Guest Post: “You Are Not Your Own”: Unmarried Women Belong To Their Parents?

A Guest Post by Sarah Moon

Originally posted on Sarah over the Moon, an awesome blog full of feminist analysis of evangelical culture

***Trigger Warning for rape, sexual assault***

In case you haven’t been following my You Are Not Your Own series (you can catch up here), I analyzed four Christian dating books (Real Marriage, When God Writes Your Love Story, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, and Dateable) and I came up with four significant findings related to the area of rape and sexual assault:

  1. These books create an environment ripe for rape myth acceptance
  2. They create a context in which no one truly has ownership over his/her own body
  3. They ignore the importance of consent, or create an illusion that consent exists where it does not
  4. They blur the lines between rape/sexual assault and consensual sex.

I’ve already covered the first finding (here, here, and here), so now we’ll move on to finding number two.

2. No one owns his/her body

It’s not surprising, really. When both men and women are talked about as if they are objects or animals, it’s easy to talk about people (especially women, in the context of these books) being owned by others. A “piece of meat” belongs to whoever bought dinner. A formerly “wild animal” belongs to whoever tamed him.

When men are animals and women are objects or weaker animals, they don’t get much say over their own bodies. They don’t own themselves, so who does?


Unmarried Women Belong to Their Parents

I Kissed Dating Goodbye and When God Writes Your Love Story both clearly promote the idea that unmarried women are the property of their parents, especially their fathers.

Joshua Harris, of I Kissed Dating Goodbye, calls for a return to courtship (p. 29) throughout his book. Harris believes that only ADULT women who are ready for marriage should be in romantic relationships, yet he encourages men who are pursuing a relationship with a woman to recognize her parents’ “authority” (p. 198), saying “A young man ought to show respect for the person responsible for the girl.” (p. 197)

Notice, though Harris believes only adults ready for marriage should be romantically involved, and though he refers to “a young man,” he still calls women girls. He does this throughout the entire book! Of course, “girls,” even when they are actually adult women, are not responsible for themselves.

In my friend Jason’s case, Shelly was actually the second person to find out about his desire to pursue marriage [Remember, to Harris, "pursue marriage" means starting a relationship, not proposing]….Before he went into action, he chose to give proper honor to Shelly’s parents, first by asking their permission to grow closer to their daughter for the purpose of pursuing marriage. (p. 197)

Even if a “girl”‘s parents aren’t around, there is always someone above her who is “responsible for” her: “If that means approaching her pastor or grandfather, do it.” (p. 197) Her pastor? Let me get this straight, so, even though I’m an adult woman, if my parents don’t step up to the task of owning me, my pastor can claim me as his property?

Eric and Leslie Ludy, in When God Writes Your Love Story, promote the same ideas. Leslie Ludy says, of herself, “God had given me to my parents as a treasure they were to care for, provide for, and protect.” (p. 223) She then talks about how her husband, Eric, asked permission from Leslie’s father before even telling Leslie that he had feelings for her.

[Eric] had always thought of me as an individual, independent and making all my own decisions. Now he realized God had put a protective covering over my life—the authority of my parents. (p. 222-223)

Silly Eric, thinking that a woman could be an individual who makes her own decisions! After Eric got permission to pursue a relationship with Leslie, he continued meeting with Leslie’s father:

My dad taught him how to win my heart…What girl wouldn’t feel like a princess in that kind of scenario? The two most important men in my life were spending hours doing nothing but discussing who I was, how I was made, how Eric could understand me better… (p. 225)

While this scenario might have worked out for Eric and Leslie Ludy, both of these books send the message that this is ideal for every relationship. They send the message that a woman’s father knows her better than anyone…including herself. That father knows best, and if he doesn’t, then grandfather or pastor knows best. Never the woman herself. They send the message that women are not really adults, not really individuals who can make their own choices by themselves, but property to be transfered from one owner to the next.

