Random Thoughts On Going Viral: Some Follow-Up Thoughts On "Dear Daughter"

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 7.236% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

So my essay “Dear Daughter: I Hope You Have (Fucking) Awesome Sex” was reposted at The Good Men Project, and now it’s all over the net.  Over 31,000 people have “liked” it on Facebook, and I’ve gotten requests for interviews.  (Sadly, all on a weekend I’m presenting at the Geeky Kink Event, so I’m booked.)  And with this comes a lot of weird emotions:
1)  I’ve had a lot of people claiming I’m either a good father or a bad father, which makes me uncomfortable.  That turns the essay into a moratorium on whether my daughters are appropriately well-raised for society, and I don’t particularly feel like dragging them out into this spotlight.  I don’t often discuss Erin or Amy on this blog because I arrived in their lives with a (much smaller) audience, and early on I decided that they should choose their own level of involvement.  They, quite wisely, chose not to play.  And so inadvertently having this essay blow up as a spotlight is a little awkward, since it does kind of invite the question, “So are his daughters happy?”
They are.  But how much of that is due to me is questionable.  I think if we’re honest as parents, we acknowledge we are but one oar in turbulent waters; my kids arrived pre-baked with their own genetic inclinations towards specific mischiefs, and all their relatives weighed in (often against me, sometimes rightfully so), and then when they got to be adolescents then the approval of other children started to matter a lot.  You can be a very good parent, I think, and have a child who is quote-unquote “bad” (which I define as “unhappy” or “in a life’s situation that makes them unhappy”), and you can be a terrible parent and luck out.
Being a parent is a lot like being the President: there’s a lot more luck involved in good results than anyone wants to admit.
2)  I had one guy telling the world, “HE DOESN’T EVEN HAVE DAUGHTERS!  CHECK HIS BIOS!” which struck me as supremely weird.  One of my proudest moments was when I was on a panel with John Scalzi, discussing blogging, and he looked at me and said, “…I didn’t know you had daughters.”
I was proud because I have a reputation for being an oversharer, but my kids?  Have their own lives.  I’ve kept them shielded from that aspect of my D-list celebrity fame, and that feels good.  So to have a guy using that strength as proof I’m making all of this up?  A little strange.
(I tend to treat idiots on the Internet as though they’re stray dogs, confused and baffled by the world.  I’m not mad, just trying to figure out how any sane person would come to this conclusion.)
3)  I’m not a great father.  I have some strengths, and open communication about sex and drugs is one of them, but I’m also introverted, short-tempered, and hate phone calls like they were acid poured on my genitals.  I’m glad what I said resonated, very glad, but there’s a lot of dads who are way better than I’ve ever been.  One solid opinion does not greatness make.
4)  Some of the comments involved people saying, “Oh, man, so you wouldn’t mind if I had sex with your daughter? Mind giving me her number?”  Which completely misses the point.  Would I give you her number? No, because – as mentioned – I don’t own her.  If she wants to give you her number, then she can.  Because I don’t think it’s bad that they have sex with people.
I do think it’s bad if they have sex with idiots, which is why I try to encourage them otherwise.  But I’m also not sold on my own infallibility.  Maybe you’re not as much of an asshole as I think you are.  I’ll suggest, but ultimately she has to come to her own conclusions.
But, you know, I’m pretty sure she’ll spot you as an idiot off the bat.  And if I have taught them one lesson, it is in fact not to fuck the terminally stupid.
5)  I’m glad I’ve had enough pieces hit it big to handle the criticism, praise, and misreadings that come with any article that blows up.  (Though the blowback on this one is nastier than almost anything I’ve weathered before now.)  The thing people never get about these sorts of essays is that, despite all I’ve written before, the article is only tangentially about you.  People share things this widely because they wish they’d said it themselves, and as an author, I just feel grateful that I’ve articulated this churning wellspring enough that it resonated.
Basically, if you shared it, thanks.  I’m glad it helped.  I hope it convinces someone.  That’s all the good I can do.

22 Comments

  1. Lyn Belzer-Tonnessen
    Aug 13, 2013

    As someone’s daughter, I thought it was EXCELLENT. My father was not as, um, open as you are with sexuality, but he never bought into the “shoot the bastards on sight” mentality, and it always puzzled and disturbed me, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot.
    As someone’s wife, I thought it was EXCELLENT. I lucked into a very bright husband, who also does not buy into the “shoot the bastards on sight” mentality.
    As someone’s mother, I thought it was EXCELLENT. And it’s what I hope and pray I’m brave enough to say to my daughter in ten years.
    The only thing better than that article is the honesty and bravery of this post, which only reinforces what a great dad you are to Amy and Erin.

