Dear John: Is Thirteen Too Young For Sexy Underwear?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


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What’s your problem? Write to John at [email protected]

Dear John,

My wife and I are both each other’s second marriage. I have a seventeen-year-old son and she has a thirteen-year-old daughter, and we all live together. We got married less than a year ago. We both try to treat both kids as equally both of ours, but it’s hard sometimes because this is all new for all of us. And sometimes we’re both not sure if we’re overstepping – we both realize that for our kids, it’s going to take a while to see the new parent as equal in authority as the parent they’ve known their whole life.

All of that is just by way of background so you know our circumstances. Now for my problem/question – like I said, my daughter (I hate to say step-daughter because I just think of her as my daughter now) is thirteen, but just barely. She just had her birthday. And her Mom buys her thong underwear, which she likes. But I think this is a terrible idea. Her mom insists its not sexual, it’s just about “looking nice” and underwear lines don’t look nice. She makes it out to be about dressing neatly. I don’t doubt that my wife really believes that, but I think she is badly mistaken. I don’t think it has anything to do with a neat look, I think it’s to make the behind as sexually appealing as possible for men to look at and the idea of this sweet little (she’s still little to me) girl dressing in a way designed to please men sexually disgusts me more than I can say. We are at an impasse – we both just think the other is mistaken. I feel really strongly about this and I feel like as a man I KNOW what men think and what they’re like. Like I said, I think my wife is well meaning, I just think she’s being very naïve here. But I feel like I’m on thin ice because I’m not her “real” father and so maybe I should back off. But I want to do what’s right for this kid. What do you do in a situation like this?


Too Young

Dear Too Young,

I completely agree that thong underwear is entirely inappropriate for a girl your daughter’s age. In my opinion, it definitely sexualizes her, and it’s one more message telling her that her worth is to be judged primarily by how sexually appealing she is to men. And that’s very sad.

Yet, as you say, you’re at an impasse, and if your wife refuses to reconsider her position on this, I don’t think there’s much you can do – about her underwear, at least.

But that’s not to say you can’t do anything. Because I think your daughter would benefit tremendously if you and your wife made her a part of this discussion. Explain to her that you and her mom disagree on whether she should be wearing thong underwear and you’re willing to defer to her mom on this, but explain exactly what your concerns are. Use this conversation as the start of a dialogue about the pressure girls are under to be complicit in their own hypersexualization. Direct her attention to how often that message is reinforced on TV, online, in movies…everywhere. And remind her often that while sexuality is one of life’s great joys, it is not the primary measure of a woman’s value.

Make this an ongoing conversation with her and she’ll know she has a dad who loves her and cares about her. That’s a far more powerful message than any that can be sent by age-inappropriate underwear.


Dear John,

In reading your column, I’ve often wondered why someone would write to an advice column when they could simply discuss their issues with their friends, siblings and other people who know them. But now I have a question that is so personal I don’t feel like I can discuss it with anyone except maybe my girlfriend, but that won’t work because it’s about her and our relationship.

She is the first woman I’ve ever dated who is an enthusiast of sex toys. As far as I know, none of my former girlfriends even owned a vibrator – it just never came up, and we had great sexual relationships for the most part. Well, my current one owns several, and is really into using them. And now she wants us to use them as a couple.

I am not too crazy about this idea. I don’t mind the idea of using them on her, even though I have to admit, I think there’s something a little silly about them. Maybe because my whole life they’ve been more props for jokes than something to take seriously. But she wants to use them on me, and that’s not something I’m remotely interested in. She keeps bringing it up, saying how can I know I won’t like something I’ve never tried? My response is that I might like a lot of things I’ll never try, but I love sex with her the way it is now, so I don’t see any need to bring an appliance into it. Think I should be a little more open-minded about this, or should she drop it once and for all?


Don’t Need Any Help

Dear Don’t Need Any Help,

I think you should be a little more open-minded about it, mainly because I think that in a relationship, when your partner requests something of you and the request is reasonable, then you should do it. This request may make you uncomfortable, it may be unprecedented in your experience, but it certainly strikes me as reasonable.

I’m not discounting the reluctance you feel about this. I don’t really know the source of these feelings, but from what little you say about them (including your sign-off, which I did not add to your letter), I’d say you think sex toys are a little ridiculous and a bit of an affront to your sexual proficiency – like, if you’re good in bed, they should be unnecessary. But I’m sure that’s not how your girlfriend sees them at all, any more than she thinks frosting is unnecessary if the cake is good enough. I would let her know you’re reluctantly willing to give it a try simply because it’s important to her. Talk with her about your reservations, and make sure she understands this requires a great deal of trust on your part and whatever she has in mind, you’d like to take it slow. And all I’m saying is you should give it an honest try. If do and don’t like it, then she has her answer and that should be that.


Dear John,

I like a guy I worked with pretty closely on a project recently, and I know he likes me because he just asked me out. We’re at the same level in this company (near the bottom!), we work in different departments and we’re both single and unattached. Everyone always says don’t date your co-workers, but what I want to know is why not? Because if I don’t get a good answer, I think that’s what I’m gonna do!


Co-worker For Now

Dear Co-worker For Now,

Most people will tell you not to date a co-worker simply because there are too many things that can go wrong, and what seems like harmless fun at first can quickly undermine your job security.

I certainly get the appeal of it – in what other part of our lives are we thrown in with so many eligible members of the opposite sex day after day? But if things get serious, judgment has a way of getting thrown out the window while pants have a way of getting thrown on the floor of the empty office down the hall. Even worse, if you get serious and then break up, all the spiteful, angry things dumped people do get done at the office, which will definitely not garner the dumpee any employee-of-the-month nominations.

I suspect you’re reading this thinking, “Oh, that wouldn’t happen in this case.” Which is what every person who has pursued an office romance has told herself to justify it. Mind you, I’m not saying it can’t possibly work out. Of course it can. But it would be against the odds.


John is a middle-aged family man from Providence, Rhode Island. If you learn from your mistakes, he’s brilliant. Write to him at [email protected]. He's away from the advice desk this week, so he's chosen some of his favorite letters from previous columns to share.


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