To Fathers of Daughters

This has been rattling around in my head for some time. Two fisted blogger Jared (Mysterium Tremendum and Thinklings) has a great post entitled “An Open Letter to Fathers of Sons” inspired by a gut wrenchingly honest post at Emerging Sideways called daddy’s girl – an open letter to fathers of daughters. Although the subject matter is a bit different, they inspired me to put this down on paper, so to speak.
I am a father of three girls, 5, 7 and 9 years old. They are rapidly, far too rapidly, moving toward adulthood and facing the world and all its madness. My biggest goal as a Dad is to prepare them for that eventuality. Get them ready to face anything. Equip them, not with the answers, but with the tools to be able to find the answers.
The purpose of this post, however, is not to address the entire range of what it means to raise a girl. No, it’s to Dad’s and to a specific role that Dad’s need to play that I think many Dad’s don’t see as their business – how their girls dress. Now I’ve probably gotten the Moms’ (and maybe a few daughters) attentions. What does he know about fashion? Trust me, I understand that he knows nothing of fashion. I’ll respectfully ask the Mom’s to be quiet for a minute and let me finish. I’ll have some insight for you later.
I am not asking Dad to become the host of TLC’s ‘What Not To Wear’, but it’s time that Dad’s spoke up about your daughter’s wardrobe. You see, Dad, you know something that Mom can have no knowledge of – how guys think. God in his wisdom had made men and women differently. More that just differences in anatomy, there are fundamental differences in how we think, especially in regards to sex. Guys are aroused in ways that are foreign to women, primarily by sight. Why do you think there are hundreds of ‘girly’ mags and web sites, but only a few devoted to images of guys? (No, I have not done any real research here, only some casual observations.) Why is hubby always trying to steal a glimpse of Mom in the shower or while dressing? Those images do something for guys that they don’t for women.
So, Dad, you know what will be going through the mind of the young men that will see your girl as she goes out dressed like that. You know that the spiritual young man will me counting the flowers on the wall paper and trying his best not to look at her (which she might interpret as a lack of interest, uncaring and insensitive) so that he can ‘take captive every thought’ and avoid the sin of lust. You also know that the unspiritual young man will look at her, all of her, (which she might interpret as interest and care) letting his mind roam free. It’s up to you to communicate that to your daughter and put your foot down on the tight t-shirts, bare midriffs, hip huggers, too short shorts and the like. To her it makes her cute and attractive, absolutely innocent things in her world. To the boys around her, she’s the immediate object of lust, fantasy and desire.
While I applaud and completely agree with Jared’s admonition to Fathers of boys to teach their boys to treat girls with respect and to ‘try to raise your sons not to go around looking for opportunities to satisfy their lustful appetites’, the fact of the matter is that many, many boys will grow up without such instruction and our girls will be surrounded with them. And the fact remains; even boys so trained have a ‘lustful appetite’. What service do we do them by sending our girls out clad to make resisting it more difficult?
I said I’d have something for the Mom’s and here it is: Listen to your man when he says that perhaps Suzie shouldn’t wear that outfit. I suspect that many women poo-poo such input thinking that they know nothing about fashion, that’s a Mom’s business. (And for the same reasons I think that Dads are too hesitant to speak up, but I’ve covered that.) Mom, you need to remember where Dad’s coming from when he does speak up and respect it. You may be tempted to say something like “Well, boys just shouldn’t be that way.” Horse hockey. Not that boys shouldn’t resist temptation, but that part of this is how we’re wired. God has made us to be aroused simply by the sight of you ladies and no finger wagging and admonition to boys is going to change that.
I was once told a story of a minister’s wife who did not heed her husband’s caution about her own dress (perhaps that caution was not strong enough). One day, a man made her a less than pure offer to get together. Shocked, she asked why he would think that the wife of the preacher would be interested in such a thing? His reply was something along the lines of “Well, the way you dress I figured you were looking for something.” She said that that radically changed her view of her wardrobe.
Dads, our role is to prepare these precious little girls to enter the world. One of the biggest things we can do to help them is to give them a little insight into who those boys around them are and what they’re thinking.