These books take away a huge chunk of women’s autonomy and give it to her parents, especially her father, in the name of “protection.”

Women are objectified, forced into gender roles, and treated with benevolent sexism, and rape culture prevails.

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.

  • Goatless

    As much as I love my mum, no.
    I have belonged to myself since I was born. I turned 18 and I am a legal adult, my mum has no more control over what I do than a random stranger on the street. I can go where I please, study what I please, work, buy a car or a house, drink or smoke and she can’t do anything about it except express her emotions. Because I love her, I take them into account and I rely on her for advice (she’s got a lot of life experience and she’s an accountant).
    Anybody who, when they wanted to be in a relationship with me, went to ask my mother’s permission first would be laughed at by her and then there would be a serious conversation between them and me.
    The person who knows me best is me, closely followed by my best friends and then my mother. We live in different towns in different counties, she doesn’t have Facebook or deal much with technology, I text her once or twice a week and tell her funny stories when I’m back at hers for a holiday or something.

    I love her, but she hasn’t had control over my life for a long time and she remains not the best person to ask about who I am and what I want.

    • wombat

      Silly! You can’t belong to your mum. She’s a WOMAN! You actually belong to you father, or your grandfather, or your nearest male relative, or the guy who preached at that church you went to that one time with a friend to see what it’s like.
      What do you mean none of these men are even close to you? Silly girl, even if you don’t feel close to them, they are in charge of your wellbeing. It’s God’s will!

  • Jackie C.

    This philosophy assumes a dad knows his daughter very well and basically can give hints on how to manipulate her. It would have done my husband no good to talk to either of my parents! Reminds me of those stories of men who stalk women and become close to them by learning what they like and then pretending they like it too. Good set up for getting your daughter to marry someone who enjoys power and control. Then when your daughter is 30 and desperately unhappy, she can blame you for her miserable marriage and life. No thanks.

    • Jackie C.

      Off topic of the rape culture but I also wonder if parents who believe in this philosophy are aware it makes others assume they must have bad marriages. Most of them would have married without this parental guidance. Aren’t they satisfied with their own ability to choose a marital partner? Or did they do so badly, they want to protect their children from making the same mistake? When I see grown women asking their parents to do this (as opposed to parents taking the lead) I wonder how much they feel sorry for their mother and are afraid of making her mistake.

      • Mogg

        My mother has said that she wishes that courtship teaching had been available to her. Yeah, my parents’ marriage has been hard going for over four decades now, and some of mum’s dating stories from before she met my dad are hair-raising.

      • Jackie C.

        And so why should a daughter trust this man who hasn’t been that good of a husband to choose a man who would be a good husband? Just sets the daughter up for a bad marriage.

      • Composer 99

        If you can’t set a good example for your kids, at least serve as a horrible warning.

        Edit: (‘You’ is meant as the generic ‘you’, not you specifically.)

    • Gillianren

      Leaving aside the dead father issue, there’s also this–my friends and I have been discussing of, late, what the problem is with my relationship with my mother. The answer? She doesn’t listen to me. Can you imagine the advice she would give a theoretical man seeking out my hand in marriage? Which also leaves aside the boyfriend, but whatever.

  • Trollface McGee

    Wow, if someone asked my father BEFORE me in something like marriage – I would break up with them in an instant. It just seems like such a fundamentally disrespectful thing to do.
    I guess it’s common though? My ex said his father was mad that he wasn’t consulted before his daughter became engaged. I guess I just thought of it as some traditional formality.

    • Christine

      My husband says that, had he been able to go & talk to my parents in person (specifically, to do so without me noticing and wondering), he would have asked their blessing before he proposed, because it’s a nice formality. But he was very clear that he would not have asked their permission, because that’s messed up. His parents came from patriarchal families, so he’s a lot more sensitive to some of this stuff than other people are.

