Few realize there is always a sexual component at work in a family but that sexual component must be understood and accepted as part of the natural growth of children, especially daughters, in the midst of their parents and siblings. The power behind the sexual realization of a daughter in a family belongs to the mother and not the father. The mother is the sexual ideal modeled for the daughter — that doesn’t mean sexual intercourse — it simply means the daughter learns how to interact and grow on greater level of femininity while discovering for herself a deeper form of human intimacy.

There is a watershed moment in every family when the feminine-sexual center of the family must transfer from mother to daughter and while the timeline that change takes in a family can vary, that subtle transfer of power must occur in order for the daughter to fully realize her central role in her current and future family and as an invested member of society.

The transfer of sexual power to a daughter happens in small steps. Her emotions mature. The daughter grows and her body changes. She may wear make-up. Her intellect grows.

She learns the difference between boys and girls. Her morality deepens. She learns how to attract attention and how to keep that attention once it is given to her.

The problem in some families — beyond recognizing the natural power change from mother to daughter and allowing it to happen — comes when the mother understands the transfer of power but refuses to relinquish the sexual power in the house by choosing to compete with the burgeoning daughter.

Instead of naturally dressing more conservatively and deferring to the daughter in beauty and in the power of attracting, the mother pursues a more insidious path and dresses younger than her age, flirts with her daughter’s boyfriends and treats the daughter like a friend instead of a daughter. When that unfortunate motherly choice happens, the hierarchy of the family is forever wounded and few families recover from the mother-daughter juggernaut over the sexual core of the family.

That necessary transfer of power gives the daughter greater life and, for mothers who live in the identity of being only a sexual being, a slow death can take over the mother’s persona if she is unwilling to give up what rightfully belongs in nature to the daughter. Mothers who successfully make the transfer of power know that ageing and greying are the evolutionary paths of life into grandparenthood and elder respect, but some mothers are unwilling to accept their necessary predetermined loss of physical youth and unrestrained power.

Daughters who are forced to compete with their mothers for the sexual center of the home as they mature are forced to choose between two awful paths: Fight the mother head-on for a power struggle that never really ends, but always results in a destruction of the mother-daughter-family triad; or she can remain powerless, indecisive and infantilized in the family structure and sexless in social interactions on the grand human level.

All children need to be given their birthright to become more powerful and more beautiful than their parents and it is the innate requirement of each parent to give their children open paths to all the avenues of success — even on the sexual level — because the acquiescence of power and attraction in the name of youth is formed in the being of their hopeful children.

83 Comments

  1. Thanks for leaping in here, Simmering!
    I know this is a touchy kind of post and it may even be misunderstood a bit, but I’m glad you are taking the point of its intention.
    Most of this exchange of familial power is invisible and it happens naturally. When there is a struggle, however, between mother and daughter, its roots can usually be traced back to the mother’s refusal to acquiesce power to the daughter.

  2. Thanks for leaping in here, Simmering!
    I know this is a touchy kind of post and it may even be misunderstood a bit, but I’m glad you are taking the point of its intention.
    Most of this exchange of familial power is invisible and it happens naturally. When there is a struggle, however, between mother and daughter, its roots can usually be traced back to the mother’s refusal to acquiesce power to the daughter.

  3. I think the dynamic between fathers and sons is more open and automatic. A father usually, from the day the son is born, teaches and gives the power of knowledge and sexual identity along with encouragement to blaze and conquer.
    It’s an easier path, at times, for fathers and sons than for daughters and mothers, though the male-to-male power struggle can be just as vicious as the female-to-female dynamic but it is usually more easily understood and accepted in a familial and societal context when things go awry.

  4. I think the dynamic between fathers and sons is more open and automatic. A father usually, from the day the son is born, teaches and gives the power of knowledge and sexual identity along with encouragement to blaze and conquer.
    It’s an easier path, at times, for fathers and sons than for daughters and mothers, though the male-to-male power struggle can be just as vicious as the female-to-female dynamic but it is usually more easily understood and accepted in a familial and societal context when things go awry.

  5. Veery interesting, especially because in my family dynamic the “natural transfer” did not happen. I’m an only child and my parents have 17 years difference between them. My mother never exuded any kind of sexual power. Whilst being quite feminine, she never demonstrated any of the qualities or actions you speak/write of. We never had “the talk,” and it was only muuuch later that there was an acknowledgement of my feminity and it was really because I “grabbed” it all on my own. I wonder if had I had siblings the dynamics would have played out the same. My suspicion is not.

  6. Okay, musings, I’m back!
    Can you give some more examples from your growing up into your own definition of sexuality? Do you feel there are any pieces of you missing today?
    Did your mother dress appropriately or was she in competition with you?
    How did you earn your sexual womanhood in society if not through your mother?
    Did your sexual power come naturally to you or did you have to model someone else in your life to get there?
    Siblings usually carry on their own intra-fights for sexual attention and leadership of the family with the older children usually taking the lead role and everyone else then finding a specific niche in the sexual hierarchy of the household.
    I remember going over to pick up a date way back when and her mother met me at the door and was on me and kissing me and hugging me and LOOKING AT ME — you know what I mean — and I found it so odd back then, especially when her daughter was not around.
    When her daughter finally came into the room, she slinked past her mother and past me and waited on the front stoop for me to follow her out. We never discussed what happened and she became herself again when we got into the car but I wonder if I had just asked her back then “what was that all about?” if she would have been comfortable enough and aware enough to explain the misery of her life under a sexually domineering mother.

