Pleasure not performance
A really great question was asked during a Q&A and I had to share it with you. It’s a big one:
How do we teach our girls that sex must be about them, too?
Girls everywhere are struggling with this. They are inundated with messages that they should be sexy, not for themselves, but for others; that they should be pleasing, not pleased.
If you haven’t read it yet, I absolutely recommend Peggy Orenstein’s book, Girls and Sex. It’s a window into what young women face in high school and college and how they navigate it, for better or for worse.
When I went to Peggy’s book signing, she talked about her inspiration, her own daughter. She shared that before doing the research for the book, she would have had some conversations with her daughter, made sure to warn her about STIs, sexual assault, and drinking, and considered her job done.
After writing the book, Peggy recognizes that our daughters need much more support. Rather than a list of what NOT to do, they need to know what TO DO.
Sharing with our daughters what to do in their relationships is a real paradigm shift for parents, and a tall order! Here are a few suggestions.
Talk about how women are portrayed as sex objects by the media.
Talk about the advertising that’s all around you. Talk about how pornography is almost always a male fantasy, rarely illustrating scenarios that women enjoy. Be clear why those women in the pictures and videos are doing what they’re doing: Beyonce’s getting her music video noticed; that model is getting paid.
My daughter, our society does give you the freedom to flaunt your body, but it’s a slippery slope. Those who will like you better for it are not those who will be your best allies. Neither friendships nor romantic relationships should be based on appearances. Turning yourself into a sex object is not the way to earn acceptance or love.
Help your daughter guard her boundaries.
Will you be cold in that outfit? Will you be comfortable in those shoes? If you do your hair and makeup, will you be constantly checking it?
Remind her that her comfort matters. If she’s thinking that she can take it – walking in those heels, shivering in that dress – that attitude might translate to valuing her performance rather than her own enjoyment.
I did all those things for sure! How I wish someone had helped me think it through: Is that really the way I wants to live? Which is more important, other’s pleasure when looking at me, or my own comfort?
Tell your daughter to stand in her power, especially when it comes to a sexual relationship.
If she can’t stand up for herself there, then really, she can’t stand up for herself. Let’s be that clear.
There’s this idea in our culture that a powerful woman will be submissive in the bedroom, and it’s our patriarchal heritage blaring through. If sex is going to be about her too, then let’s be feminists in the bedroom.
Explain that expecting her own sexual satisfaction is how she’ll find a healthy relationship.
Buying his sexual interest at the cost of her comfort is a terrible start. A relationship where one partner’s needs are more important than the other’s is not what she’s looking for. It’s simply not fulfilling.
Is this easy to do? Heck no!
It’s not one conversation, but a thousand little ones, and you can start having those little conversations any time. She’s not too young for you to plant some of these ideas.
If you’re feeling stuck, email me and tell me about it. I’ll be happy to help.
In support of you,
P.S. Want more ideas for what to say to your teen? Check out the Talking with Teens about Sex and Relationships webinar.