8 thoughts on “To Fathers of Daughters

  1. [salguod note: What follows is a pretty frank discussion on how to teach boys to be sexually pure. The talk get’s somewhat explicit, proceed with that in mind.]
    Tough topic, Doug. I think you hit on the key issue, which is that young girls are often unaware of just what the sight of cleavage and middrift does to a 16 year old boy. I think most young women know that it is “attractive” to boys, but I don’t think they realize how graphic and how intense the thoughts are in your average male mind in such a circumstance. They probably do interpret the resulting attention as genuine affection, which is very sad. I’ve also heard it said that if daughters don’t get true affection and attention from their fathers, they will do whatever they can to get it from their male peers, so there may be more than one responsibility that the fathers have in this situation. If all the father does is tell his daughters what not to wear, and doesn’t back it up with loving affection, he may make matters worse.
    As the father of two sons (and a former incredibly lusty teenager who received no training whatsoever in dealing with those urges) I obviously resonate more with the challenge in Jared’s post. But while I agree with his exhortations, I don’t know where to begin to deal with them. I never really learned to rein in my own desires; they have merely become more manageable as I’ve aged. My father’s single piece of sexual advice to me–when I was 16 and already sexually active–was “It’s the greatest thing you’ll ever experience. Just wear a condom.” So I haven’t the faintest idea where to begin with Noah and Zachary. I guess I should think about that sooner rather than later.

  2. Erik,
    I think the thing you can teach your boys is God’s standard. His standard on sex is pretty high, much higher than the world’s – even the mainstream Christian world’s, unfortunately. The Bible is abundantly clear on when sex is acceptable – only in marraige (The cool thing there is that after you’re married, nearly anything goes! Woo-hoo! Ahem.) Anything else is sin. Unmarried sex, homosexual sex, with another’s spouse, any of that. Not only that, but Jesus said in Matthew 5:27-30 that looking with lust is the same as doing the deed. In that same passage Jesus said that it’s better to have your eye plucked out than to be in sin. So God’s standard on lust and sex is quite high.
    Practically, what you can do is model that standard in your home. When you watch a movie, fast forward through the explicit scenes. Don’t join in the oggling and commenting on the women around you when with ‘the guys’. Deliberately avoid situations that will tempt you to lust. Teachyour boys to do those same things and why it’s important. Be open with your sons, carefully and at an appropriate level, about you own struggles with this and ask them about theirs. Much of that doesn’t really apply to infants and 3 year olds, but the example you set even now I think will be noticed.
    When I was in college, in that group I’ve spoke about, the guys spoke to each other openly and often about our struggles. When we’d fall, we’d pull someone asside and talk about it. We all strove to hold to God’s standards but we all fell quite short, at least in the lust department. But because of our unity in our commitment against it and openess, we all knew that we were not alone. That knowledge in itself was like a huge weight lifted from our shoulders.

  3. My biology training makes my thoughts on this issue a little muddled, I must admit. Certainly I am in agreement with the idea of sex being preserved for marriage only. However, our current materialist culture is so screwed up that people can’t usually marry until at least in their 20s, often until near or after 30. This means 5 to 15 years of unbridled, un-satisfiable lust. From a biological standpoint, we were designed to start making babies at 15. So in a real sense, I don’t think God ever intended us to endure such a prolonged period of unresolved desire. I imagine it will be really hard to train a teenage boy to struggle against it, particularly since I never did and I’ll have to tell them that honestly. I’m actually inclined to believe that masturbation may be the built-in safety valve that God intends us to use to fight these temptations. Thoughts?
    (You’re gonna have to R-rate this thread soon…)

  4. First, you certainly can tell him that you made no attempts to struggle against it and let him know that if you knew what you know now, you would have. You can also be honest and say that you don’t know how successful you would have been. Just because you did stuff that was wrong doesn’t mean that you can’t train you kids to not do them. So be honest – tell your son that you didn’t get any real guidance and you don’t plan on doing that to him. You want to help him succeed here.
    Another thing I came to learn in my life was that the only failure in this fight for purity is to give up fighting. If I defined failure as a moment of lust or MB, then I was doomed and crushed when it eventually happened. I think that this is more of an attitude or mindset that God wants from us.
    As far as MB being a viable option, I don’t see how it can be. How can that be not accompanied by lust? Doesn’t it go against what God wants for us in this area? I’m not saying it’ll be easy, but I can’t see how it’s viable under God’s standard. In theory it may be possible to have MB without lust, but in practice I don’t think so.
    It seems that what young men really need is a brutaly honest support system. I had that in college and it was indespensable.
    As far as the thread rating, yeah, I’ll put somehting in your first comment to warn folks. I think it’s a valuable discussion, though, so I’m going to leave it live for now. Let’s just tread lightly, please.

