IS important. Really, really important in a long term relationship - and you need to be compatible in that space, as much as you need to be compatible in the other facets of the relationship.

Kelly said...

I get really friggin pissed when people treat a woman's virginity as some kind of gift to be bestowed upon a partner. It's never seen, in this POV, as something belonging to the woman as well. Sexuality, it's a gift to all.

I'd prefer my daughters wait. But if they don't, my preference is that they're armed with knowledge about pregnancy and STD prevention, as well as how a caring partner should treat them.

So, I like this post!

Kristine said...


My mother so indoctrinated me with the "sex before marriage is evil" stuff, and then to make sure I was good and scared she preached about teen pregnancy and std's (I think herpes was the scary std of the time, HIV wasn't yet a mainstream concern) and the horror of being thought a slut.

Between being shy, thinking my body was ugly (again, thanks mom) and the fear of being a slut, I missed out on a whole hell of a lot of experimenting. Experimenting that I will probably regret the rest of my life having missed out on. I love my husband and he is my best friend, but there is no passion.

The thought of never having passion like that in my life saddens me to no end.

I'm almost glad I don't have a daughter because I'm not sure I would know how to teach her to live a life so she doesn't have the same regrets I do.

◄Design by Pocket