Well, I Guess My Daughter’s Going to Grow Up to Be a Total Slut, Then

Jill at Feministe points to a Dear Prudence letter at Slate that might be the most disturbing thing I’ve read today:

Dear Prudie,
My daughter is 5 years old and has, like most girls her age, a hamper’s worth of stuffed animals. While she has her favorites, she constantly wants more and usually connives to get someone (read: her grandparents) into procuring a new one every couple of weeks. The new one immediately becomes her favorite and she must sleep with it every night and haul it around half the day. My question is: Does this behavior indicate she’ll be overly promiscuous as an adult, or at least unable to commit to a single partner?

—Perhaps Overly Worried Father

Now, Prudie mocks POWF by joking that his daughter will totally be getting it on with both Tinky Winky and Elmo.  But Prudie’s a girl, so I’m sure he won’t listen to her.  So I thought I’d share my own advice with POWF, man-to-man, as it were.

Dear POWF:

Are you fucking kidding me?  Your daughter’s five years old.  She likes stuffed animals because she likes stuffed animals.  They’re fun.  And she likes the newest animal because it’s the newest — and everyone likes novelty.  I’m willing to bet when you got a new toy when you were a kid, you played with the newest toy most of all, at least for a while.

My daughter has approximately 6.02 x 1023 stuffed animals, most of which she’s wheedled out of me, although a good chunk have come from my parents, or my sister and her husband, and frankly a few have appeared as if by magic, leading me to suspect that the stuffed golden retriever and the stuffed pug may be mating.

My daughter came home with a stuffed pug the other day that she’d made at a Build-a-Bear party, and it was dressed in pink clothes with pink ribbons on its ears and tail.  And she declared, quite matter-of-factly, that it was a boy.  Then, when she also declared that it was the mommy of two dogs, I asked how that could be if it was a boy, and she said, “Well, she’s kind of sometimes a boy and sometimes a girl.”

Do I spend my nights worrying that my daughter has her gender roles all screwed up?  Do I panic that she will turn out gay or transgendered?  Do I write an advice column in a panic about my daughter’s belief that her dog is intersexual?

Hell, no!  First of all, she’s four — she’s got a long time to figure out how things work to her satisfaction, and it’s a stupid thing to worry about right now.  More to the point, let’s say that twenty years from now, my daughter declares that she is, in fact, transgendered.  What would my response be?  Simple: I would love and support her because she’s my child.  It would be difficult to change pronouns from “her” to “him,” but I’d do it, because damn it, my child is my child, and I want my child to be as happy as possible — and because it would be her decision, not mine, and she is responsible for her own happiness.

My daughter can grow up to be wanton or chaste, gay or straight, religious or atheist, married or single, parent or childless, and I will love her the same.  Don’t get me wrong: I will have my advice on all of those issues, and will have some rules in place when she’s a minor (for example: no getting married at age six), and I may have personal preferences for each one of those potential choices.  But once she’s an adult, her responsibility to live by my rules and preferences ends.  Her responsibility is to herself, and her own conscience.  All I can do is try to give her the tools to make choices that make her life fulfilling and fun — knowing full well that she will make choices that are wrong for her, because everyone does.

So at age five, should you be worrying whether your daughter will be a wanton hedonist when she grows up?  Only insofar as this: if you think that lifestyle would lead to her being unhappy, then tell her so, honestly.  Tell her why.  Oh, you can make it age-appropriate as you need it to be at the time.  The conversation can be more blunt at fifteen than six.  But give her the reasons that choice would concern you.

If you can’t come up with reasons, that may be a sign.

I understand worrying about your daughter, and not wanting her to get hurt.  But you can’t prevent that.  All you can do is teach her as best you can, and hope that she listens to what you’re saying.  Maybe your daughter will grow up to be “overly promiscuous,” and maybe you’re overly concerned.  But when she becomes an adult, that will be her decision to make, not yours.

Sincerely,

Jeff Fecke

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22 Comments

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22 responses to “Well, I Guess My Daughter’s Going to Grow Up to Be a Total Slut, Then

  1. You have stated this so eloquently, I plan on referencing your answer,”I would love and support her because she’s my child.”,should such a question ever be posed to me. I don’t know your years, but you are wise beyond them. Some parents can never see that they are not their children, which has led to such asinine and questionable practises as purity balls and make-up on babies at pageants. Unfortunately, a parent slready worried about his child’s incipient slutiness at age 5 is unlikely to take such practical and kindly advice to heart.

  2. Kate217

    Your daughter is a very lucky little girl. 🙂

  3. his daughter will totally be getting it on with both Tinky Winky and Elmo

    Ewwww.

  4. Annie

    Wooooo Avogadro’s number!

  5. Jeff, I had one more stuffed animal than your daughter has now.

    That CareBear made me a whore.

    Be careful.

  6. heh, I blogged about this too. I noted that if by some weird chance stuffed animal habits were actually indicators of future sexual habits, which they are not, then the little girl in question would, at worst, be a serial monogamist, which makes her not all that much different from the rest of the population….