      • Basketcase

        My husband did this. We had already well and truly discussed marriage, even as far as me telling him that when he asked, I would say yes, so I had no problems with him giving my parents (and his own) a heads up.
        (and before anyone asks, no, I would not have asked him. We agreed that he would ask me when he was ready to, as it felt like a scarier commitment to him) :)

    • Goatless

      I think there’s a difference between a blessing and permission. I also think that if a couple has been together long enough to consider getting married then one partner would know whether the other wanted their parents to be involved.
      Yeah, I’d have a problem if hypothetical future spouse asked my father for permission. Because I don’t have a relationship with my father and I don’t need anybody’s permission to marry.
      If, instead, hypothetical future spouse asked my mother for her blessing, I’d probably be OK with that.
      Blessing is more ‘I am going to marry your daughter whether you like it or not, but I’d really rather you were OK with it’. Permission is ‘well if you, as her parents, say no then I won’t marry her’.

      • Trollface McGee

        Blessing,I think is more tradition and ceremony. Like some people have commented, their significant others might not have even seen it as having patriarchal implications. Sort of how lots of women include the “father giving the daughter away” part without ever thinking it’s origins weren’t romance and tradition but just the standard property transfer.
        Blessing is more of “I want to be part of the family,” permission is “how many cows do I need to give you in exchange for your daughter.”

      • steeled

        In the church where I married (UK, progressive) the ‘giving away’ part of the ceremony has been replaced by a ‘bringing’ format,where a member of the bride’s family (not necessarily, but still commonly, the father) ‘brings’ her to be married as an expression of their blessing. However, the fact that there is no parallel ceremony for the groom’s family suggests that it’s the same old women-as-property assumption under a more socially acceptable guise.

      • alwr

        In the Catholic church, a bride may choose to have someone escort her down the aisle, but there is no “giving away” or “bringing” or any acknowledgment of that person whatsoever. In fact, the inclusion of a “who gives this woman in marriage” would potentially be grounds for annulment as it would prove that the woman may not have chosen to marry by her own accord.

      • Christine

        Beat me to the RCC comment. I did, however, want to add that in weddings where the bride is given away it’s by both parents. It’s often still quite partriarchal though, as it’s often the father saying that “her mother and I do”.

      • Sheryl Westleigh

        When my best friend got married her whole family (parents and both sets of grandparents) stood up and answered “we do” in unison. I thought that was a good choice.

      • Christine

        A friend’s wedding had everyone, not just the family (i.e. the community, as represented by the guests) give the couple away. From where I am, I still don’t like it, but at least it’s a much more healthy to do it that way.

      • j.lup

        I’ve always thought that if there’s an ‘aisle’ to walk down, that the marrying couple should walk down it together.

      • alwr

        You have that option in a Catholic wedding also as you may have a traditional mass processional with the entire wedding party following the cross bearer and the priest at the end. I’ve never seen it done, but it is allowed.

      • Kate Monster

        I was in a wedding like that once, where everyone marched in. That part was really nice. HOWEVER: The priest, in his post-ceremony homily, mentioned that the young couple’s love would most truly and fully be expressed in them having a baby. The woman I was sitting with and I turned to each other all, “Did he just tell them that they’re not really fulfilled as a couple until they procreate?” He did. He expounded on the topic for a while too.

      • Christine

        Not only do you have that option, but if you chose to be modern & walk in with your parents instead, the groom is expected to wait for the bride (if I’d won the coin toss I’m assuming I’d have been told to wait for him) part way up the aisle – we were told to do 2/3 of the way to the front – and then they walk up traditionally, instead of separately. (Even if it’s not a mass).

      • alwr

        You are right. We were instructed to do that as well, because the couple is to go up the steps of the altar together.

      • Jenny Islander

        I think that the curse, so to speak, can be taken off of the old ceremonies if all parties agree beforehand that they assign it a different meaning. There was a couple who both happened to be children of immigrants from the same African cultural area where a bride price of cattle was traditional, the more the better, as a sign of how highly the groom esteemed the bride (and of course to compensate her family for loss of labor, but still). So they arranged that the calculated value of some huge number of top-quality cattle would be handed to the father of the bride on the wedding day . . . as a check to Heifer International. Talk about sharing the joy of the occasion!