  2. HappinessSavouredHot
    Aug 13, 2013

    I’m sure some people would disagree, but what I read between the lines is that you have great respect for your daughters. Respect in their freedom to chose as they want, respect in their intelligence and common sense, and respect in their right to enjoy life.
    You gain my respect because of that. 🙂

  3. Norah
    Aug 13, 2013

    Perfection is a fantasy. But, your honesty is commendable, sir…
    I believe this piece went viral simply because it you expressed a strong stance regarding two very sensitive subjects: Sex and Children
    Thank you for giving us a platform for discussion and I hope, at the very least that it was profitable! 🙂

  4. andrew
    Aug 13, 2013

    While I agree with the general gist of your article (it’s a nice point of view for a father to be able to have), two problems I have with your point of view being relevant to the majority of people are:
    1) You are a step father, not an actual father. You weren’t involved in these girls’ lives until they were for all intended purposes teenagers. Now they’re no longer living with you.
    2) You and your “wife” aren’t in a traditional relationship whatsoever. Being polyamorous, neither of you see sex as something only between two people. Biological predisposition to polyamory aside, most fathers who are monogamous would not want to encourage their daughters, or their sons, to sleep around with little to no discrimination as you advocate.

    • TheFerrett
      Aug 13, 2013

      1) Incorrect. I was involved with one when she was six. If that matters, because:
      2) Incorrect. As a stepfather, I am an actual father.
      3) Incorrect. She remains my wife, without any condescending quotes.
      4) Incorrect. I did not encourage anyone to sleep around with little to no discrimination. I encouraged them to enjoy sex. I generally find that not discriminating in sex leads to terrible sex.
      5) Incorrect. The fact that most people would not want such a thing does not make it a bad thing in and of itself. Look at polls throughout history to see how many once wouldn’t want freed slaves, or women voting, or non-landowners voting, to see the stupidity inherent in such a statement.
      So: Fail.

      • James
        Aug 21, 2013

        As a Step Father and a Father all I can say ferrett is “WINNING!”
        Only a fool shoves his head in the sand and ignores the reality of whats around him.

    • Terri Jones
      Aug 13, 2013

      andrew, your reading comprehension leaves a lot to be desired. You must have been a terrible disappointment to your teachers.

  5. Vanice
    Aug 13, 2013

    Im enjoying the concept of not being moved by criticism or praise. Neither matter in the universal context. Just continue to be authentically you. Some people will love what you create and some people will hate on it. Just keep up!

  6. Kate
    Aug 13, 2013

    First of all, I absolutely loved it. I write for GMP as well, and was so pleased to see this shared.
    Second of all, the internet is both awesome and a giant cesspool. The immediacy and anonymity brings out the worst in some people.
    A step-father is a father, and many of them are more of a dad than a person’s biological father. (And being poly discluding you from this discussion is just ridiculous).
    But you don’t need me to tell you that, or anyone else in the vast interwebs.
    I’m glad for your daughter that she has you as a dad.
    Keep writing!

  7. BD
    Aug 13, 2013

    I can’t thank you ENOUGH for writing this. It’s what I wish my parents had said to me, and I think it’s what more people should be saying to their kids – but most especially to their daughters. We need to deny this “bad girls have sex, and good girls don’t” and “Daddy is your protector from bad, hormonal boys” because it’s harmful for both young women and men. Thank you for setting an example – I appreciate your ascribed message (that you are not your daughter’s captor, but someone to help her navigate her freedom), but I also love the very explicit message that you send, which is that our daughters deserve a range of meaningful friendships, relationships, quick shags, and everything in between. And thank you for your openness toward your daughters’ sexuality – including potential women and genderqueers in your hypothetical list of future lovers was a small, but very meaningful turn of phrase.
    Much love and thank you for speaking up!

  8. weeberdoll
    Aug 14, 2013

    I saw the post on goodmenproject (linked by a friend on FB). Ten years ago or so I was reading Star City Games everyday and consuming all the content I could about Magic. Then I faded away, and have a six year old daughter, and while I do an occasional draft online I do not have the time to devote that I once did. All that said – it was good to hear from you again; and good to have one of “my people” be one of the voices for a good cause.

    • TheFerrett
      Aug 14, 2013

      Yay! So glad to see you again.
      (I’m pretty much out of Magic these days as well, but it’s my day job.)

  9. Thankful
    Aug 14, 2013

    As a woman and a daughter I needed to hear/read this. It validated that dads can think that you having sex is okay, and they want you to find what makes you truly happy.
    I’ve always known my dad loves me unconditionally, but I use to look at his lack of threatening boyfriends as a lack of caring, which didn’t make sense to me since I knew how much he loved me.
    Even though this was sharing your own truths, it is expressing feelings my father has as well. My dad has a lot of trouble articulating how he feels/ why he may do something, so your article has brought us both to an understanding, that has brought us closer together.
    People are jerks, but the world can always use more coming together, you have brought my family more together, and that is irreplaceable. Thank you, and keep writing.