  5. Light treading filters on! I’ve got some other thoughts but I want to see if others pick up this thread and take it in a different direction.

  6. No takers, eh? OK: so my next thoughts.
    First, this post has made me revisit some personal issues and think more deeply about them than I have in a while. I haven’t thought about my sexual past in the context of my sons before. For that challenge, thanks.
    Second, I would have to agree with your assessment of MB not being possible without sexual fantasy. But whether that qualifies as lust by the Jesus definition is unclear to me. The standard in Matthew 5:27-30 is unbelievably difficult for me to imagine if by “lustfully” Jesus simple means “being sexually aroused by the sight of a woman.” This is an integral part of our biological makeup which is absolutely required for our survival as a species. God, or evolution, built it into us, just as he built in hunger and pain. All are instincts which are to be listened to and followed under the correct circumstances. But all are, of course, also never meant to become all consuming.
    So the question seems to be: how to train our sons, daughters, and selves to appreciate the sexual drive as a good thing and deal with it in its periods of overwhelmingness in a safe manner. Is there a form of sexual expression that is permissible, perhaps even beneficial, prior to marriage, during those most difficult years? Or is repression the only option?

  7. Erik,
    You mistakenly thought I had lots of readers and commenters, like you do. For the most part, it’s just you and me. 🙂
    One thing to be careful of here is interpreting Jesus’ intent. I think it’s easy to assume that because it’s so difficult to imagine achieving, the simple explanation of Jesus’ words must be wrong. I think that the appropriate approach is to assume the simplest explanation unless compelled not to be some other factor. For example, in Luke 14:26 Jesus says to hate our parents. The simplest explanation has rather dire consequences for our families, but once we examine the rest of Jesus’ teachings we see that it would be inconsistent with the rest of His ministry to adopt the simplest explanation. We can then do some more study to determine what he was getting at.
    In this case, what reason is there not to adopt the simple explanation that lust, as commonly defined, is the same as adultery in God’s eyes? Perhaps if we looked at the Greek words used and the cultural connotations of those words and ideas at the time we would find that they are different than our modern day understanding of lust. I did a little of research and found that the Greek word here is epithumeo which simply means “to set the heart upon, i.e. long for (rightfully or otherwise)”. It’s the same word used as ‘covet’ in the 10 commandments (Exodus 20:17) and in Luke 22:15 saying that Jesus desired (literally lusted) to eat the Passover meal with His disciples.* It would seem to me that the meaning of lust here and our understanding of it today are pretty similar. That is, it’s a longing for sex. Looking at the verses just prior, Jesus links hatred and insult to murder, so to put lust and adultery in the same category is consistent with His teaching here.
    Just because the standard is so high and seemingly unachievable, does not mean that it is not the standard. I’ve fallen into the trap before of concluding that because it seems impossible it must not apply to me. That waters God’s standards down to our level, what we can do rather that what is best. Wouldn’t you agree that the ideal, the best thing, would be to not lust at all? It cheapens our view of sex, women and does potential damage to our future (or current) sexual relationship with our spouse. If that is the ideal, then why would God call us to any other, lesser standard? God is not about lower, easier standards.
    So I think that we must set our hearts and intentions on this high standard, even knowing that we will not achieve it. Doing anything else tells God that we know better than He. I think the knowledge that we will fail actually can help us to do better. If we go into this thinking that we will never lust again, we will be crushed when we eventually do and may give up all together, returning to a lower, human standard that’s achievable. With the understanding that we will fall short, but intending to get as close as we can, we will likely achieve a level of purity that we would have thought impossible before, although still short of God’s ideal.
    *Thanks to Berean Bible Church and Covenant Fellowship Church for the information regarding the Greek behind Matthew 5.

  8. Your reasoning seems pretty sound on this, and given the Greek I guess I would have to assume that Jesus’ intent was to forbid lusting after women in the usual sense of the word. And I agree that it’s not good practice to reject a scriptural teaching simply because it seems unattainable.
    There are some instances, however, when we reject a given interpretation of scripture because it is in utter conflict with other things we know to be true. For example, I reject a fully literal interpretation of Genesis 1-2, because an overwhelming amount of evidence indicates that the earth took longer than 6 days to come into being. So there are instances where I think our understanding of the way the world works can trump a “simple” reading of the Bible.
    I can’t think of a good reason to trump Jesus’ standard for sexuality, though…

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