      • guest

        That story made my day.

      • Noelle

        That’s awesome! I like the idea of a big old donation for chickens, goats, cattle, grain, etc to people who could actually use it. Or a local Feed America donation instead of a $50 a plate fancy dinner.

  • psykins

    I think female ownership is part of the reason my parents had such a hard time accepting me as a grown, independent person. My dad actually said that as my father he was responsible for his female children until they were married but his male children only until they left the house. They did a lot of things that made me angry, but that blatant sexism REALLY pissed me off.

  • steeled

    weirdly enough, my husband did ring my father to formally ‘ask his permission’ before proposing. I dont know who was more surprised, me or my dad. but for my husband, I think it was a more ‘this is the traditional and proper way to do things’ rather than anything to do with ownership, which never entered his head.

    • Cathy W

      And also, this isn’t the traditional “ask Dad for his daughter’s hand before you put the ring on her finger” – this is “ask Dad for permission to date her and his advice about how to do it.” I can see a little room for this with a teenager – but absolutely not in the case of an adult woman!

      • Sarah-Sophia

        The tradition is still disrespectful.

      • Kate Monster

        Yeah. I have a friend who said she thought it was sweet that her fiance asked her father before proposing to her (the proposal was a surprise, not a “when, not if” scenario, which I think makes a difference). EW. If a guy did that to me, we’d need to have a serious conversation about a lot of things…

  • That Other Jean

    Ugh. Leslie may “feel like a princess” with her suitor and her father in conference about her, but she doesn’t know or fails to remember the role of a princess back when royalty had actual power–to be sent off to marry someone she may or may not ever have met, much less liked; to bear heirs to her husband’s throne, whether or not she and her husband like one another; to serve to cement an alliance which might or might not last, which could leave her a disliked foreigner in enemy territory; to serve as an advocate/spy for her own country in a foreign court. Not a role Leslie would seem likely to enjoy.

    • Nancy Shrew

      Or to become a nun.

      • Kate Monster

        It’s like the opening scene of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, where Theseus tells Hermia that if she doesn’t want to marry her father’s choice for her husband, her two options are death or a convent.

        Fundies must HATE that show (If you’re not familiar, true love wins out and Hermia marries the man she wants. Other stuff happens too, but that’s how her storyline ends at least).

      • Nancy Shrew

        Oh, yeah, that’s a great play. I don’t doubt that fundies must hate it, especially with some homoerotic interpretations I’ve read about in regards to Oberon and Puck.

      • gimpi1

        Not to mention the whole “Fay” thing. Magic, fairies, OHH, scary scary…

    • Kate Monster

      Honestly old-school princessery seems to be the model for this whole thing. I think that that’s exactly what she means when she says “princess”. Just she thinks of valued-as-Daddy’s-virginal-political-pawn as a good thing hearkening back to a holier age or some such nonsense.

  • onamission5

    The values my parents and I hold are so vastly different from each other, I shudder to think the kind of guy they would have chosen for me to marry. I am SO thankful that they started to lighten up with their controls by the last few years of high school and took a more worldly approach to dating. Still pretty conservative, but much less rigid and dictatorial. I think they knew they were going to lose me altogether (either figuratively or literally) if they kept trying to suppress my independent nature to the same degree as I passed through my late teens and into adulthood.
    Maybe not though. Had these books been around in the late 80′s, I can see my folks eating them up like cake. Maude knows I got fed enough submission doctrine before then to last a lifetime. I honestly think they only like Spouse as much as they do because they are under the impression that he’s a Manly Man(TM) authority figure who keeps my headstrong self under control. I don’t think it has even occurred to them that he neither treats me like a princess nor like a naughty child but like his full equal and *that* is why we get along so swimmingly. He doesn’t love me in spite of my independence and autonomy, he loves me because of it.

