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As summer has arrived, my teenage daughter begins to wear shorts of reasonable length.

What should I do when teenage boys around her age ogles at her?

Should I ask them to stop or let them be?

I must admit I did ogle at other girls when I was their age

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    You can't be with her 100% of the time. You will have to prepare her to handle the attention herself in an appropriate way. – Greg Hewgill Jun 22 '17 at 3:47
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    Don't ask us, ask your daughter. She'll be able to tell you if you're helping her or embarassing her. – Peter Jun 22 '17 at 20:23
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    Change your definition of "reasonable length" – Jonathan Cast Jun 23 '17 at 12:07
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    @jcast That's not certain to help, unless you're ready to replace a short with a nikab. Better change the OP's expectations of teenage boys. – Dmitry Grigoryev Jun 23 '17 at 13:15
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    I find it mildly reassuring that unlike,say Facebook, nobody has responded with "show us some pictures so we can decide" – Carl Witthoft Jun 26 '17 at 19:27

12 Answers 12

146

Should I ask them to stop or let them be?

You should probably not involve yourself directly.

It's your daughter who has to decide whether she feels uncomfortable, and whether to address that feeling by confronting the boys in question. It won't do her any good if you solve problems for her that she needs to learn to handle herself.

What you can do is talk to your daughter. Ask her how the attention of the boys makes her feel. If you think it's inappropriate, discuss this with her. If she asks how to handle it, suggest different avenues of action and discuss them with her. Make sure she knows where to draw the line (which she must define herself - you can't do it for her) and then defends that line when someone crosses it. That requires self-confidence, so anything you do to boost her self-confidence is a step in the right direction (and taking care of problems for her doesn't help to build self-confidence at all).

What's more, she probably won't like it if you involve yourself directly, especially if she knows the boys that look at her and doesn't see them as complete jerks. It might be somewhat humiliating for her to have dad act as her protector when it's not necessary in her opinion.

I must admit I did ogle at other girls when I was their age

Teenage boys and men are wired to find teenage girls beautiful. Here's the other side of the medal: What applies to your daughter would also apply to your teenage son, if you had one. If you saw him looking at girls in a way you thought inappropriate, again, you'd have to discuss it with him.

Looking at beautiful girls is probably something most teenage boys feel compelled to do, but there's some ways to do it that are respectless and demeaning, and others that won't hurt anybody, and you can start teaching that to small children already, when they point at people who fascinate them. You don't have to punish them for finding someone else fascinating, but you should explain to them that there's different ways to express that fascination, some being more acceptable than others.

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    If she asks how to handle it, suggest different avenues of action and discuss them with her. for example? – user13107 Jun 23 '17 at 9:16
  • @user13107 "I how can I deal with X?" is an example of her asking how to handle X. – Yakk Jun 23 '17 at 14:30
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    @Yakk Pretty sure they were asking about examples of different avenues of action to suggest. – ZAD-Man Jun 23 '17 at 20:43
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    Maybe discuss with her that she could either ignore the stares, tell the boy off, come up with something funny to say, try to embarrass him, involve him in conversation, make him compliments about how great he looks (either serious ones or ironic ones might work, depending on circumstances), or ask someone for help if she didn't feel up to dealing with it herself or was scared that things might get out of hand. Each of these options has advantages and disadvantages, and I'm sure there are more. Another thing to discuss might be group dynamics in case she's dealing with a whole group of boys. – Pascal says Talk To Monica Jun 23 '17 at 21:06
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    Before bringing it up with your daughter, watch her being watched—if she is still oblivious to the stares, let her be! When I was a teenage girl, I would have been mortified if my father had brought this up to me when I was unaware of it; I'm pretty sure it would have made me far more self-conscious and dirty-feeling than the boys' stares on their own. Of course if she's clearly aware and uncomfortable, you can and should discuss it. But anything like an out of the blue "so, I've noticed boys are staring at your body. How do you feel about that?" is just creepy. – 1006a Jun 28 '17 at 14:42
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I would slightly disagree with the answers previously given - well, more than slightly. They either do not distinguish between "ogling" and "admiring" or encourage us to communicate to our kids, implicitly, by non-action, that it is ok for other people to disrespect them. Ogling is defined as "staring in a lecherous manner", with lecherous defined as "having or showing excessive or offensive sexual desire." If I saw anyone "ogling" one my girls, in my presence, I would respond by moving to stand between my girl and them, and very pointedly staring down the idiot.

