A Twisted Father/Daughter Relationship

There is nothing wrong with arguing that a strong father/daughter relationship is important—if, that is, you’re also arguing that strong parent/child relationships in general are important. But there’s something weird when you elevate the father/daughter relationship above these others and start arguing that fathers and daughters should find in each other what they would otherwise go looking for in sexual and romantic relationships.

Voddie Baucham says that middle aged men should turn to their teenage daughters to get the attention and fulfillment they would otherwise look for through an affair with a young secretary.

Randy Wilson says that teenage daughters should turn to their middle aged fathers for the attention and fulfillment they would otherwise look for in dating relationships with other teenagers.

This whole thing is weird. And disturbing.

Do Voddie and Randy see the love that grows between family members as interchangeable for romantic love, filling the same needs and purposes? Do Voddie and Randy think that middle aged men seek out sex with young secretaries and teenage girls seek out sex with teenage boyfriends for some other-than-sexual reason? The answer to both of these questions must be “yes.”

I think Voddie and Randy would argue that both middle aged men’s affairs with younger women and teenage girls’ forays into the dating world are about wanting affirmation rather than about either sex or the desire to create an actual mutual and companionate relationship. This is bizarre. The suggestion that men who have affairs with their secretaries only wanted the youthful admiration and adoration they had to offer suggests a view that men are very shallow and egotistical and threatens to place some responsibility for the affair on the wife for not being adoring and youthful enough. The idea that teenage girls only enter into relationships with teenage boys in order to gain affirmation erases these young women’s agency, or any possibility that they might have healthy self esteem and be able to stand on their own two feet.

And of course, there are also the Botkin sisters. As we shall see in Kate’s reviews of their book So Much More, they argue that daughters should serve as help meet to their fathers and adopt their wants and desires. And this all gets very, very explicit.

This weird insistence on the father/daughter relationship being of utmost importance ends up overshadowing the importance of the father’s relationship with his own wife and the daughter’s gradual move beyond the family unit toward eventually establishing her own family unit. Everyone loses in this scenario—the mother who feels she must compete with her daughter, the father who sabotages the depth of relationship he could have with his wife, and the daughter who ought to be learning to stand on her own two feet and venture outside of the home. Everyone loses.

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Slow Learner

    I additionally have to wonder – how deeply ingrained is the assumption of a Quiverfull-style huge family in all this?

    Because in more average-sized families, it is easy to have only boys – and at that point would Voddie and Randy expect any man to stray, because he can’t receive that worship from daughters he never had? Or would they assume that he isn’t a good and Godly man on the grounds of having only a few children rather than “as many as God gives”, and expect him to be immoral accordingly?

    • Sally

      Or even if there are a lot of children, he could have 6 sons who are teens during the dad’s middle aged years and maybe a daughter who comes late when the dad is older, or no daughter at all. -Or maybe no children at all. They could decide because they’re infertile to become missionaries in a remote village and devote themselves to Bible translation rather than adopting. Oh, but then they wouldn’t be exposed to this movement and therefore the husband wouldn’t know he needed a teenage daughter to keep him from having an affair.

  • Mel

    Yuck. This is sick. A few observations:
    1. My dad and I have a nice normal father-daughter relationship. Dad hasn’t had an affair. He’s an adult, responsible man. I didn’t have to fill a creepy role to prevent an affair.
    2. I had teenage and young adult relationships with young men. Sexual attraction is a different feelings than what I feel for my dad.
    3. Because of a healthy relationship with my dad and learning what sexual attraction felt like, I was able to find relationships that were satisfying and the basis for a marriage with an awesome guy.

    Also, if you’re homosexual, do you attach to the parent of the same sex? :-)

    • The_L1985

      No. If you’re homosexual, you have to be “cured” of your “abomination” so you can find a godly opposite-sex spouse and start crankin’ out those babies, the way Gawd intended.

      • Silent Service

        I am so glad my parents aren’t this kind of fundy. I’ve still never discussed the full extent of my younger dating life but at least i do know that if I had taken my ex-boyfriend home they wouldn’t have shot me or thrown me out. I wasn’t too sure back then.

    • sylvia_rachel

      I’m pretty sure all these writers would say that if you’re homosexual, it’s got something to do with having the wrong kind of relationship with one or both of your parents :P (And/or would stick their fingers in their ears and go LALALA I CAN’T HEAR YOU at the idea that gay people exist.)