    • j.lup

      ‘Maude knows.’ LOVE IT!

      • onamission5

        Heh. :)
        Wish I could take credit, but I can’t. It’s been handed down to me from a rather stellar group of friends some 10 years ago.

  • Ibis3

    What girl wouldn’t feel like a princess in that kind of scenario? The
    two most important men in my life were spending hours doing nothing but
    discussing who I was, how I was made, how Eric could understand me

    What woman? Well, I for one wouldn’t feel like a princess.* I would feel like a cow or a ewe, some piece of livestock. In short, I’d feel like both of these men think of me as a chattel, not a human being. I’d be repulsed and disgusted.

    *Of the fairy-tale variety, which is presumably what was meant, not the real-life historical variety, which as That Other Jean points out, wouldn’t be a very nice way to feel in any case.

  • CarysBirch

    The year my grandparents has their fiftieth anniversary, all the kids and Grandkids and in a few cases great Grandkids came home for Thanksgiving. My dad is one of six, and all six were married and had kids of their own so all told there were about fifty people to seat for Thanksgiving dinner. Seating arrangement was the most important thing on the agenda for the wives.

    I am, for the record, the oldest grandchild by several years. I was about twenty six years old at the time, and I am less than ten years younger than my youngest aunt (my dad’s baby sister).

    I was seated at the kids table. Why? After my dad’s siblings and their wives there were only three seats left at the adults table, so they went to the adult grandchildren: my brother (24, unmarried), my female cousin (23, married, her husband was not there as he was military), and my other brother (19, unmarried). The next oldest cousin set at the kids table was 15. When I protested, I was told that unmarried girls aren’t adults the way unmarried men are.

    I spent most of Thanksgiving crying in the garage.

    • Miss_Beara

      What?! I don’t even know what to say. That is awful. Saying that your 19 year old brother who was 7 years younger than you was an adult but your 26 year old self was still a child… unreal.

    • alwr

      I’m sorry, why the F was there a seating arrangement anyway? At our family gatherings, people sit where they want to sit. At my grandparents’ house when everyone was present, there was a large dining room table, a card table, and some trays in the living room. Everyone sat where they wanted. No “kids” table or designated seats for anyone. No formality equals no discrimination on any grounds. Try it. You might like it.

      • Jayn

        I’m trying to wrap my head around having seating/table room for that many people in the first place o.0 My father’s side usually has informal seating during family meals for sheer lack of space (Mom’s doesn’t bother without renting a space out).

      • CarysBirch

        It was one of those things where if we didn’t all sit down we wouldn’t all have fit. :P

      • Gillianren

        In my family, there was designated seating because it prevented fist fights. But the last Christmas we had at my grandparents’, there were at least four tables–each of my grandparents’ kids got a separate table with their own kids. There wasn’t enough room at the Big Table for all the adults (by then–I was in high school–they were counting me and my older sister as adults, too), and we were not having the argument about whose kids were adults and whose weren’t.

    • Saraquill

      That’s appalling.

    • Whirlwitch

      Sheesh, they could have at least said it was so you could keep an eye on the kids. I could see that being the role of the oldest unmarried woman, still a problematic assumption, but better than what you got.

      That would have been my last Thanksgiving with family.

    • wanderer

      OMG that’s horrible!!!

    • Rosa

      It’s so awful to confront that kind of sexism in your own family, especially if they seem otherwise to value you as a person.

      Watching people in my partner’s family get moved up to the adult table has been really interesting – his brother who got married at 22 or 23 got moved up on marriage; my partner didn’t get moved up until we had a baby, since we weren’t married. But at least it seems to be equal judgements on men and women.