In fact, I have done this on three occasions. Once with a man very obviously staring at my wife's butt, once with a teenage boy staring at my oldest daughter, and one other time when I chaperoned a group of girls, including my oldest daughter, to a volleyball tournament in Papua New Guinea. When we arrived at the place and were disembarking from our van, a group of local men started staring, pointing at our girls, snickering and making rude comments. I stepped between the girls and them, gave them the evil eye, and curled my mouth in my best look of utter contempt.

In every one of these cases, the ...[insert unkind adjective describing lack of intelligence, stature and/or basic hygiene]... men in question quickly became embarrassed and turned away.

The thing is that you are educating your kid when you do this. You communicate to her that she is valuable as more than as an object of "excessive or offensive sexual desire." You are setting an example for what she can do when you are not around. I would also encourage you to talk to your girls and let them know that when a boy or man looks at them in an "ogling" way, it is perfectly ok for them to expect and demand respect. More often than not, a good stare is all it takes.

But, of course, you also need to discuss these things with your daughter. Discuss what happened, if it happens, and why you dealt with it like you did. Sometimes, I suppose, it is ok to ignore the ogler, but she needs to know that she can, if she feels comfortable and safe, expect and demand respect. She can communicate that with a good stare, but she can also choose to walk away.

It's another thing if a man or boy looks at your girl in a way that says "wow, you are beautiful." I have had that too. I have three girls and a very beautiful wife. I had a coworker comment on my wife's beauty when he first met her. It was clearly not a lecherous comment at all, but a respectful admiration. I thanked him with a smile from ear to ear. I also had a guy ask me if he could take my daughter to prom. Every time he looked at her, I could see this look of total admiration in a non-lecherous way. I could tell he respected her. I knew the request was coming and was more than happy to give my blessing.

By doing these things, you also set a pattern and you are training your boy(s) if you have any. I have an 18 year old, and he has learned to respect girls around him. I have talked with him many times about how to treat girls.

It's ok to admire. It is not ok to ogle. If our every word and action communicates that to all around us, our girls, our boys, the idiot at the truck stop during a long road trip, then maybe we build a culture that can admire female beauty while respecting the humans who bear it.

17

I'd like to highlight a brief part of Pascal's answer, namely that as parents we may have daughters but we may have sons, and they too need educating. What happens if your daughter is uncomfortable with the stares, but doesn't want to confront a mob of boys, or men? There is only so much that is in her power (or in your power) - see the other answers for suggestions.

I'm answering this question for anyone who has a son. We must teach our sons not to make women (or people) unduly uncomfortable, nor to reduce women (or people) to sexual objects.

How to do this is a whole other issue. The answer is probably a combination of modelling good behaviour, explicitly talking to your child, pointing out good and bad examples, being honest, building trust, practicing empathy, and letting them figure things out for themselves. But I don't have the answer.

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    If I could downvote I would. This does not answer the question at all. You are not wrong (as this counts for both sexes), but this does not help the OP with his daughter. – Jeroen Jun 23 '17 at 7:54
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    "nor to reduce women (or people) to sexual objects" - There is another lesson here. How to influence people with your appearance. I heard this somewhere. "If i dress like a clown, people think I'm a clown. Likewise, if I dress like a whore, people treat me like one" – Gusdor Jun 23 '17 at 12:34
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    @jwenting Likewise, staring at girls wearing short certainly doesn't turn a boy into a pervert. – Dmitry Grigoryev Jun 23 '17 at 13:59
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    @DmitryGrigoryev - teaching our sons won't help our daughters, but maybe someone else's daughters. This is how civilizations work. We teach our kids how to behave and we trust others to do the same with theirs, so that we can all live together in a civilized way. There's always people who think they're above the rules, of course. That doesn't mean they have to be your sons, though. – Pascal says Talk To Monica Jun 23 '17 at 21:13
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    @Gusdor Clothing does not imply occupation of a person (ie. if they're a sex worker or not) or if they want to have a relationship or not. This kind of mindset is why sexual harrassment happens. I'm not sure if you think that way, but if you do, don't. That's a harmful thought process. – Ave Jun 24 '17 at 22:26
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Guy with two teenage daughters here. I think it depends a lot on the nature of the attention.

