By FERRETT STEINMETZ
There’s a piece of twaddle going around the internet called 10 Rules For Dating My Daughter, which is packed with “funny” threats like this:
“Rule Four: I’m sure you’ve been told that in today’s world, sex without utilising some kind of ‘barrier method’ can kill you. Let me elaborate: when it comes to sex, I am the barrier, and I will kill you.”
All of which boil down to the tedious, “Boys are threatening louts, sex is awful when other people do it, and my daughter is a plastic doll whose destiny I control.”
Look, I love sex. It’s fun. And because I love my daughter, I want her to have all of the same delights in life that I do, and hopefully more. I don’t want to hear about the fine details because, heck, I don’t want those visuals any more than my daughter wants mine. But in the abstract, darling, go out and play.
Because consensual sex isn’t something that men take from you; it’s something you give. It doesn’t lessen you to give someone else pleasure. It doesn’t degrade you to have some of your own. And anyone who implies otherwise is a man who probably thinks very poorly of women underneath the surface.
Yes, all these boys and girls and genderqueers may break your heart, and that in turn will break mine. I’ve held you, sobbing, after your boyfriend cheated on you, and it tore me in two. But you know what would tear me in two even more? To see you in a glass cage, experiencing nothing but cold emptiness at your fingers, as Dear Old Dad ensured that you got to experience nothing until he decided what you should like.
You’re not me. Nor are you an extension of my will. And so you need to make your own damn mistakes, to learn how to pick yourself up when you fall, to learn where the bandages are and to bind up your own cuts. I’ll help. I’ll be your consigliere when I can, the advisor, the person you come to when all seems lost. But I think there’s value in getting lost. I think there’s a strength that only comes from fumbling your own way out of the darkness.
You’re your own person, and some of the things you’re going to love will strike me as insane, ugly, or unenjoyable. This is how large and wonderful the world is! Imagine if everyone loved the same thing; we’d all be battling for the same ten people. The miracle is how easily someone’s cast-offs become someone else’s beloved treasure. And I would be a sad, sad little man if I manipulated you into becoming a cookie-cutter clone of my desires. Love the music I hate, watch the movies I loathe, become a strong woman who knows where her bliss is and knows just what to do to get it.
Now, you’re going to get bruised by life, and sometimes bruised consensually. But I won’t tell you sex is bad, or that you’re bad for wanting it, or that other people are bad from wanting it from you if you’re willing to give it. I refuse to perpetuate, even through the plausible deniability of humor, the idea that the people my daughter is attracted to are my enemy.
I’m not the guard who locks you in the tower. Ideally, I am my daughter’s safe space, a garden to return to when the world has proved a little too cruel, a place where she can recuperate and reflect upon past mistakes and know that here, there is someone who loves her wholeheartedly and will hug her until the tears dry.
That’s what I want for you, sweetie. A bold life filled with big mistakes and bigger triumphs.
Now get out there and find all the things you fucking love, and vice versa.
Ferrett Steinmetz – @ferretthimself on Twitter – is a Nebula-nominated science fiction writer and C-list blogger who blogs about puns, politics, and polyamory at http://www.theferrett.com. He lives in Cleveland with his beautiful wife Gini, a friendly ghost, and a small black dog named Shasta.