      • CarysBirch

        I’m pretty used to sexism in my family. My mother believes that paying women an equal wage is what’s destroying the “American family”. I snarkily asked her how she explained the fact that the “American family” is already destroyed by her standard when we don’t even HAVE equal pay for women yet! She wasn’t very impressed.

        Also not impressive to her is that I bring home more than my current boyfriend. He makes more hourly, but not a lot, and I get more hours. She thinks I’m “perverting the natural order” by supporting him. In reality, we come out pretty equal — in wages and in our share of the financial responsibilities.

    • Sheryl Westleigh

      My family on my Dad’s side is enormous (my grandparents were very fertile) so family gatherings can up upwards of 100 people but I’ve thankfully never had to deal with anything like that. Mostly because they never had a “kids” table, you sat with your parents until you were 12 or so then you go to sit wherever you wanted.

      • CarysBirch

        We had arranged seating on this occasion precisely because there were so many of us. Basically if everyone didn’t sit exactly as assigned we’d all trip over each other and die. Didn’t make it hurt any less to be singled out as the resident old maid.

    • Jacqui H

      I’m truly sorry this happened to you!

  • Noelle

    The whole idea of this tradition seems so squirmy, weird, awkward, and foreign to me. How could any party be happy with it?

    My day’s a nice guy and all, but we’re not close. And he’s the mumbling, quiet-type you don’t really talk to. Had some man gone talking to him about dating or marrying me, he’d be all “why don’t you ask her?” And he would’ve mumbled that and been all weird when asked to repeat what he mumbled.

    My husband doesn’t have the track of record of being great with parents. He feels all uncomfortable about not knowing what to say in just regular conversation. The getting to the point of asking a woman he knew and liked out and proposing were hard enough. Talking to strange parents? Way too horrible to imagine.

    Me? No. Not gonna happen. I never would’ve dated anyone who asked them first, and the same goes for marriage. I’m not interested in being a Princess. (Do modern-day princesses even have to go through this?). Questions for me go through me.

    • Alice

      My dad is the same way. There’s no way he’d talk to /anyone/ for hours about /anything/.

      I’ve never understood the whole princess thing with grown women. It is infantilizing and kind of creepy since that term is often used to describe a daughter’s relationship with her father. Why not say “treats her like a queen” instead? Oh right, patriarchy. I don’t really like that simile either, but it’s certainly an improvement.

      • Noelle

        How about: treats me like a fellow human being of equal value, of whom he enjoys spending time and other like activities, or something

  • A Reader

    Things like this make me actually, physically nauseous. I remember reading that exact book (“Kissed Dating Goodbye”) for a youth group at my parents’ church. And I actually did, at one point, have a guy ask MY DAD for my number, even though he saw me all the time. It flabbergasted (I love that word) me, because even though I was used to hearing about these types of themes, most of them weren’t practiced quite so literally. Except the virginity thing.

  • J-Rex

    I’m a bit surprised at the trigger warning. I didn’t see anything in this post that could be triggering besides the words “rape” and “sexual assault,” but those were already mentioned in the trigger warning, so if someone is triggered by those words, doesn’t a trigger warning mentioning those things defeat the purpose?
    It just seemed like a very easy-to-read post, but the trigger warning might scare some people away because they’re expecting it to be a lot worse than it is. Maybe some sort of scale or warnings? Mild, moderate, severe

    • Whirlwitch

      The trigger warning is Sarah’s not Libby Anne’s, and I suspect applies to the series as a whole. Trigger warnings are not about the words themselves, they are about the way the subject matter can trigger someone who has triggers around the issues mentioned. I am an incest survivor, and I do see where the discussion in this article could be problematic. It’s fine if you don’t, points to some nasty life experience you do not have.

  • ako

    I keep picturing someone trying this with my father, and him going “Why are you even asking me instead of her?” (Or actualy, if a guy tried this, going “She’s a lesbian, so I don’t think you’ll have much luck.”) It’s much more comforting than thinking about the sheer creepiness of families that take this seriously, and the whole “Lucky women are valued property, unlucky women are disposable property” idea.