  7. Jewel

    Damn, Jeff, I wish my parents had been more like yours.

    And due to the interruption in service, Kate217 beat me to it, so I second her remark that your daughter is a very lucky child.

  8. There are people who are uncertain that they are “good” parents. They fear that little things have big implications. I know a mother who took her son in and demanded a cranial MRI because he had a headache three days in a row. Turned out he didn’t have a brain tumor, he needed glasses. I am sure that you, yourself, have freaked out over some issue that a neutral observer would have felt was almost certainly trivial with a slim chance of being upgraded to ‘worth a notice’.

    This father, who obviously is well aware he could be over-reacting (catch the name, pal) had a concern and asked a question, hoping for an answer. This is no reason to mock the guy. Indeed, rather than assuming he was correct and acting on it, he looked for help.

  9. Excuse me, but I’m 54 years old and take pictures of my stuffed toy Siamese kitten for Friday Catblogging. Do I sound like someone who was perverted by a toy at the age of 10?

    Don’t answer that.

    Jeff, you sound like you should be giving lessons on child rearing. I’m with kate and the rest; your daughter has a great dad.

  10. This father, who obviously is well aware he could be over-reacting (catch the name, pal) had a concern and asked a question, hoping for an answer. This is no reason to mock the guy. Indeed, rather than assuming he was correct and acting on it, he looked for help.

    Which is why I didn’t mock him. I was blunt. And yes, I did ask if he was f—ing kidding, because it’s ridiculous. But I didn’t mock his concern about his kid’s future — that’s perfectly understandable. He just needs to learn what is a hard lesson to learn: you raise adults, not kids. And adults make their own decisions. Childhood is about teaching kids to make good decisions as adults. And parenthood is about not sweating the small stuff, lest you make the small stuff big.

  11. This is no reason to mock the guy.

    He isn’t being mocked for seeking advice. He’s being mocked for evidently believing that being “overly promiscuous as an adult” (whatever that means) or “unable to commit to a single partner” are things about which he needs to be deeply concerned because they are so. intrinsically. terrible.

  12. I’m just thinking about the fact that I didn’t have any stuffed animals as a little girl because of my “dust allergy”. That’s not strictly true, I remember a bear that I wore all the fur off of, and a monkey, but not much else until I was a teen who could rebel by buying them herself.

    As a young adult, I was as promiscuous as I damn well pleased, because there’s nothing wrong with women who like sex.

    It could have been because I was deprived the stuffed animals, though.

  13. NameChanged

    I can count the stuffed animals I had on one hand. I still have my two favorite. I was kinda “trampy” until I got married. Stuffed animals have nothing to do with sex, but quite a lot to do with materialistic gratification. I would be more concerned about the latter.

  14. Fritz

    You know, I’ve heard about people who have a sexual fetish for stuffed animals. They call themselves “furries”:

    http://pressedfur.coolfreepages.com/

    Perhaps this little girl’s dad has some issues of his own — if he views his daughter’s innocent playtime with stuffed animals as something even remotely sexual.

  15. DerelictDaughter11

    oh my god, on so many weird-ass freaking ridiculous levels. i just read through most of the comments on this letter on Slate, and holy shit…people are all over the place. some completely missed the “sexualizing the 5-year-old” part and jumped right to talking about the need for setting boundaries, limiting grandparents to only occassional presents, and so on. a number of commenters totally missed the fact that it was the FATHER that was the letter writer (or “LW”, as I so quickly caught on to – leave me alne, it’s Friday afternoon), instead referring to the “mom”. and then there’s a little debate about whether Prudie was too harsh on this guy. just…wow. i don’t know, i’m still kind of new here – it this a “WTP” moment? i think it may be.

  16. Kate217

    DD11, I know what you mean. I used to be a regular at Slate and frequently lampooned the Prudie columns (you can search on “Ask Eutie” if you’re interested). But from time to time, they link to Prudie on the front page and get all kinds of weirdness.

    In addition, the fat shaming of a lot of that crowd made me decide that I didn’t really want them as friends. The ones with whom I get along well I keep in contact with, I just don’t post there any more.

  17. That CareBear made me a whore.

    Where did he get the money?

  18. Where did he get the money?

    From Steve Baker, the Millionaire Monkey Puppet.

  19. Misty

    his daughter will totally be getting it on with both Tinky Winky and Elmo

    Ewwww.

    Totally. I mean, can you imagine? One partner who only says “ooowaahh” sorts of noises and the other who talks in the third person…

  20. Jeff, i wish someone like you could have talked to my mom 30 years ago. Yeesh. More proof that common sense isn’t.

  21. you’re a good man, Jeff 🙂
    Elaine:)

  22. While she has her favorites, she constantly wants more and usually connives to get someone (read: her grandparents) into procuring a new one every couple of weeks.

    The problem here is consumerism and raising the child’s expectations to suggest that she will always get what she wants. While I do find the valorisation of newness and the inability to cherish the older toys symptomatic of our western consumerist malaise, I don’t see much need to extrapolate it to her personal relationships, or rather, that may be true but it would be equally true of a boy as of a girl.

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