The Shame Game.

For this piece I am asking you, the reader, to think a little outside of the box. I want you to imagine for a moment that everything you say and think towards a person can inevitably effect their behavior. The very act of placing a stereotype on someone close to you, with out them even physically hearing it, can actually be felt by that person. All people, but women especially are able to read another person and can understand their intentions and feelings without them even uttering a word. If you think I’m messy or irresponsible, I know it. You don’t have to tell me because I can feel what you’re saying and I will unconsciously respond through my behavior.

I am part of a large Irish and German Catholic family so the shame game is something that I know all too well. There’s a silent understanding in the idea that a father’s biggest fear is that his daughter will surpass “The Madonna” and end up as “The Whore”. Even our virginity befalls on the stability of our fathers’. Any girl who slept around in high school will tell you that the explanation for her open legs was often explained by her uneasy relationship with her father. A prime example can be seen in Christian Fundamentalist groups who pressure young girls to wear “Purity Rings” and engage in a ceremony which promises their virginity to their fathers. This is a pact that guarantees that daddy’s little girl won’t have relations with a man until the two are married. As if a woman’s virginity is a purse that she can kindly ask her father to hold for safe keeping.

So, why is it that a girl’s sexual awakening is viewed as a direct insult to her father, who really had nothing to do with the situation at all? The answer is one that is unknown to me but I’m sure that is has been deeply ingrained in us for hundreds of years. I couldn’t expand on that topic unless I had PHD in history or religious studies. However, what I do have experience in, is how a father’s judgmental opinion can seriously damage the sexual growth of his daughter.

When I was a little girl I threw a lot of temper tantrums and well, my mother always seemed to cave as mother’s do. It wasn’t until I was out and away from the room that my father would scream at her and say, “The next thing you know, she’ll be smoking cigars and getting pregnant”. My expressive and fiery nature reminded him of his worst fear, which was most likely my mother herself. The fact that his ultimate fear was that I would have sex which resulted in an unwanted pregnancy created shame at an early age. I didn’t need to hear his disapproving comments for me to understand his deep fear that revolved around my womanhood.

In time, his fearful resentment towards my budding breasts only thickened. Especially after he had to peal my freshly dried thong off of his work shirt while he was getting dressed one morning. The static had fused the two together and as he pushed his left arm through the shirt sleeve he discovered a wad of fabric blocking it’s path. He readily pulled it out, expecting that it was a sock or perhaps a wash cloth. To his horror it was an XS thong from Victoria’s Secret that read “Team Player” on the front. Things were never the same after that and we could hear his shrill, girlish scream through out the entire house.

My family’s mentality on female sexuality taught me to be ashamed of something before I ever even experienced it. I walked into sex with the misunderstanding that it was something dark and dirty, and that I shouldn’t ever feel good about it. This needs to end. Parents need to understand that though they may be daddy’s little girls they will not be little forever and daughters are human beings with human functions. We need to explain to our daughters that sexuality has cons as well as pros. Instead of shrouding sex in shameful mystery let’s work towards encouraging girls to understand that when they’re ready sex needs to be both physically and emotionally safe. Sex can be beautiful and uplifting when it’s consensual, and engaging in it doesn’t make you a whore or a disappointment. If parents can prepare their daughters for these life experiences through open and honest conversation than they will be able to avoid feeling shame later on. A woman’s power needs to be nurtured and encouraged as early as possible. Inequality begins at birth and is experienced by way too many young girls. It is only when shaming is ended that girls will be free to grow into healthy, powerful women.

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