If it is aggressive, and unwanted by the girl, then by all means step in. As mentioned in many of the answers, boys particularly (due to their inherent superior cultural and physical power, particularly in groups) need to be taught to be respectful of others. If their parents didn't manage to do the job, then the rest of us should step up and do it.

However, if its not aggressive or disrespectful, and she's not uncomfortable with it, then frankly there's a good chance that level of attention was one of her goals in dressing that way in the first place. So if she isn't feeling uncomfortable or threatened by it, any reaction from you is just you being territorial. An overreaction may make her uncomfortable with her own body while around you. She needs some space to explore her own power, and your presence ought to be a safe place to do so.

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    Teaching someone else's kids good manners is one of the most thankless jobs there is. Sure you can talk to them, but they don't have to listen to you and they know it. – Dmitry Grigoryev Jun 23 '17 at 13:07
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    @DmitryGrigoryev - True, which is why I'm advising not to bother, if the girl in question isn't bothered. But if it goes past that, then this isn't just a matter of politeness, like eating your salad with the right fork. Emotional damage is still damage, and your daughter shouldn't see you just let it happen to her, like she deserves it or something. Plus, if this same kid doesn't learn to get control of himself, and does this in a bar at the wrong time, he could easily end up dead. – T.E.D. Jun 23 '17 at 13:33
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    The point is, whatever amount of ogling the OP and/or his daughter may find inappropriate can be seen as OK by the boy and maybe even his family. I wonder how exactly do you plan to "step in" and teach this boy manners. Also, anyone may end up dead if they walk into a bar at the wrong moment, this is largely irrelevant to the discussion. – Dmitry Grigoryev Jun 23 '17 at 13:39
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    s/boys particularly (due to their inherent superior cultural and physical power/boys particularly (due to their **perceived** inherent superior cultural and physical power – Marco A. Jun 27 '17 at 15:39
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"Should I ask them to stop or let them be? I must admit I did ogle at other girls when I was their age"

Here is where you've made it apparent that you don't like it when other boys ogle your daughter. Presumably because you think it's wrong, further presumably because you think your daughter's sexuality is something you feel the need to protect until the "right" time.

But your daughter is transitioning into adulthood. The "right" time will be sooner than you think. When she was your little baby girl you kept a tight leash, but now it's time to start loosening your grip so she can learn how to take care of herself. But as in all things, if you continue to hold too close she will rebel or resent, but if you let her go completely she might get hurt. This is the daily balance of being a parent.

So let the boys ogle, you're not in charge of them. Some of them might even make a comment to your daughter. Let her handle it and ask her about it. Give advice when she seems open. Certainly you should protect your girl from any serious danger. But these are the kind of waters that your daughter needs to learn to navigate.

9

A huge amount depends on the relationship your daughter and you (and other parents/significant adults if any) share.

She may feel in control and comfortable. She may be testing the water. She may feel peer pressure (and if so may or may not recognise it or see it as a problem). She might be stressed if its the best of a problematic situation. She might be happy to discuss, embarrassed, not believe you'll understand. She could be right even if wrong, or wrong even if right (right/wrong for her and at her age vs. absolutely and dispassionately right/wrong). It could be important to reassure or open the topic or might be important to stand back and give her space for a long time herself. In her peer group there may be ways to handle it different than those you might push upon her that would help. Consider whether she needs it or if it's that you feel the need to say it.

I say this to try and emphasise how nobody else can say "one right answer" that's right for her, for now. Its possible you can't either. Could you cope if that were so?

Doing nothing is the hardest thing and is right in some cases, wrong in others. But often, even if right, it's very hard to do, since we often feel we "have to do something". So you need to bear that urge in mind, in case you feel it but its not right for now. (Remember the old saw about politicians' and business leaders' reactions to a sudden perceived problem - "Something must be done! This is something. So we must do it!")

That said, and knowing nothing of either of you, I would say the crucial thing might be an awareness that many people - even while semi-liking attention - at times wish it wasn't as it was.

It also might not just be with friends and when you're around, it could be other contexts - I've seen people stuck at bus stops who didn't know comfortably and safely how to tell a stranger insistent on dialog, that they didn't want to talk to them, and that's a situation that should concern anyone as it's not ambiguous.

