The dominant culture still doesn't trust young women with their own sexuality. And the fall out can be so big that it can last a life time. I don't just see this in the stories of the women I work with in my sex coaching practice or on my retreats. The other day, I was speaking to my best girl friend in the entire world—and there it was. She was having trouble trusting her daughters around their own relationship with their vaginas.
Now my friend is progressive, smart and liberal. She was sure that her teenage daughters were having sex and she wasn't sure how she felt about it. She worried about what the neighbors would think if she let her college age daughter bring her boyfriend home for the holidays to "sleep over." She worried about her 17 year old being sexual because she was just too young to handle it.
And this is where I stopped her. After all, she had trusted her daughters since they were born to make their own food choices. They had given up meat for years and then started to eat meat again. Eating and nutrition is a really big deal, and she trusted her daughters to know what was right for them to put in their own mouths and into their bodies.
She had trusted them to make choices about their education. Whether to be home schooled or go to mainstream educational programs. She let them choose their own colleges. Education is huge decision. Some would say that it is one of the biggest choices a person can make. It's can change the direction of our lives - and she had total trust in her daughters to make choices that were right for them when it came to education.
I watched her allow her daughters to make choices about how they would express themselves through the arts, dance and the friends that they made. I listened to her tell me about their various injuries through sports and how she believed them when they spoke about their bodies and their emotions.
Now her daughters were becoming sexually active and she couldn't trust them to listen to their own vagina? That made her uncomfortable and nervous. She worried about social morales. She had very subtlety started to shame her daughters in a very unconscious way about their relationship with their own sexuality. She was doing this by trying to control them in way that she had never done before about most everything else in their lives. The message she was sending without meaning to was that her daughters could not trust themselves with their own vaginas. A girls relationship with their own vagina is forever. Is that how we want to start off our young women? By teaching them that they can't listen to and trust their own voices, needs and desires around sexuality?
My friend is not unusual and I'm not shaming her here either. She is a loving parent who deeply believes in her daughters and she is a product of our culture where we shame girls and women all the time around their sexual desires.
The messages of our society is very consistent:
"Young women cannot be trusted with their own sexuality."
"Young women who enjoy sex are sluts."
"Young women can't handle their own relationship with their sexuality and will get pregnant or catch a disease".
"Young women need to be controlled around their sexuality".
We don't teach young women to trust their own relationship with their bodies. We don't often teach them that they are their own "erotic authority" as my colleaue sex educator Will Fredericks coins the phrase. Instead, we work to control their sexuality and take their power away such as in signing sexual abstinent agreements with their fathers. Or shaming them in subtle ways, like telling them "no kissing" on a date.
The goal should not be to shut down or control our daughters relationships with their own sexuality. We need to allow them to learn how to listen, trust and feel their own sexual instincts. If our daughters cannot learn to trust their own bodies around their sexuality, we are creating another generation of women who will spend most of their adult years trying to re-learn how to feel safe in their own skins.
We need to support our daughters not to numb out their relationship with their vaginas and learn to listen deeply to their own inner voices. If our daughters are taught that this is the one part of themselves that they do not control—we are setting them up for a life of pain and struggle.
If we can educate our daughters about their sexuality in an open and trusting way; always empowering them to listen to their own bodies before the will of anyone else—we will be preventing so much life long heartache.
What to learn more?