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Navy SEAL’s “Rules for Dating My Daughter” Is 10 Steps Back for Women

luttrellDo you have rules for who your kids can and can not date?

Marcus Luttrell, the retired Navy SEAL whose memoir Lone Survivor was made into an Oscar-nominated movie starring Mark Wahlberg, does. Luttrell caused a sensation on Facebook by posting a list of requirements that any potential match to his daughter should meet. The post has been shared about 4,900 times and “liked” by over 39,000 people. Luttrell is certainly thinking ahead — his daughter is only 2 years old!

Okay, so in part, he’s joking and over-exaggerating. He asks that anyone who wants to date his daughter should, “Paint the house, mend some fence, cut the lawn, rope a tornado, bottle up a hurricane, and put out a forest fire w/ a squirt gun.” But the heart of his message is a very serious one, and it is, I believe, why the post has become so popular. At it’s core he’s talking about control: restricting whom his daughter can see based on fear that she’s going to get hurt or make a choice that he doesn’t agree with, a sentiment he wraps in the guise of fatherly love but which is actually disturbing and sexist. Take, for example, some of his other demands.

First, he says that any boy — and his list assumes that his daughter will want to date a boy when she begins dating, though at the age of 2, it’s far too early to tell her sexual preferences — will have to meet and get the blessing of all of his Navy SEAL teammates while they show him the armory. In other words, Luttrell literally has an army at the ready to defend his daughter!

Luttrell goes on to say that if the boy makes the cut, then he can talk to his daughter over the phone, provided Luttrell holds the phone. Micro-manage her much?

Finally, he says he wants to get a chastity belt made “w/ a SEAL trident engraved on it [that] reads ‘Ask father for key.’ He’s the 6’5 250lbs tattooed maniac that’s chained to the wall. w/ the bad temper and foaming from the mouth [that] sleeps under the tarp in the back yard w/ the fire ants and snakes.”

This sentiment places us in the same crazy territory as those guys who go to purity balls with their teenage girls, exchanging vows in which the daughter swears to be pure until marriage, and the dad promises to protect and defend his daughter’s virginity until she has a husband. This kind of attitude directly descends from medieval concepts that a woman is a man’s property, to be passed from dad to husband, with no autonomy of her own. Even if Luttrell is half-joking, this isn’t funny, and the fact that it’s been passed around so many times proves his sentiments resonate with many parents.

And why shouldn’t it? We all want the best for our children, and letting them go off into the world and make decisions on their own — decisions which might hurt them, or cause us discomfort— can be a frightening prospect. It’s easier to slam down the gates and stamp our feet, to revert back into our own childhood state where we say, “No. We’ll make all the decisions for you. We know what’s right. We’ll keep you safe.”

The thing is, we don’t always know what’s right, and we can’t always keep them safe. We all must make mistakes and sometimes suffer, that’s part of life. Our kids will grow up and make decisions on their own, and we must respect their right to be free-thinking individuals when they do, otherwise they won’t respect themselves. In a society still struggling to throw off sexist attitudes, this is especially important for raising fierce, independent young women. If you have a daughter, raise her with a strong sense of confidence and self-esteem, so that she knows who she is, and treats herself well. Then she’ll be able to make smart, and hopefully safe, decisions regarding whom she has romantic relationships with, whether she decides to see men or women.

For an alternative list of dating rules, The Huffington Post points to a “Feminist Father” shirt that reads:

  1. I don’t make the rules
  2. You don’t make the rules
  3. She makes the rules
  4. Her body, her rules

This is such a better message, because it’s the truth. It’s her body, and no matter how much you might want to control what she does with it, you can’t. Put that aside and don’t worry about it, because if you do a good job as a parent, you won’t have to: your little girl will grow up to be alright.

 

Image via Marcus Luttrell’s Facebook Fan Page

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