For that reason if nothing else, it is worth carefully considering whether to say something. But everything I've said above can shade that - it may not be right now, or for this situation, or that specific daughter, or broached a particular way or at a particular time, or might not be heard as you wish it in your relationship. It's extremely individual.

If you do think something should be said, don't rush it and think hard. If it's honestly right, maybe tell her, without specifically mentioning any specific incident, that she may find people paying her attention or being pushy and not know how to handle it or what to do if she doesn't want to tell them aggressively to go away, but also doesn't feel entirely comfortable. If so, there are things she can do and you'd be glad to help, now or whenever its useful.

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    "depends on the relationship"... well said and true. So much of what we do in parenting depends on the gazillion things we've done before, that have already set a tone to the relationship. – user16557 Jun 22 '17 at 14:00
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If they are just looking and are discrete about it, then I don't think you should do anything about it.

If they make comments, whistle or become otherwise disrespectful then you should probably intervene.

You shouldn't play white knight. This is something your daughter needs to learn to deal with. She can control this by wearing shorts that are not too short (by that I mean this, anything that covers more than that will most likely go unnoticed nowadays.) and by behaving in a discrete way. If she projects a body language that says that she is neither interested in those boys nor in the attention they are giving her, if she behaves in an assertive way, they will pick up on that and leave her alone.

The truth is that a lot of girls actually want this attention even though they say they don't and yet they behave in ways that make guys notice them. It might be tempting to your daughter to indulge in that attention, that's perfectly normal, but if I were you I would tell her that beauty doesn't last forever so she shouldn't get too comfortable, nor build her self esteem around it.

I must admit I did ogle at other girls when I was their age

Karma is a funny thing, isn't it?

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    "She can control this by wearing shorts that are not too short [...] and by behaving in a discrete way." Sorry, but that is getting dangerously close to "it was her fault for wearing a short skirt". You may find revealing clothing inappropriate or embarassing, that that is no excuse for ogling or embarassing the wearer. – sleske Jun 23 '17 at 7:07
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    @sleske Except you are responsible for controlling what parts of you people can look at in public. It's not a justification if they take a criminal action, but looking isn't a crime. What constitutes looking vs ogling is subjective, but it seems sensible that if you're going to be embarrassed by people looking at you because of what you are (or aren't wearing), then don't do that. Unless you want to! – Samthere Jun 23 '17 at 9:49
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    @sleske There is a profound difference. Assaulting someone is an outright crime, while ogling is basically "looking" + "thinking sexy thoughts". Last time I checked, looking at others was my undeniable right, and punishing/blaming someone for thinking sexy thoughts sounds a bit Orwellian. – Dmitry Grigoryev Jun 23 '17 at 14:19
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    @DmitryGrigoryev: I think this comes down to how you understand "ogling". The Oxford dictionary defines it as "staring in a lecherous manner", and that would be disrespectful behavior in my book. I did not want to say ogling is as bad as assault, just that in both cases it is not appropriate to blame the victim. Being looked at is something you have to live with, but not being stared at obnoxiously, IMHO. – sleske Jun 23 '17 at 14:23
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    @sleske "I was alluding to the situation where a woman is molested / assaulted, and then blamed for it because she was wearing revealing clothing. I wanted to point out that ogling or otherwise being disrespectful is not okay even if you find the clothing too revealing ..." - Which makes your comment a textbook straw man argument ;) – marcelm Jun 23 '17 at 20:28
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You can ask, but they are not obliged to stop; IANAL but as far as I know ogling girls isn't a crime (although I am sure many fathers of teenage girls wish it was :)). Basically, this is completely outside your control and any attempt you make to control it could lead to conflict that could escalate very quickly indeed: teenage boys, especially groups of them, don't like being confronted and chastised.

IF your daughter is uncomfortable with the attention her sense of fashion is causing then the only workable solution is that she dress more modestly.

IF you are uncomfortable with the attention she gets when she is out with you then you could just ask her to dress more modestly when she is in public with you.

