Goodnight kisses

On last night’s BBC Question Time the acclaimed feminist Germaine Greer came under a lot of fire for suggesting that little girls flirt with their fathers. Her statement was met with outrage and derision by the audience and Twitter alike.

Greer knows her stuff when it comes to ideas regarding sexuality. I didn’t agree with her comments that the only clothes commercially available for girls are pink, sparkly and vampish (she’s never heard of Boden obviously 😉 ); plenty of high street retailers do sell other items of clothing, it’s not a difficulty I have ever encountered. The reaction was particularly vociferous from men, no-one likes to think of their daughter play-acting in a sexy fashion with them or trying to get sexual attention from them, particularly in a society that has lost it’s innocence, with awareness about the dreadful crime of pedophelia reaching paranoid proportions in certain sections of the media.

Fact is children DO rehearse adult behaviour in a safe environment with parents and siblings. They may not be consciously aware of it, but it is something that happens.

We nodded with recognition because coincidentally, literally 2 hours earlier, daughter whilst saying goodnight had put on a silly voice, said “I’m mummy, I’m Caroline, give me a kiss darling” put her hands on her hips and wiggled in an attempt to portray herself as me. Given that I don’t walk around the house like Jessica Rabbit, on a subconscious level she sees the sexual and romantic side of my relationship with my husband and was copying it! Whilst it was a little uncomfortable for my husband, because he is her step-father and is hyper aware of boundaries, he screamed with laughter and called me to witness. “Go on, do your mummy impression again it was hilarious”. He was right it was hilarious and spot on! It demonstrated Greer’s point admirably.

Children are very perceptive which is why we need to give them examples of positive loving adult relationships. They pick up and copy the behaviours and relationships exhibited by their parents. A child who witnesses a violent domestic relationship is infinitely more likely to end up in a relationship of a similar type, regardless of gender. Greer focused purely on girls as have most commenters on the notion of sexualisation, I did for the simple reason I have girls, but it goes without saying boys also learn ways of behaviour from their parents and are just as likely to be affected by ‘sexualisation’.

Greer’s point illustrated precisely why a safe stable relationship between two different gendered parents is believed to be the ideal, not only by the Catholic Church but by millions of others with other faiths and none.

Single-parent families are not “bad”, people must not be stigmatised, often they are the only safe option and parents who have been deserted or bereaved have no choice. Single parents tend to have it tougher without the support of a live-in partner.

Supporting and acknowledging Greer’s comments, no matter how uncomfortable they are, means recognising two difficult truths. Children use their family environments to develop, explore and practice their relationship behaviour and psychological development. If we want them to develop balance then ideally they need a parent of each gender, as different genders have different qualities. Gender is not a purely social construct. Two parents of the same gender will not provide the same balance. Children will not witness a male/female romantic relationship from which they will draw subconscious lessons. It does not mean that they are more likely to develop same sex or bisexual attraction, but if we accept the ONS’ latest statistics that 1% of people identified as LGBT in their last survey, it does mean that children will most likely be growing up with a one sided version of sexuality and relationships and less awareness of how to form, conduct and behave in relationships with those of a different gender; not witnessing or be able to copy it at close quarters in a safe environment. Unless of course you believe that people exhibit the same types of behaviour with their partner regardless of gender. Men and women’s sexual behaviours are interchangeable? Two women or two men in a relationship behave in exactly the same way as a man and a woman?

On picking up the example of the little girl kissing her father goodnight, Greer hit a nerve hence the outrage. Most children practice their sexuality at home and ideally need a parent of each gender. That is a fact, regardless of religious belief and it is not homophobic to say so.

10 thoughts on “Goodnight kisses

  1. I agree that children learn about romantic relationships from the adults around them. My question would be, would that necessarily be the parents? If a single mum is living with her parents wouldn’t they provide such model? Ditto friends, relations etc?

    Regarding the style of single-sex relationships – your comment seems to suggest all heterosexual relationships are alike. Given I’m interested in “boy stuff”, never celebrate anniversaries or St Valentines Day, are my sons missing out? What about the kids of older couples I know, who don’t kiss or hug in front of the children? There’s a danger of over-simplifying here.

    1. I was thinking that when I wrote. It’s hard to categorize because not all relationships are the same because we are individual. Two very traditionally feminine lesbians will behave differently to a “butch” lesbian and her partner in terms of dynamics for example.

      But generally women & men display behaviours in keeping with their gender AND their sexuality, the two are linked. Would a bisexual woman behave in the same way towards partners of both gender? Given that the overwhelming majority of relationships are heterosexual, I can’t help but think children brought up by 2 same sex parents miss out on a diversity of gender in their filial relationships and what they witness at close quarters. I see a potential difficulty for them in learning how to relate in different gendered relationships which they have not experienced close up.

      1. Yet there is no evidence that children raised by gay couples have any problems with gender identity and relationships, in actual fact the research points to children of lesbian parents being MORE emotionally secure.

      2. I know the study to which you are referring by Nanette Gartrell. Since publication, it has emerged that this was funded by various Gay and Lesbian lobby groups, leading to accusations of bias. Gartrell herself is in a Lesbian relationship and is affiliated with the Williams Institute, a center for gay and lesbian studies, at the University of California School of Law.

        More significantly upon examination, there are published articles by independent social scientists which question the methodology, sample sizes and conclusions.
        The data relies upon self reporting, it comes from mothers’ reports but does not include answers from teens or their teachers. The fairly small number of lesbian families all volunteered for this study years ago, and may be especially committed parents, rather than representative of all lesbian families.

      3. >Would a bisexual woman behave in the
        >same way towards partners of both
        >gender?

        Well, not exactly the same, since they are different individuals. How differently is a more interesting question. Again it depends on just how wide a set of behaviours men and women exhibit.

        I’d suggest that the set of behaviours appropriate based on gender and sexuality is wider than your question suggests. Just think of a few female hetrosexual stereotypes: the big bossy woman who henpecks her small meek husband, the dollybird, the weak fragile woman who needs protecting, the manipulative man-eater, the good wife, the career woman who stands on her own two feet, the blue-stocking. Which of these are appropriate?

        Would an academic heterosexual couple have a home life more like a petty crime lord and his trophy wife or two gay academics? Even in terms of relationship dynamics alone? It’s not obvious to me sexuality trumps everything else.

      4. I don’t think sexuality trumps everything, I think it’s the male/female balance that is key here really and you are right it is difficult to generalise about ANY couple. I just tend to think, that using the example of the little girl kissing her father goodnight, although Greer went rather OTT in her inference as well as suggesting that this behaviour was due to society, rather than innate, that children ideally need a parent of each gender in their parental relationships for balance, even if the roles are often reversed.

  2. I always find Greer thought provoking but was disappointed when reading a chapter from a book of hers a while ago on fathers and daughters the only thing she mentioned sexuality and incest. To reduce such an important subject down to this was worrying. This might be something she has a bee in her bonnet about.

    Girls really need healthy relationships with their fathers in order to learn so much. I get the impression that Greer doesn’t understand what healthy relationships between fathers and daughters look like- although that could just be the impression I have from reading one book.

    Btw I have found that the clothes issue becomes more difficult as girls get older. My teenager is quite sensible but even so it is a struggle sometimes when shopping.

  3. The outrage at Germaine Greer’s comment wasn’t because she hit a nerve, it was because many of us are sick to death of Gramscian parrots repeating the same old pseudo-progressive mantras without being challenged and without risking well-deserved ridicule. She has absolutely no idea how normal people behave or how successful families work and it is a mystery to me why she still gets so much airtime. Oh wait, it was on the BBC. Mystery solved.

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