WATCH: Dad gives odd but good advice in blog. Jennifer Palisoc reports.
TORONTO – He doesn’t want to be the pitchfork-waving, gun-threatening, curfew-enforcing father society’s come to know so well. In an open letter to his daughter, U.S. writer Ferrett Steinmetz urges his child to be her own person, discover what she loves and make some mistakes along the way.
That message is hidden in his post’s provocative title, “Dear Daughter: I hope you have some f****** awesome sex.”
Attention-grabbing headline aside, Canadian doctors weighing in say that Steinmetz’ paternal advice isn’t all that radical – especially not in Canada.
“If I hadn’t read the blog, I would have thought this is the worst father of the year because he doesn’t understand boundaries,” Dr. Oren Amitay, a registered psychologist and Ryerson University professor, told Global News.
The headline is the first and only time Steinmetz advises his daughter to have “awesome sex.” After that, he works on going against the grain from conventional overprotective fathering.
His blog post, which has gone viral, was written in response to the article “10 rules for dating my daughter,” packed with threats.
“Look, I love sex. It’s fun. And because I love my daughter, I want her to have all of the same delights in life that I do, and hopefully more,” Steinmetz wrote.
“I’m not the guard who locks you in the tower.”
Hardly as aggressive as the blog’s title suggests, right?
“Apart from the eye-catching, ear-catching title, what Steinmetz has to say is not particularly radical – especially if he literally is directing it at his 21-year-old, or figuratively has her in mind,” Dr. Reginald Bibby told Global News.
Bibby is a sociologist at the University of Lethbridge, specializing in social trends. He’s been tracking youth trends since the early 1980s and has authored a handful of books on his findings.
While pop culture may poke fun at the “protective daddy” persona, it’s not as prevalent in Canada as society thinks.
“Our research shows that since around 2000, teens’ ties with parents have never been better, complete with less arguing, better communication and more enjoyment of both dads and moms,” Bibby said.
“Presumably that has included more openness and mutual respect when it comes to sexual matters.”
His national surveys of teens between 15 and 19 years old, show that dating as far back as the 1980s, about six in 10 men claim they’re sexually active and about 50 per cent of women say the same.
Bibby suggested this amount of sexual activity could mean that dads aren’t as uptight or protective about sex as we think. Conversation, like Steinmetz is courting in this open letter, may already be stirring in Canadian households.
Amitay agrees: “It’s contentious in some ways but I don’t think it’s a breath of fresh air and I don’t think it’s unique. A lot of good parents have had these kinds of conversations before.”
Amitay, whose eldest daughter is 15, said he asked her to decide whether she’d want to have “the talk” with her father, her mother or her grandma – she’s the owner of Canada’s first sex store. As a loving father, he’s even threatened to use ink blot testing on her boyfriend.
Bibby is also raising an adolescent daughter.
Amitay noted a glaring space in Steinmetz’ message, though.
Steinmetz tells his daughter to “go out and play” and to live a “bold life filled with big mistakes and bigger triumphs.”
“Because consensual sex isn’t something that men take from you; it’s something you give. It doesn’t lessen you to give someone else pleasure. It doesn’t degrade you to have some of your own,” Steinmetz wrote.
Amitay said he hopes that Steinmetz elaborates on this messaging – he needs to caution his daughter to the realities that come with decision-making and “big mistakes.”
Steinmetz also needs to relay to his daughter that consent isn’t simply agreeing to sex, it’s something she truly wants to do. What a teenager understands as consensual may not be true, Amitay warned.
“The reality is the person has to feel like they really want to give it. Girls may say I’m feeling a lot of pressure or it’s expected. Giving has to truly be that you want to for the right reasons,” Amitay said.
“It’s implied in his blog but isn’t explicit enough.”
Steinmetz responded to the mass response to his open letter in a follow up blog post.