The “Dating Rules” Idea

What’s up with the spate of rules that fathers make about dating their daughters? I’m sure you’ve all heard some variation of the whole “oh, so you’re dating my daughter, have I mentioned that I have a shotgun?” dating rules. Maybe they’re meant to be jokes, but they also communicate something very specific about what dating and sex are about: that boys will try to “take” sex from girls, and it’s the father’s job to lock up his daughter in order to protect her. Ugh, right? In this excellent blog post, TheFerrett deconstructs the notion that fathers should be overprotective of their daughters.

He writes: I won’t tell you sex is bad, or that you’re bad for wanting it, or that other people are bad for 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.

Beyond the problem with how these dating rules make sex out to be a commodity and a bad thing, I take issue with how they put the daughter’s sexuality in the hands of the father. Why is the father the gatekeeper of his daughter’s sexual activities? Why not the mother? Hell, why are the parents in charge of the daughter’s sexuality in the first place? And who’s in charge of the son’s sexuality, if anyone? Parents should definitely educate their children about how sexuality and sexual pleasure fit into their value systems, but a paradigm of control just makes me shudder.

Then again, I don’t have kids, so maybe I haven’t been hit with the double-whammy of cultural conditioning and hormonal stuff that can influence parental behavior and lead to over-protectiveness. I know it can be easy to criticize behavior that you haven’t experienced,  but hopefully talking about the underlying paradigms being communicated in talk about sexual pleasure and dating can lead to greater understanding.

About Jeana

Jeana

Jeana Jorgensen, PhD recently completed her doctoral degree in folklore and gender studies at Indiana University. She studies fairy tales and other narratives, dance, body art, feminist theory, digital humanities, and gender identity.