Straight Talk Advice

Nov 30, 2011

Dad’s suggestive touching embitters daughter

DEAR STRAIGHT TALK: I'm 17 and lucky to have an involved dad who believes in his kids. But he finds a way to pat my bottom or touch me closer to my chest than I am comfortable with any boy doing. Because of this, I avoid standing next to him or touching him at all. I am constantly bitter toward him and have lost respect for him. My parents think I'm being an immature teenager and hate him for no reason — but it's because of this. I keep my bedroom door closed because I don't feel secure about him coming in. Family vacations are ruined because he walks around the hotel room with his hand down his underwear. I see my friends with great relationships with their dads and I want that. But whenever I sit by him or lean against him, he takes it as another opportunity. Am I just being paranoid? I want a relationship with my dad, but only if I can be comfortable. — Katie

Katie 18, Auburn, Calif. Ask me a question

This man is out of line. That he's your dad makes it so much worse! Thank God nothing like this happened with my father. Say something please! Instead of accusing him, say, “Dude, you accidentally touched me; that's awkward.” If it continues, keep making a stink.

Sarah 20, Redding, Calif,. Ask me a question

You need to say something. You have the right to set personal boundaries and he needs to respect them. Hopefully, mentioning it will stop it altogether. If it doesn't, do not earn your dad's love by compromising yourself! A friend's father repeatedly put her in dangerous situations. She went along with it in order to have a relationship with him. Finally she had the realization that he wasn't being a true father at all and severed ties with him. Though painful, she is much happier and healthier. Do what is best for you. Your first responsibility is to yourself.

Elise 20, Orlando, Florida Ask me a question

Trust yourself. You're not being paranoid. It will be super difficult, but you need to tell him. Maybe your mom can help you.

Justin 24, Redding, Calif. Ask me a question

Have you talked to him about it? He may be completely unaware. Communication is what creates strong relationships – maybe that's why your friends have good ones. Inappropriate touching is never okay, but maybe he doesn't know he's being inappropriate.

Katelyn 17, Huntington Beach, Calif. Ask me a question

Maybe your dad is being rude unintentionally, or maybe it's part of an underlying problem. My dad pats my knee sometimes, and most dads probably don't do that, but I know it's to show he cares. Figuring out why your dad does this might settle the tension.

Gregg 20, Los Angeles Ask me a question

Your father finding opportunities to touch you like that is, quite frankly, gross. I know my sister wouldn't stand for it.

Christina 19, Marysville, Calif. Ask me a question

If you aren't comfortable, there's a problem. Period. Tell your mom if you can't tell him. Regarding the hand-down-the-underwear thing, I find it rude, too, but I've seen many dads do it.

DEAR KATIE: Whether your father lacks boundaries around love, feels entitled, is a sexual opportunist, or simply hasn't a clue in the world, we may never know. What matters is that he stop. Your discomfort is enough for his touching to be inappropriate and you have our unanimous support on that. But you owe it to the relationship to give him a chance to change. If he doesn't correct his behavior immediately after you tell him verbally (with your mother's help perhaps), tell him two more times (recoiling abruptly while throwing a withering glare is acceptable follow up). If he persists after three clear protests, demand family counseling. Regarding his underwear ritual, I would focus on the other issue and let this one “drop.”

Editor's Note: I hope all dads reading this will take note — or moms and other relatives will clue you in. As you can see from Katie's letter, a father doesn't have to be an outright groper to cause problems. Subtle sexual attention toward a girl's developing body can have a big impact. Best for dads: steer very clear of pubescent features on your daughter. Don't expect her to speak up. She might be so “weirded” out that she instead starts silently hating you, as Katie has done. I implore Katie to communicate, but it shouldn't be her responsibility to be the mature one and it's sad that she is being put in this position.

Regarding walking around with your hand down your pants, Dads, of course you have the right to "adjust" yourself in your own castle, but you might consider the effect it is having on your teenage daughter and (hopefully) decide to adjust your behavior instead of your testicles — at least until she's in the other room. Not all girls are bothered by it, but some are, and I would hope that making your daughter feel secure around you would win out over a few seconds of unconscious rearranging. —Lauren

  1. By Cindy, age , from Carmichael, CA on 12/01/2011

    Our dad doesn’t touch us inappropriately.  However, both he and our mom believe in casual nudity in the home.  They both think nothing about walking around naked. It didn’t bother us when we were younger and were casual ourselves because our parents told us that it doesn’t matter when it’s your family.  However, since we’ve reached puberty it really bothers me and my sister to see our dad this way now that were teenagers (15 and 13).  Since were girls it doesn’t bother us to see our mom naked, but we have a 10 year old brother and while it doesn’t seem to bother him now to see her, it probably will pretty soon.  We aren’t prudes and don’t have a problem with nudity in front of each other in our room or with our mom or our girlfriends.  And our dad used to walk in on us without knocking and sometimes caught us naked and seemed to see nothing wrong with it, so we had to make sure and lock our door when we undress.  We think that opposite sex nudity is not appropriate once you reach puberty at the very latest just like touching in private parts of the body.

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  2. By Sharon, age , from Santa Ana, CA on 12/01/2011

    Our problem is with our stepfather.  He has never touched us, so it’s hard to complain.  But he looks us up and down and stares at our breasts and crotch in a way that makes us very uncomfortable.  If it was just me I might think I was overreacting or being paranoid, but my sister feels exactly the same way.  He usually does it when he’s had too much to drink and he has too much to drink just about every night!  We haven’t said anything to our mom because he hasn’t really done anything, so what do you say?  However, we’re very nervous when we’re home alone with him and he’s been drinking and we try to stay in our room with the door locked and feel like prisoners.  And in the morning he walks down the hall from the bedroom to the bathroom in nothing but his boxer shorts which also makes us uncomfortable, but he isn’t actually exposing anything to us, so again it’s hard to complain or accuse him of anything, but the whole situation makes us very uncomfortable.


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  3. By Emily, age , from Santa Rosa, CA on 12/06/2011

    I agree that inappropriate touching is wrong.  How somone looks at another is subject to interpretation and I’m not sure that Sharon’s stepdad is doing anything intentional and if it bothers her she should tell him and maybe that could resolve it. However, I disagree on the issue of casual nudity among family members, including opposite sex family members.  I’m a 16 year old girl and have a twin brother and a 14 year old sister.  Everyone in our family has always been casual about nudity, and our family goes to a family nudist resort every summer, and it is the highlight of our year.  Contrary to what many think, there is nothing sexual about casual nudity in the home or at such a resort.  I honestly believe that being raised this way has given us a healthy attitude toward our bodies and toward sexuality.  I share a room with my brother rather than my sister because we are closer and prefer it that way and are totally casual about nudity in the bedroom with no problem.  From what I read in past Straight Talk columns, this may be a problem for some, but not for us.  We were also raised that going to the bathroom is nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about since it is a natural body function that everybody does.  We never lock the batroom door and if someone needs to come in for some other reason when someone’s on the toilet, that’s OK even among opposite sexes.  Since we only have one bathroom and my brother, sister, and I need to get ready the same time in the morning, it’s not unusual for all 3 of us to share the bathroom at the same time with one of us in the shower, one of us at the sink/mirror, and one of us on the toilet.  When a friend spent the night and realized that we shared the bathroom this way she got totally “wierded out” about it and said that she sometimes shared the bathroom with her sister this way, but couldn’t imagine it with a male.

    Even though many would disagree, I really feel that the way we were raised with regard to nudity and bathroom functions has led to a healthy attitude about such matters and I am glad that I was raised this way and will raise my children this way.

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