  • Mary C

    When my husband asked for my parent’s permission to propose to me, to his credit, my (step)dad said “Well, what does Mary think about this?”

    And yeah, the idea that my future husband and my dad might spend hours talking about me or how to “court” me seriously creeps me out! I don’t get how that is supposed to make anyone feel like a princess? It would feel like a gross invasion of my privacy. What could they even spend that long talking about? If my future husband wanted to get to know me better, why wouldn’t he just spend that time talking to me?

    Now that said, my husband and my father share the same profession, one that views itself as a brotherhood, and they do spend hours talking; in fact, I’d say they are good friends. I STILL don’t want them to spend that time with ME as the topic of conversation!

    I don’t know that my husband has ever made me feel like a princess exactly – I would say that among other things, he’s made me feel beautiful, graceful, strong, smart, safe, and even taken care of and protected (a feeling I hope he gets from me too). But the whole “princess” thing – to push that expectation on newly dating (or “courting”) couples is a whole bunch of unnecessary pressure and unrealistic expectations, aside from the patriarchal sexist thing.

    • Gillianren

      For what it’s worth, I knew a guy where our primary topic of conversation was his ex-wife and ex-stepson, because we didn’t have much else in common. It wasn’t “we’re dwelling on these people,” it was “we see each other occasionally and don’t have much else to talk about.” However, since your husband and father spend hours talking, that probably wouldn’t be the case for them.

  • wanderer

    It would totally creep me out if my boyfriend and my dad were getting together for hours to talk about how I was made and how I wanted to be “won”.

    • Snipe

      Same here. It would feel like they were plotting and planning on how to trap me rather than a genuine attempt to treat me like an individual.

  • Marta L.

    You know, sometimes when I hear my fellow Christians talking about this kind of thing, I find myself of two minds. I bend over backwards to make space for the idea, I think because in a more moderated form it makes some degree of sense. I didn’t spring out of the cabbage patch, and my family is part of who I am. So if I ever got serious about a guy, I’d expect him to get my family’s approval – because I trust my parents’ knowledge of me and their judgment, and because I wouldn’t want to cause my parents angst because they thought someone they loved was headed into a potentially life-wrecking situation. But this would be about wisdom and respect, not ownership (and, to be clear, applies to the groom-to-be as much as the bride-to-be. This makes me think I’ve given too much credit to the idea of asking permission.

    Because, this? Is bullshit.

    • ako

      Fundamentalists have a knack for taking something basically good and twisting it into something utterly poisonous. (See also encouraging teenage girls not to define themselves by their sexuality…by teaching them to think that the most important thing about them is not having had sex yet.)

    • Gillianren

      It does also assume that everyone has a good relationship with their parents. I have a friend whose mother would have discouraged his girlfriend from going out with him, had she been consulted–because she doesn’t think her son is good enough for his girlfriend. (He isn’t, but the girlfriend is one of the best people I know and the joke is that no one is good enough for her. But they’re happy, so who cares?) I’ve also known people who have as little contact with their families as they can, because the family relationship is so toxic.

      • Marta L.

        You’re right, Gillian. I suppose I think the average person does have a parent who at least knows them and wants what’s best for them. Not always. But of course if this isn’t true, i would never expect that person to want their SO to aim for parental approval. The reasons why that makes sense just wouldn’t apply.

  • KarenH

    I don’t want to feel like a princess. And if I thought a suitor and my dad were busy conspiring to “teach [the suitor] how to love me” I would dig my heels in and NOTHING that suitor did could make me want or love him. Nothing. Because the way to learn to know me and love me is to be with ME, spend time with ME, focus on ME…..not bond with my Daddy.

    And the one who taught me that was my Dad. Who raised me to be a responsible, self-sufficient adult able to earn her own way and be her own person….and when it was time to leave the parental nest, even if I didn’t have a husband leading the way.

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