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.