  10. okjimm
    Aug 14, 2013

    I stumbled on to this…or a friend did and put it on FB. Good Stuff, good read. I added you to my blog roll so I will remember to come back here. Not writing much there, cause lately I am very busy going blind. Surgery coming soon, I hope. Anyways…it hit a chord with me. My daughter recently graduated from the local U and is now busy chopping down dead trees and clearing trails in the mountains of NW Co. Jumping out of airplanes , climbing mountains and such related stuff. I hope it was something I said…or something I may have taught her…whatever., but anyways….It was a good read&stuff. looking forward to coming back…thanks and such.

  11. Tom Morgan
    Aug 14, 2013

    I’m a writer/blogger/z-list celebrity with children I try to keep private too. I’m also an introvert with a temper for what it’s worth. Anyway, I’ve hoped these things for my daughter and son, lord knows. But I’ve never had the cajones to write about those hopes. I commend you for being able to write about this. I don’t know you but I’m gonna guess you’d be happy to hear that reading your bravery brings me one step closer to letting go myself. So you are partially responsible for one more honest writer in the world. Thanks.

  12. Mark D
    Aug 15, 2013

    Good to see you’re dealing with the internet trolls alright. As always, it seems that people on the internet are trying to interpret your essay in such a way that they can make it part of their agenda (either for or against) rather than reading the piece and taking it as it is.
    I liked it, as I do most of your blogging, so thanks!

  13. Joe
    Aug 15, 2013

    I find it odd that you’ve chosen to focus on the criticisms that are in line with the “shotgun” / “slut-shaming” paradigm, and not the other, horrifyingly creepy and sleazy aspect.
    Namely, you’re still casting YOUR desires as the important thing for your daughter’s sexuality. Some dads pressure their daughters into being pure, but you, oh-so-englightened that you are, are determined to pressure her into being a sex kitten. What if she doesn’t want to have sex? Some people don’t like sex. You’ve given no indication that you’ be ok with your daughter not having sex.
    Then we can get into details, where it somehow manages to get EVEN GROSSER: you specifically bring up “not wanting to know the details,” and then, classy as ever, bring up YOUR OWN SEX LIFE, with a cheeky disclaimer that she wouldn’t want to know the details (but, hey, why not write a whole paragraph about sex details just to keep the notion of father-daughter sex-detail-sharing fresh in mind?)
    Also, “consensual bruises.” You’ve decided that the sex you want to pressure your daughters into having in great quantities is *rough sex.* Beautiful. So much for “no details.”
    All the Dawn soap in the world couldn’t clean the slime off of that article.

    • TheFerrett
      Aug 19, 2013

      Namely, you’re still casting YOUR desires as the important thing for your daughter’s sexuality.
      Actually, I didn’t. I specifically stated that she’s going to make different decisions than me, things that would strike me as odd or crazy.
      I like sex. If one of my daughters was asexual, I might not necessarily understand that on an emotional level, but the important thing is that they choose their happiness. So ten points from Ravenclaw for misreading.
      And I do bring up my own sex life, because I have one, and I’m also not going to pretend to my daughters (or anyone, really), that I don’t. The only reason someone wouldn’t do that is a) out of respect for a daughter who doesn’t want to hear it, or b) because they believe sex is shameful, which I don’t. So incorrect. (and I hardly think you could find “an entire paragraph” on details on my own sex life in there, so your hyperbole is incorrect.)
      In short: poor reading comprehension. Try again.

  14. Roger H
    Aug 16, 2013

    Your original letter to your daughter was GENIUS!!
    Your criticizers are the folks that think the letter was about sex. Ignore them and keep writing!

  15. Lukas S.
    Aug 17, 2013

    In general, I tend to agree with most of ideas you present here. But I must totally disagree with the fact that you mention your introversion as a weakness, aside with other supposedly “weird” behaviors (like hating phone calls). As an assumed introvert, I would see this just as a personality trait like any other and this doesn’t make you a worse (or better) father. Besides that, it’s awesome the way you put your ideas ’bout parentship.

    • TheFerrett
      Aug 19, 2013

      The introversion means that there are times my daughters need me and I’m not able to pull myself out of it to be there. That’s a weakness.

  16. Rose M.
    Aug 20, 2013

    I love your letter. Whether a person, Christian or not, believes in premarital sex or not,… that is not what this is about for me. For me as a Christian, this letter just emphasizes that sex is natural and not something to be ashamed of. Some of the beliefs and feelings that I had in the past for myself made me very uncomfortable and ultimately removed most of the joy in sex, both before and after marriage. Would that I would have seen a letter like this years ago. Maybe we would have more individuals feel free to enjoy sex in the right way!

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