AITA—that’s “Am I The Assh*le?” for those of you who are in the dark–is a treasure trove on Reddit for people seeking advice.
Sometimes they come off well. Sometimes they come off badly.
Either way, these posts tend to be rather enlightening and often ignite intense debate.
Take, for instance, the example of pffunk14, a father who voiced his opposition to daddy-daughter dances, saying that they’re “creepy and sexual.”
The poster took to the AITA forum to ask if he was the assh*le in the following situation: He says that one day he “saw this valentines day ad for a daddy-daughter dance night and I told my wife that I don’t like them.”
He has his reasons for feeling this way, to be fair:
“They are creepy and sexualize the relationship between daughter and father. There are hearts all over the poster.”
“It’s on valentines day. The dad and daughter are dressed like they are going to prom together.”
“It’s oddly ‘date-like.’ Not to mention it these dances have their roots purity balls where fathers claim sexual ownership of daughters until marriage.”
“The whole thing just grosses me out and makes my skin crawl. I love my daughter with all my heart, but I don’t want to date her.”
“I also don’t want to reinforce weird gender and patriarchal stereotypes in my daughters [sic] young mind.”
He adds that his wife expressed displeasure after he shared his thoughts:
“My daughter is 2. This sh*t is all hypothetical for the future. I was just expressing my distaste for them to my wife upon seeing this poster.”
“She lost it. She was shaking and crying. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her look at me with such disdain.”
“She thinks I would be denying my daughter a special bonding experience. She was worried my daughter would feel so hurt and left out by this.”
“I don’t think I’d ever not go if it’s something that my daughter really really wanted, but I still think as parents it’s our duty to do better than ‘it’s tradition.’ I’ve never been one to buy into that crap.”
“People do a lot of horrible nonsense because they’re told it’s what they’re supposed to do.”
“I don’t see the big deal in not wanting to participate in a weird archaic past-time that sexualizes my relationship with my daughter.”
“I can kind of see my wife’s point, but she was so mad I literally didn’t understand it. Help me out, AITA?”
The debate around this was as intense as you might expect, with some agreeing that the man’s wife went overboard…
“NTA I think it’s very reasonable of you to say you think they’re gross but if your daughter (not your wife) really wanted to go to one you’d go for her. I think it’s a little weird that your wife got so worked up about it, and that seems like something you two will need to work out between you.”
“Anyway, here I go image searching ‘purity ball’ to creep myself out before I go to bed, thanks.”
“You’re absolutely justified in thinking they are creepy and refusing to attend. To play devil’s advocate, I went to them through Girl Scouts as a child and remember them fondly because I got to spend time with my dad.”
“Maybe the fact that it wasn’t religious made a difference. I’m pretty aggressively feminist, so it doesn’t look like it did any damage on that front. Granted, they were never on Valentine’s Day (that is weird) and I definitely think purity balls and the like are disgusting.”
“If I’m remembering correctly, my mom said something about it setting a standard of how you should be treated on a date by someone who respects you.”
“Something does sound funny now that I say that but, at the same time, I see the value in teaching your daughter how someone who loves them (whether friend, romantic partner, family, etc.) will behave during a night out.”
“I think it actually is very similar to a father giving away his daughter at her wedding. The historical context is gross, but the sentiment doesn’t have to be.”
“I think the fact that a wedding is no longer ‘giving permission’ for the couple to have sex makes it a pretty big difference. I see it as the father acknowledging the husband’s commitment to love her as much as he does instead of implying that a woman needs a man to take care of her”.
“If you want to avoid anything with bad historical connotations, you have to throw out the whole wedding, period, not just giving her away.”
“Maybe this is all just me trying to make the positive parts of my childhood and societal norms fit my current worldview. I’m honestly not sure.”
“NTA. But celebrating anything because of what it’s rooted in means everything you celebrate is kind of a no no. It’s really much more what kind of girl your daughter is and what is more important- you might luck out and get a girl who feels the same as you or doesn’t care.”
“Or you may have a girl who loves all things dresses and dancing and just wants to spend time with her dad and has no idea about any of that unless you tell her. These dances now aren’t about her purity or her sexuality.”
“So be careful you aren’t taking your argument into the completely unintentional route of sexualizing your daughter by focusing on doing or not doing certain things because of how you perceive her sexuality. If it’s not her intention to be sexual then denying her experiences because of it could sexualize her seems counterproductive.”
“NAH, since I don’t think your wife is coming at this from a place of inappropriate boundaries. She sounds like she just wants you to dance with your daughter occasionally, which can be great memories.”
“However, you are totally correct in that a lot of these D&D dances are rooted in purity balls, which are creepy as fuck, sexist, misogynistic and focus on treating the daughter like a possession passed from father to husband.”
“I’d drop this for now; the kid is TWO. Come back a few years later and have a real discussion about it.”
“Maybe there’s a non-creepy version of this. There’s got to be, because a daughter and a dad dancing usually invokes tenderness and joy.”
“But I’d leave it for now, seriously.”
…and others arguing that there’s nothing sexual about daddy-daughter dances whatsoever:
“YTA. I don’t see how dressing up and having a dance with your dad is sexual. Go ahead and tell your daughter that you don’t want to go out with her, but you’ll reconsider if she proves she wants it enough. That’s weird.”
“YTA. Sorry, I disagree. I don’t think daddy daughter dances are sexualized. So if the daughter wants to go and you say no, YTA. Clearly it’s important to your wife too.”
“My husband and daughters go to them…they are hosted by the schools. It’s literally cookies, juice, dancing to music (mostly upbeat energetic types), and taking pictures. And yeah you get to dress up.”
“To be fair my kids are 9, 5, and 3, but they have been going to them since my eldest started kindergarten.”
“Dads tend to work heaps and the daddy daughter dance is a great way to make the daughter feel special regardless of that, and it’s super cheap and supports the school.”
“I may get flack for my opinion. I get there are other ways dads can make their daughters feel special, but if the kid wants it, do it.”
“I agree that he’s YTA.”
“There are VERY FEW spaces where it’s about men and their role as FATHERS to their daughters.”
“There are a fuckton of events for boys–especially through scouts–and fathers with sons. Fathers are generally considered only to take an interest in their sons.”
“If he doesn’t like the daddy-daughter dances then he needs to get off of his damn high horse and do something ELSE for not only his daughter but other dads and their daughters.”
“Organize a father-daughter science museum night. Do something.”
“The prevailing cultural message is STILL that fathers and young children, ESPECIALLY female young children, don’t belong around their fathers.”
“I think if we taught men (and boys) that fatherhood is parenting and not babysitting then we’d have far less men ducking out on parenting.”
“YTA. The only reason this dance is being sexualized is because you think so. You’re the one sexualizing the dance.”
“You have the ability to control some of your biological tendencies because newsflash, you have a brain. You can 110% see this as an experience to bond with your daughter as merely a father and nothing more.”
“The only people who think these dances are ‘sexualization’ are the people who sexualize it themselves. You’re the asshole.”
In the end, the majority agreed that the man was not overreacting.
Are daddy-daughter dances a relic of Puritanical culture or a harmless bonding experience?
The debate continues.