This Sunday is Father’s Day in the United States. You may be asking why I mention this holiday. What do dads have to do with marital intimacy — the subject about which I typically write? Actually, fathers can impact their daughters’ sexuality quite a lot.
Here are some ways dads teach their their daughters about intimacy:
Body image. Most little girls get their first sense of how pretty they are from their daddies. God has planted in women a desire to be beautiful and cherished by a man. And the first man she encounters is her father, who can either assure her that she’s beautiful in her own special, God-given way, thus growing her self-confidence. Or he can crush her spirit by ignoring her beauty, criticizing her looks, or ignoring/criticizing women around him, thus teaching his daughter that women are not intrinsically valuable.
These lessons stay with a woman into adulthood. Those women who didn’t feel beautiful when they were young may sabotage their looks with poor health habits; use diets, exercise programs, plastic surgery, and other methods to chase an unrealistic ideal; or seek affirmation of their sensual beauty in the arms of one or many men.
But a father who assures his daughter that she has been knit by God to be a beautiful woman inside and out bolsters her ability to appreciate her unique attractiveness and to one day offer that beauty to her husband.
Affection. All humans need touch. Daughters who are appropriately hugged and touched by their fathers fare far better than those who are rarely touched or those physically or sexually abused by their fathers.
Far too many women have pursued promiscuity not so much because they wanted to have sex with a lot of men, but they wanted to be touched and held. They ached for a man’s gentle touch and his secure embrace.
Dads who show loving affection while demonstrating appropriate boundaries teach their daughters what it means for a woman to respect her body. Then, she can choose a partner not based on any effort to fill a gap in affection, and she is more likely to seek a man who respects her body the way her father did.
She will better understand how special the gift of total physical vulnerability with her husband is and hopefully keep it in the private place where it should remain.
Self-respect. More than simply respecting her body, a woman must learn to respect herself, the inner self that is part of a truly intimate act of sex. A father can model for a daughter what respecting women looks like. He does so by how he treats the daughter’s mother, how looks at women, and how he speaks about women. Make no mistake: Girls watch their dads. They know when their fathers are ogling other women or disrespecting their mothers.
And they internalize those lessons. They may emerge with a desire to avoid negative treatment by avoiding relationships or becoming controlling in relationships. Or they may emerge with a healthy sense of self-respect and go forth with a desire to find a man who will cherish her the way she should be . . . as modeled by her father.
View of men. Girls learn what men are like by being around them. Yes, they have friends, brothers, cousins, church leaders, and others to watch. But a dad in the home makes the biggest impression. He’s constantly teaching her what to expect from men in the world. Dad can make a positive impression on behalf of the whole gender by showing what it means to be a real man — to responsibly care for those in his household and love them with a Christ-like love.
Fathers can also overtly teach their daughters what men are like in the sexual arena — how a man’s mind works, what he pays attention to, how he struggles with lust, how he desires a deep connection, how sex is related to that feeling of connection. Dads have the opportunity to arm their daughters with knowledge and wisdom based on their own experiences. They can help their girls navigate the minefields of dating and courtship and then be the kind of girlfriend and wife a godly man needs.
Dads matter. And they matter a great deal in forming a woman’s view of men and her approach to sexuality. Indeed, girls who have poor relationships with their fathers are far more likely to become promiscuous and/or experience teenage pregnancy.
If your husband is doing a good job of raising your daughter, show him your appreciation. Thank him for stepping up.
If he’s not as engaged as you’d like, pray for him and encourage him.
If there isn’t a father in your daughter’s life, look for other male role models to provide reassurance and guidance.
And to the many dads raising their daughters well, thank you.
Happy Father’s Day to all!