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    IANAL is a thing now?! – learner101 Jun 22 '17 at 11:09
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    Always been a thing – user1450877 Jun 22 '17 at 11:34
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    Boys ogle girls in the winter, as well as the summer. Boys ogle when girls are dressed up nicely, as well as when they're wearing frumpy (or modest) clothes. It's best to just teach girls how to enforce their boundaries and teach boys how to be respectful (actually teaching both genders both skills is best). – McCann Jun 22 '17 at 13:17
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    Sadly, this has an (admittedly very faint) ring of victim-shaming: they ogle you because of what YOU do, not because they don't know how to behave! In this case, adjusting the wardrobe MAY be fitting (depending on the wardrobe in question, which sound perfectly ok to me, and the teenage behaviour it causes). But the risk of creating a bad mindset should be kept in mind. – Layna Jun 22 '17 at 13:19
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    talk of boundaries isn't of any use, in the real world you cannot set boundaries to stop people looking at you. Pretending you can educate half the population to act in some vaguely defined, highly situational 'respectful' way isn't a practical solution either. If the girl is uncomfortable about people looking at her then she either needs to get used to it or needs to take steps to mitigate the attention she gets. – user1450877 Jun 22 '17 at 13:41
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I would definitely let it slide and let your daughter handle it if needed. I can understand a situation when someone asks an inquisitive type not to stare at them, but saying something along the lines of "stop staring at my daughter" doesn't sound appropriate at all. I'm not a teen anymore so I'd just swallow something like this and ignore you, but in my younger years my immediate reaction would be "Or what?"

You may end up humiliating yourself and your daughter if you act like this.

If your daughter is uncomfortable with the amount of looks she gets, suggest her something less revealing to wear. Though that only works if she's wearing something revealing in the first place, going from "appropriate" to "modest" is unlikely to have any effect.

3

The OP didn't say specifically what age his daughter was. For younger teens, I would definitely be more directly involved in such a situation. But it is certainly important to begin to train them (even before they're teenagers) how to handle these situations on their own. By the time their 17 or 18, they should be able to handle most situations without your involvement.

Bottom line... start teaching them when they're young how to handle themselves, and then as they grow and learn, give them the space to practice those skills in your presence. That way they know how to handle themselves when you're not around.

Same thing goes for a lot of other parental situations... it's basically our job as parents to make ourselves unnecessary... :D

0

Is this question about you and your daugther or it is about your daugter and you?
I can read from your question that you don't like boys ogling your daugter and you are asking what to do about it.

Live with it. Period.

And ask (yourself) the appropriate question: Does my daugter like/ignore/dislike being ogled?

  • If she like that, talk to her and discuss with her possible consequences and your concerns. Enforcing anything here will lead to only one result - damaging or breaking her bonds to you, she has her own mind. The only thing you can do is suggesting.

  • If she dislike that, you can try to comfort her a bit explaining that it is, within limits, natural and that, back then, you were doing it too.

  • If she ignores that, bingo!, there is nothing to solve.

If you want to calm oglers down, approach them only if your daughter asks you. Othewise you will create serious problem from nothing - you can easily hurt your daughter.

-3

An important insight that I haven't seen in any of the other answers is that attention is finite. If the teenage boys are looking at something or someone other than your daughter, then they won't be ogling her. This implies that you could prevent teenage boys from ogling your daughter by distracting them. Here's an admittedly extreme example: if you were naked whenever you were with your daughter, teenage boys would be too busy gawking at you to notice her. Of course, if you did that, your daughter would almost surely refuse to appear with you in public, and you'd probably get arrested! What you need to do is figure out a way to draw the teenage boys' attention that both you and your daughter would be comfortable with.

In the interest of full disclosure, I've never done this, nor have I ever seen any father do this, so this suggestion isn't based on practical experience. It is based on logic.

  • Problematic advice, because this assumes that drawing away the attention is a good idea, which is debatable (see the other answers). – sleske Jun 23 '17 at 7:13
  • "What you need to do is figure out a way to draw the teenage boys' attention that both you and your daughter would be comfortable with" - like what? You already said that posing naked will get one arrested, and so would giving beer to teenagers. Unless the OP is good at bike acrobatics or break-dance, there aren't that many options left, actually. – Dmitry Grigoryev Jun 23 '17 at 13:25
  • Tada! The boys now can ogle perv's daugter. Hey pervy, would you like to follow your father's dresscode? -1. – Crowley Jun 28 '17 at 17:15

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