Talking To Your Teen Daughter About Male Attention
So your teen (or pre-teen) daughter has discovered male attention. She’s started to experience the male gaze and, in her young, innocent mind, it’s exciting and intoxicating. She wants more of it, so you notice her dressing more provocatively. You notice her social media selfies feature photos that make you a bit uncomfortable. Her and her friends are more interested in beautifying activities like going shopping, getting manicures, and having their hair done. Having a daughter is absolutely terrifying for this very reason. It’s just one of the things that makes raising a girl a bit harder than raising a boy. As a grown woman, you know just how creepy and predatorial men can be. You know there are men out there who specifically target young teenage girls who are coming into their own, and don’t yet realize the dangers of welcoming tons of male attention. Here is how to talk to your teenage girl about male attention.
It’ll come, no matter what she wears
Tell your daughter that she doesn’t have to dress provocatively in order to receive male attention. Male attention will come even if she goes out wearing a head-to-toe ski suit with a ski mask (so long as it’s pink—so men know she’s female). Tell her you can attest to this fact.
There will always be plenty
Let your daughter know that she will receive plenty of male attention throughout her life. It isn’t difficult to come by. She doesn’t need to capitalize on some idea that male attention will only come now, when she’s young. Let her know she’ll end up being sick of male attention one day, and if she seeks out plenty of it now, she’ll get sick of it very soon.
Covering up filters out the bad guys
Explain to your daughter that dressing more conservatively rules out men who are just after her for the way she looks. She does, surely, want boys to like her for more—for her sense of humor, kindness, and intelligence. But let her know dressing provocatively tends to only attract men who only pay attention to her looks.
Ask why she likes male attention
Ask your daughter what it is she likes about male attention. She may say something like, “It makes me feel special” or “It makes me feel like I have something to offer.” This could mean she’s been feeling insecure about her personality and other traits.
Point out her other great traits
If your daughter does say that male attention is the only thing that makes her feel special, then it’s your job to make sure she knows just how special she is. Tell her every day how smart she is, how funny she is, how generous she is, and how unique she is.
Tell her no amount of pressure is okay
Make sure your daughter knows that no amount or pressure from a man to do anything—to wear less, to show a part of her body, to send a type of photo—is okay. Teach her early that the amount of pressure that is okay is zero. Really make sure that sinks into her subconscious.
Male attention doesn’t empower her
She may feel that male attention empowers her. But, in a gentle way, explain that male attention does not make her any more powerful. She makes herself powerful. In fact, not caring about male attention makes her the most powerful.
It earns fragile and fleeting things
Tell her that anything she gets by dressing provocatively or flirting with men—if she gets elected school president, if she becomes “popular”, and when she’s older if she gets a job out of flirting—is fragile and fleeting. If she ceases to flirt with men, dress the way men like, or do any of the things she did to receive that thing, she’ll lose it. The only way to earn something that’s truly hers is through her intelligence and kindness. Nobody can take those things away from her.
Her friendships should be about more
Remind her how special her female friendships are, and how they’ve existed for a long time without male attention being the main focus. Her and her friends should continue to focus on their bonds, rather than just focusing on things they can do together to attract male attention. Their friendship is too special to become all about boys.
There’s plenty of time for everything
Remind your daughter that life is long—so, so long. There will be plenty of time to do all the things about which she is curious. But once she stops being a kid, there’s no going back. So encourage her to cherish this time.
Tell her why older men prey on teens
Feel free to paint predatorial men in an ugly light. Tell your daughter that the only reason older men pay attention to young girls is that they can’t attract women their own age—women their age know that these men are bad people, are stupid, and are ugly. If this sounds harsh just ask yourself: why protect the feelings of men who prey on teens?
Make sure she knows she can tell you anything
Make sure your daughter knows that she can tell you anything and she won’t be in trouble. If a man says something inappropriate to her, or a boy asks her for an inappropriate photo, she can tell you.
Including inappropriate men you know
Make sure she especially knows that she can tell you even when men you know—like a neighbor or her teacher—say or do inappropriate things. Tell her you’ll always be on her side.
She should know she’s beautiful
Make sure your daughter knows she’s beautiful, even when she wears no makeup and wears her favorite pajamas. She doesn’t need to do a thing.
Be loving; not militant
Throughout these conversations, be loving and caring rather than militant and foreboding. You can probably remember that the things your mom was militant about were the things you wanted to do the most.