    • onamission5

      Considering I was told by my own family that my eldest son’s lack of a (macho-manly enough) father figure in his life, my refusal to force him to play sports he didn’t like, and my attempted consideration for his internal life (aka “babying” him past the age of diapers) was going to make him into a “faggot,” I would say it is not unlikely that mothers within purity culture are shamed for and discouraged from being too nurturing with their sons. ‘Cause in my family if mothers recognize that growing boys have feelings beyond John Wayne level angry or hungry, then that makes them gay. (yet at the same time, the entire household is supposed to be run according to the whims and wants of the male members, without actually acknowledging that they have rich internal lives. I never said it made sense)

      • Rosa

        those adult men who have to be catered to and coddled are of course acting on pure reason and an unbiased, understanding reading of Scripture. Feelings are not part of it SHUT UP.

      • onamission5

        “Feelings are not part of it SHUT UP”

        This made me laugh so hard.
        Spouse and I get policed about the emotional lives of our sons all the time. From people who, for all intents and purposes, mean well, are trying to help, and understand that boys have feelings (like the school counselor), they just get uncomfortable that our sons display their feelings so unashamedly. “He’s so sensitive…” is a popular refrain. “Yes, he is very insightful and perceptive” and “that’s one of the things we love about him” are frequent replies. Better when it comes from Spouse, who looks the part of uber-jock-dude, but also tears up at sappy commercials and is more skilled at tactful people management than I.
        /derail

      • KristinMuH

        Ack, my son is only 17 months old, so I haven’t gotten this yet. So far he lives up to toddler boy stereotypes by being super active and destructive (yay?), but I still breastfeed him and respond appropriately when he cries, so I’m sure your family would disapprove. (My in-laws kind of do but are too polite to bring it up directly.)

  • tdd68

    Gotta say, this messed up attitude toward father-daughter relationships sounds like the perfect background for (even more) sexual abuse/incest. Priming these girls to feel like they have to connect to their father in the same fashion of their mothers…it’s just a short step further to having the SAME connection.

    • Sally

      Exactly. We understand that at best this makes the girl asexual (although not really, of course). But that doesn’t mean the girl is going to understand that. How would she know all the language encouraging this relationship isn’t code for sexual relationship and therefore know to speak out if a father is abusing her? I wonder if anything about that is taught in this culture. I realize they’re teaching the girls not to have sex with boys, but how much would it take to teach her secretly that “give your heart to daddy” means practice with daddy and you’re still a virgin?

      • tdd68

        Right! Considering how even in the rest of our culture, in which we try to teach kids to speak out if an adult(authority) acts inappropriately, there are too many kids who believe the whole “it’s ok, just our little secret” line from their abusers… In this subculture where the fathers are regularly compared to God/Jesus as the “ultimate” authority figure, that “our little secret, it’s ok because I say so” will just be that much easier for the girls to believe.

      • LadyCricket

        You know what else? I think it’s been mentioned here before that your body belongs to your dad before you’re married, then it belongs to your husband. So, if sex with your husband is okay because he has ownership of your body… complete the sentence.

        Any Christian with a belief like this will be rightly horrified by this implication. I agree! It IS a terrible implication. It’s also the natural implication when you say things like “Give your heart to your father, instead of forming relationships with boys your age…” “Get adoration from your daughter and you won’t have to have an affair…” “Your body belongs to your father before you’re married…” “Potential spouses need to get your father’s permission to take you away…” “Give your heart to your father as you would give it to Jesus…”

        What I’m saying here is, people need to THINK about their beliefs.

      • The_L1985

        But…but thinking could make us doubt! Doubt is made by Satan, therefore we should not use our brains for their intended purpose of thinking. That would just be awful!

      • Silent Service

        You expect people who revile critical thought to think? I fully know that they will simply stick their fingers in their ears and scream LALALALALALAL with their eyes closed before they will accept the logical conclusion of this.

        I have unfortunately seen this carried out to that logical conclusion and it is a terrible thing. It doesn’t just devastate young women; it leaves them vulnerable to ongoing abuse from childhood well into adulthood. It also leaves them vulnerable to accepting the behavior from their husband when they had endured it from their own father. They are literally being trained to accept the molestation of their own daughter even to the point of being an active supporter of such activity.

