Most dads I know have joked about cleaning their guns when their daughters bring home their first boyfriends. It’s a trope in country songs. But here’s the thing—no one I’ve ever spoken to literally does this. It’s a hyperbolic way of talking about our desire to protect our daughters.
But I’ve noticed something in myself, as the father of three girls, and in other dads of daughters. When teaching our daughters about guys, we don’t have a high view of young men. In fact, there are several lessons we’re teaching our daughters about guys that are subtle but destructive. Here are 3 of them (as well as some ideas for alternatives).
1. Guys only want one thing.To say sex is all guys want is to misunderstand them.
Each phrase on this list is rooted in a small bit of truth. Most stereotypes are. They’re caricatures that exaggerate ideas to the point of falsehood. Are teen boys often fixated on sex? Yup. Some of this is biological. They’re developing and the sex drive is powerful. They’re also under social pressure to look sexually dominant. But to say sex is all guys want is to misunderstand them.
Most young men want a lot more than sex—they want intimacy, friendship, acceptance, the sense that someone actually finds them desirable. They often misperceive sex as a shortcut to these things, but there’s a lot more going on than just the act itself. As an alternative, tell your daughter that there’s a lot of pressure on boys and girls to have sex. Say, “Let’s talk about how you can set good boundaries so you don’t feel pressured.”
2. Guys are dangerous.
I don’t want to be naïve. The vast majority of sexual assaults against women are by men (90 percent, according to a CDC survey). And since social media gives everybody a platform, many women (and men, for that matter) are finding their voices and calling out the abuse that’s been happening in plain sight for a long, long time. And that is all good. We need more accountability for men in power, not less. But that doesn’t mean guys are inherently violent or dangerous. To paint them as such is to misunderstand the cultural forces that go into shaping young men.
Our first step in this is with our sons, not our daughters. We need to ingrain in our sons a respect for women and the understanding that they do not have any right to a woman’s (or any person’s) body, full stop. For our daughters, while there are no simple solutions, we can begin to change the narrative by saying things like, “You don’t need to be afraid, but you do need to be wise. Take things slow and do all you can to establish clear boundaries around physical touch. Make it clear from the beginning that you decide when and how physical touch is appropriate. Also, please come talk to me if anyone ever makes you uncomfortable.”
3. Guys are immature.
It’s certainly true that girls mature (physically, emotionally, neurologically) faster than boys. So on the one hand, when you tell your 15-year-old daughter that boys are immature, you’re not wrong. However, I believe we end up creating an environment where our daughters settle for boys who don’t have to do better. Instead, let’s help our daughters see that while there are societal and physiological reasons some boys linger in immaturity, boys are capable of making better choices.
Rather than shrugging off guys’ behavior by saying boys are immature, why not help your daughter raise the bar? We can do that by saying things like, “Yes, some boys learn it’s appropriate to continue to act in that way long after it’s excusable. Don’t put up with that kind of behavior. Expect your friends and boyfriends to make better choices. Challenge them to be more mature—and don’t waste your time if they won’t be.”
Sound off: What other negative lessons do you think we are teaching our daughters about guys?
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your daughter and ask, “What are guys like?”