This is a series of separate short sections. Here is one entry. More to follow.
The skills and stories passed from father to son are foundational to every society. So is the wisdom passed from mother to daughter. How to make pancakes, how to get blood out of underwear or sheets, how to catch a spider under a cup then set it free.
As each generation is born, our knowledge ebbs and flows. Some wisdom that our mothers required in their time, they need not pass on to us. Some things they never thought to say, we vow to teach our own daughters someday, if we ever have them.
I am growing into my own woman, making my own mistakes, using things my mother taught me, and discovering other things I wish she had.
So here it is: Things We Should Tell Our Daughters.
On Letting Boys Touch You
When I was a teenager and I dated a boy for the first time, I was painfully shy and I had daydreamed about him for months. I was flattered and anxious and overwhelmed when I discovered that he wanted to kiss me just like I had imagined countless times. Of course, he kissed like an overeager golden retriever, but I had never kissed a boy before. I thought that’s just how it was. After our first kiss, I remember thinking that kissing must be an acquired taste.
Now I am older and in a different relationship. I have discovered that kissing is not an acquired taste. I have discovered that I was wrong about many things.
I have never been a touchy person. If my mother hugged me, I felt tense. If she rubbed my arm, I felt irritation. I never went out of my way to have physical contact with anybody. It has never been part of how I communicate with most people.
So I dated a boy who thought he owned whatever he laid his hands on. I passed off his behavior the same way we pass off the detestable actions of so many men: boys will be boys. This is just how it is.
How long have women accepted words and tokens and touches from men because that’s just how it is? How long have we viewed our own bodies as the property of another simply because they desired us?
Well daughter of mine, I must tell you, that’s not how it should be. It never should have been.
If you are dating a boy, if you like him, if you are married to him, he has no right to your body that you do not give him. When you kiss a man or smile at him or hold his hand, you do not become his territory. You are not virgin ground to be claimed by a conqueror. You are your own sovereign country. Yours and yours alone.
If a boy forges on past the word no, run. Stand up. Tell him to leave. Tell him to get out of your fucking house. Do not accept it.
Even if you have let a boy touch you before, you are not obligated to let him touch you again. If a man tells you that you must surrender your comfort in order to earn his love, he does not love you.
When I dated that first boy, I said no and no and no and he wore me down until I sometimes said yes. His hands were stronger and more persistent than mine. As soon as I pushed them away, they were back, insisting. In the end, I discovered that I could not have the self-control of two people. And no matter what I said, I could never seem to stop his hands from slipping under my clothes, where I had told him countless times not to wander.
“Why don’t you trust me?”
This question from a man who pretended I had not spoken when words he disagreed with spilled from my mouth.
But that question multiplied, the same as his advances. And just like his hands, this question wore me down. He had done nothing to earn my trust. Yet I felt guilt well up in me when he asked this. I lied to him and I lied to myself until I believed it, “I do trust you.”
I should not have.
No, stop that, just a little farther, and my discomfort triggered not just anxiety in me, but guilt as well. When I didn’t trust his touch, it was my fault. When I didn’t want his hands on me, I was doing him a disservice. I was a bad girlfriend. Because being his girlfriend meant giving him whatever he wanted. He had touched me. I was his.
No, my precious daughter, that is not how a relationship works. You should never fear a man’s hands and he should treat you like hallowed ground.
That boy, after one touch, one grab, one push too many, finally broke me. I left his house one day sure that if I didn’t give him what he wanted, he would wear me down until I did. Never mind that I had told him I didn’t want to heave sex. Never mind that I had said no and pushed his hands back and pulled away from him nearly every time we were together. Never mind all that, he broke me.
So I left his house and I called him up and I told him that if I couldn’t make him happy, he needed to end our relationship. He told me he would never want that and then two days later I was free of him.
No, he never raped me. But looking back, some of his groping and touching qualified as sexual assault. It took me six years to realize that. There were times I said no and then other times when I didn’t because I did not think it was acceptable for me to refuse him. Both scenarios inspired guilt in me that I could not shake.
You can be sexually assaulted in a relationship. If you say no, a man has no right to touch you. You are yours and yours alone.
The physical aspect of a romantic relationship is a good thing. In the same way that a man should treat you with gentleness, honor, and respect, you need to treat men well, my daughter. Men are not all we make them out to be sometimes. They are not overflowing with lust and devoid of emotion. Just as a man can control himself when touching you, you need to control yourself when touching a man.
If he is ever uncomfortable, stop, apologize, take a step back, talk. Do not push a man past where he wants to go and do not make choices that will lead you past boundaries that you have both decided on beforehand. You must both have self-control. Neither you nor he has enough strength and good judgment for the both of you. You must work together.
Learn to say no. Say it and distance yourself from any man who will not listen. Be careful with how you treat men. Never disregard their feelings and always treat it with the utmost seriousness when they say no to you. Don’t let guilt keep you in an unhealthy place. All things can be forgiven. All things can be healed in Christ Jesus.