        Damn, now I’m freaking myself out.

      • Brightie

        Not everyone who has been raised in or influenced by purity culture is beyond thinking about what looks wrong with this picture…

    • Sarah-Sophia

      I think that even though it does makes abuse easier, what happens most of the time is the girl becomes mentally conditioned to always seek male validation.

    • Lorelei

      Yes. This is what happens.

  • KarenJo12

    I think the wife loses the most in this situation. Dad gets adoration from Daughter, Daughter gets special attention and gets to avoid growing up, but Mom doesn’t get anything except blame if Dad strays. It’s essential to remember that in this culture the explanation for why men become gay is that they were too close to their mothers, so Mom can’t even have a close relationship with a son after he’s out of diapers. That may be one explanation for the constant pregnancies; the only way mom gets any human companionship is to constantly have a toddler around.

    • kisarita

      since i see the whole father daughter relationship as sexualized, i cant see the daughter gains anything from it.
      Does this subculture have anything to say about daughters relationship with their mothers? or is that left for the evil feminists?

      • http://aztecqueen2000.blogspot.com/ AztecQueen2000

        According to my now-estranged husband, women are jealous of their daughters. He started saying this when our older daughter was an infant. Also, he’s 31 years my senior. If he was going to hit up younger women, he’d have to start hitting up the high schools, where most girls and their parents would be properly horrified at his attentions.

      • stacey

        Daughters are suppose to be their mothers unfailing, uncomplaining, right hand.
        I also wonder what the idealized QF/ATI relationship is suppose to look like.

  • sylvia_rachel

    That is deeply, deeply icky.

    It does explain the popularity of Elsie Dinsmore within that community, though…

    • wanderer

      Yes! Icky really is the best descriptor.

    • Alice

      Yeah, I remember at least one time in the series she couldn’t decide if she loved her father or her lover-who’s-as-old-as-her-father more. I think she finally decided she loved them equally, but in vaguely different ways.

    • Leigha7

      I’d forgotten about the vaguely creepy romance there. And I read the updated version. I can only imagine the original was worse.

  • Space Blizzard

    These evengelical movements so frequently tie themselves in knots coming up with bizarre, counter-intuitive interpretations of child/parent relationships that don’t actually exist unless they’re imposed externally, whether here or in the case of the Perl’s suggestion of parent/child relationships being a constant battle for dominance.

    Wouldn’t it be easier if all members of a family just treated each other with mutual respect and compassion? Never mind who is supposed to fill what role in what way, just be good to each other and try to make each other happy.

    • Newbie

      It’s interesting too that the same dad who’s supposed to exercise complete dominance over that daughter and train her to obey his every order is then her practice husband while she’s waiting.. Yeah, that doesn’t create unhealthy expectations of what a marriage should be like at all..

      • Kate Monster

        To be fair, the dominance/obedience you’re describing is ALSO the QF/fundy image of an ideal marriage.

  • Composer 99

    Voddie Baucham says that middle aged men should turn to their teenage daughters to get the attention and fulfillment they would otherwise look for through an affair with a young secretary.

    Ick. Yuck. Bleugh. No, no, no, no, no!

    Even if we grant that some men will find validation or fulfillment in affairs with younger women in their workplaces that they are not getting out of their marriage, an integral part of that package is the sexual attraction/lust such men feel for their colleagues.

    Given that integralness, it strikes me as just plain wrong to suggest that there is anything at all appropriate about a man attempting to satisfy, through his relationship with his daughter, the emotional requirements he might attempt to satisfy via a sexual affair at the workplace.

    —–

    Randy Wilson says that teenage daughters should turn to their middle aged fathers for the attention and fulfillment they would otherwise look for in dating relationships with other teenagers.

    Ick. Yuck. Bleugh. No, no, no, no, no!

    If one has a ‘dating relationship’ with someone else, that relationship necessarily (IMO) includes romantic aspects. If often includes sexual aspects, but these are not necessary.

    It strikes me as very harmful for young people’s developing emotional maturity to see their parents as legitimate partners in a relationship containing romantic aspects.

    (Curiously, one can easily have a relationship with one’s parents that appears, on cursory review, to be hard to differentiate from ‘dating relationships’, at least based on some of the activities. The difference is how the relationship is conceptualized, and my objection to Wilson’s views is that it encourages daughters to conceptualize their relationships with their fathers in inappropriate ways.)

    • Newbie

      Also, I get that a middle aged man may feel a special kind of appreciation when a young secretary or entry level employee looks up to him at work, and that could grow into attraction, but in that case, shouldn’t he work this out by focusing on what’s missing in his relationship with his WIFE?? And isn’t it his responsibility to keep his relationships with protégés professional? Oh, right, it’s always the wife’s fault..

      • KarenJo12

        And the protege’s. it is not illegal to fire an employee because she’s distractingly pretty.

      • Newbie

        Right.. It doesn’t matter that the young assistant is just trying to succeed at her job and is in an extremely awkward position when the guy she’s trying to learn from decides to hit on her.. Vagina=fault

      • Composer 99

        I wouldn’t say that an older man finding a younger co-worker attractive is necessarily indicative of problems with his marital relationship per se, since the attraction would grow out of the co-worker having physical and psychological characteristics that the man finds desireable and their tendency to spend time together.

        It’s when an older man in such a situation attempts to form an inappropriate relationship with a younger co-worker that we might want to see if there is something missing in the marital relationship (as well as asking the man WTF he is doing).

        (That said, even if the problems in a marriage are the result of problematic behaviours on the part of both partners, this is not a defence for having an affair, nor does it deflect responsibility from the person having it. Better to try to solve the problems, if the marital relationship can be repaired or salvaged, or end the marriage if it can’t.)

      • Newbie

        I’m sorry, I really didn’t mean to imply that any attraction to a coworker is necessarily a sign of marital problems. I think both men and women can develop attractions for colleagues, but those who are happily married are unlikely to want risk their marriage by acting on them. What I meant is that if an older man is tempted to have an affair with a young coworker who is showing a kind of appreciation/admiration he’s not getting anywhere else, he should look into having that need met by his wife, not his daughter. And I suspect that a truly happily married man who’s getting an ego boost from the attention of a younger woman is more likely to channel that newfound confidence into spicing up his love life with his wife, not looking to his daughter as a surrogate girlfriend.

      • Composer 99

        I concur, and especially about the “not looking to his daughter as a surrogate girlfriend” part.

      • Miriamel

        With a wife supposed to be permanently pregnant or nursing and expected to be in charge of raising and educating a large pack of children, I wouldn’t be surprised if in a lot of fundie marriages eyes start wandering because she’s just plain too worn out to have time for her husband. Another thing that makes the teenage daughter a nice easy target, I guess. She’s doing all the other ‘wife’ duties essentially anyway, just minus the pregnant/nursing part.

  • onamission5

    It all reads like a guide to grooming victims for abuse. So gross.

  • kisarita

    this dynamic didn’t exist at all in the fundamentalist jewish society I grew up in. it was gender segregated, and men and women engaged in different activities, so daughters were expected to be closer to their mothers and fathers to their sons.

    • http://aztecqueen2000.blogspot.com/ AztecQueen2000

      This is why all the molestation scandals there involve young boys. I would dearly love to do a study about where rape and sexual abuse is more common–fundamentalist cultures, or secular ones. Why do I think fundamentalism for the win?

      • Hilary

        Probably because secular and more liberal religious organizations don’t shame people into insanity over normal human reactions to living in a body, have quite such unquestioning authority structures or convince their followers that the opposite sex are aliens instead of other people . . . and there isn’t quite as much us v. them regarding the outside world, so looking for help or idea’s outside your tribe isn’t a worse taboo then getting molested.

        AQ, it’s not a peer reviewed beta tested method, but for a quick check, try the google test. Google “Reform Judaism sex” and see what comes up, then do the same for “Orthodox Judaism sex.” Try it with the word ‘scandal’ after the word sex. Or even Reform Judaism scandal v. Orthodox Judaism scandal. I’ve done it and the resultes are interesting. For a Christian comparison you can use Independant Fundamentalist Baptist v. United Church of Christ. Since they are both American Protestant, I figure they are a good test comparison for fundamentalist vs. liberal. Again, the differences from what google pulls up are quite distinct.

        I haven’t tried doing this with “Atheist sex scandal” maybe I’ll do it later after work.

  • Trollface McGee

    So, a father/daughter relationship is super important and valuable… therefore in all adoptions of girls, gay male couples should be given priority. If one dad is so great, two must be even more fabulous.
    Then again, that takes away the creepy incest vibe and it is a very creepy incest vibe to the point where I don’t understand how these people are not completely disgusted out by the whole idea of it. Telling a grown man to be closer to his daughter so he doesn’t cheat on his wife? Telling a teenager to sublimate her sexual feelings and focus on daddy? Just the thought invokes revulsion in my mind.

  • Hina

    Its strange because these same people would also blame the wife for not keeping their husbands sexually satisfied and forcing them to cheat. Of tell women they must sexually submit to their husband and never say no because that will drive them to seek an affair outside their marriage.

    So is it about sex or is it about wanting to gain affirmation?

    They’re so confusing. One thing they’re not confusing about though is putting the blame on women for actions of men

    • sylvia_rachel

      It’s all totally consistent, though, once you realize what the fundamental principle is: Nothing is ever the man’s fault. Ever.

      :P

  • Silent Service

    It is not just weird, it is creepy.

  • Rose

    This warped idealogy almost makes me glad my dad was a bonafide jerk whom I wanted nothing to do with while I was a teen. Although, I used to be jealous of my friends and their godly relationships with their daddies.

  • ILoveJellybeans

    That is disgusting and incestuous.

    A daughter is not supposed to replace the affections and attention of an adult woman in a father’s life. The love between two people in a romantic way is different than the relationship between a parent and their child.

    A daughter is not supposed to replace her romantic feelings with seeking her father’s attention. Sure, her dad loves her, but it is a different kind of love.

    It is unhealthy for the lines between parent and lover become blurred. A child shouldnt have to step into the role that their mother or father has, whether it is treating daddy like hes her husband but (hopefully) without the sex, taking on an adult role in the house such as raising siblings, or just becoming their parents best friend instead of their child.

    • Sarah-Sophia

      It’s not about romantic love it’s about wanting to have someone’s adoration.

      • Lorelei

        My father definitely wanted me to treat him like a lover. Complete with sex. We were fundamentalists. He was backed up by the church.
        You were saying?

      • The_L1985

        Ugh! That’s horrible. :(

        Further proof that this mindset can and does enable incest.

  • lauraleemoss

    So much if it returns to the belief that women or girls have predetermined jobs- to take care of men. It’s rubbish though, and leaves females wide open for abuse.

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

    I thank the gods that my parents pushed me to be independent. Dad, especially.

  • Sarah-Sophia

    One time I read a book called Lot’s Daughters that discusses father-daughter relationships. I don’t remember much about it but one theme is that a lot of times the daughter will grow up to have relationships with older men, even when nothing sexual happens between her and her father. The innocent daughter is suppose to civilize and redeem the older male and symbolize his future (think Shirley Temple). The daughter is suppose to be the vessel to carry on her father’s legacy (not necessarily by having his children). Near the end of the book it mentioned that focusing on pedophilia can draw attention away from the fact that there are other types of child abuse.

  • closetatheist

    So what kind of relationship keeps a wife from cheating since both her husband and daughters are becoming increasingly emotionally invested in each other and their sons must be held at arm’s length since being too close to mommy gives them *teh ghay*? …oh that’s right, women aren’t emotional and sexual beings, just sexual objects so they’d never stray anyway. Plus, they’re super bad at providing emotional support since their daughters can do a better job of keeping daddy from cheating than they can….

    Also, this whole scenario paints all middle-aged men as helpless pedophiles. Disgusting.

  • jhlee

    The idea that a daughter should serve her father’s emotional needs is deeply damaging even if it doesn’t result in any sexual contact or feelings. I mean, physical incest may be the knee-jerk Nightmare Fuel, but what Voddie Baucham is preaching is plenty abusive on its own even without the added crap of sexual abuse.

    What happens without fail when a parent feels entitled to emotional support from their child is the loss of the parent and child’s ability to differentiate between themselves, and the child’s inability to develop an emotionally independent life. That’s the concern Libby Anne points out and Thatmom’s second concern in the linked post. I’ve heard the term emotional incest used for this kind of dynamic, and having experienced it I can report with confidence that it’s damaging on its own even when it’s not sexual in any way. It’s not even gendered, though Baucham did make it extra creepy by invoking the specter of older man-younger woman affairs. It’s another example of the combination of creepiness and puerility in the evangelical sexual imagination.


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