  7. Wow… awkward!
    My mother and I never had any problems like that. I wonder if the stability of the marriage has something to do with it. My parents have been married for 35 years, and my mother never dressed too young for her age. If anything, I think she wishes I would dress up more, do more with my makeup.
    She has the traditional Southern Belle thing of not going out of the house without makeup on. I used to be that way, but then I went to a women’s college where most of my classmates and I would roll out of bed put on sweatpants, pull our hair back in a ponytail and go to class! 😀 My mother still finds that appalling!
    But all in all, my mother and I are very close. I’m not ashamed to say that, and I know I’m lucky to have that kind of relationship.

  8. Wow… awkward!
    My mother and I never had any problems like that. I wonder if the stability of the marriage has something to do with it. My parents have been married for 35 years, and my mother never dressed too young for her age. If anything, I think she wishes I would dress up more, do more with my makeup.
    She has the traditional Southern Belle thing of not going out of the house without makeup on. I used to be that way, but then I went to a women’s college where most of my classmates and I would roll out of bed put on sweatpants, pull our hair back in a ponytail and go to class! 😀 My mother still finds that appalling!
    But all in all, my mother and I are very close. I’m not ashamed to say that, and I know I’m lucky to have that kind of relationship.

  9. Carla —
    I wonder if your Southern culture assumes this naturalization of sexual power as a requirement of geographic identity. Coming Out parties and Debutant Balls and Cotillions other presentations of females into society are established markers that a daughter has become the sexual core of her family — whether the mother likes it or not!
    You are lucky you weren’t tortured by your mother. I know so many young women who, to this day, are still bothered by the lack of support from their mother growing into womanhood.

  10. Hmmm… the sort of female ‘competition’ you refer to is sourced in paternalism. Look back at some of the matriarchal socieities and you will see more “community” and less competitive/combative hierarchy. Frequently age is honoured for its own sort of power and beauty (wisdom) in these societies.

  11. Hmmm… the sort of female ‘competition’ you refer to is sourced in paternalism. Look back at some of the matriarchal socieities and you will see more “community” and less competitive/combative hierarchy. Frequently age is honoured for its own sort of power and beauty (wisdom) in these societies.

  12. David:
    wow! I should really check your blog more often…anyway here’s some answers for ya:
    >Can you give some more examples from your growing up into your own definition of >sexuality? Do you feel there are any pieces of you missing today?
    Oddly, I have an interesting view on sexuality. I was very sexually agressive in my youth and I suppose it came mostly from my fear of emotional intimacy and possibly from just wanting to “get the guy.” I don’t believe there are any missing pieces today. I have matured emotionally and am very open to other people’s sexualities. What I mean by that is that whatever works for you and makes you happy is fine by me.
    >Did your mother dress appropriately or was she in competition with you?
    She always dressed appropriately and was *never* in competition with me. We are fairly close (given the age difference between her and my dad) and she has a unique perspective on rearing. She is fiercely independent and has transferred that to me. She is also somewhat overprotective and we’ve had our share of spats.
    >How did you earn your sexual womanhood in society if not through your mother?
    >Did your sexual power come naturally to you or did you have to model someone >else in your life to get there?
    Good questions. I suppose I did earn it through her, but I feel that I may have received some qualities from her, but mostly modeled my own from a variety of sources. Let me put it to you this way: my mom is highly conservative when it comes to her own sexuality; I am fiercely open-minded.
    >I remember going over to pick up a date way back when and her mother met me at >the door and was on me and kissing me and hugging me and LOOKING AT ME — >you know what I mean — and I found it so odd back then, especially when her >daughter was not around…..
    *That* never was the case, but I do have friends who experienced the same situation. I consider myself lucky not to have had a similar situation, but I wonder if I had had, how different I would be today.

  13. David:
    wow! I should really check your blog more often…anyway here’s some answers for ya:
    >Can you give some more examples from your growing up into your own definition of >sexuality? Do you feel there are any pieces of you missing today?
    Oddly, I have an interesting view on sexuality. I was very sexually agressive in my youth and I suppose it came mostly from my fear of emotional intimacy and possibly from just wanting to “get the guy.” I don’t believe there are any missing pieces today. I have matured emotionally and am very open to other people’s sexualities. What I mean by that is that whatever works for you and makes you happy is fine by me.
    >Did your mother dress appropriately or was she in competition with you?
    She always dressed appropriately and was *never* in competition with me. We are fairly close (given the age difference between her and my dad) and she has a unique perspective on rearing. She is fiercely independent and has transferred that to me. She is also somewhat overprotective and we’ve had our share of spats.
    >How did you earn your sexual womanhood in society if not through your mother?
    >Did your sexual power come naturally to you or did you have to model someone >else in your life to get there?
    Good questions. I suppose I did earn it through her, but I feel that I may have received some qualities from her, but mostly modeled my own from a variety of sources. Let me put it to you this way: my mom is highly conservative when it comes to her own sexuality; I am fiercely open-minded.
    >I remember going over to pick up a date way back when and her mother met me at >the door and was on me and kissing me and hugging me and LOOKING AT ME — >you know what I mean — and I found it so odd back then, especially when her >daughter was not around…..
    *That* never was the case, but I do have friends who experienced the same situation. I consider myself lucky not to have had a similar situation, but I wonder if I had had, how different I would be today.

  14. Did I say I didn’t feel scarred?!? 😉
    I *do* have some regrets, naturally, but those that I do I feel for other reasons…certainly not regarding my approach to sexuality or relationships.
    And I do firmly stand by the belief that it is easier to share parts of myself in this oddly anonymous medium, than in other situations.

  15. Did I say I didn’t feel scarred?!? 😉
    I *do* have some regrets, naturally, but those that I do I feel for other reasons…certainly not regarding my approach to sexuality or relationships.
    And I do firmly stand by the belief that it is easier to share parts of myself in this oddly anonymous medium, than in other situations.

  16. Did I say I didn’t feel scarred?!? 😉
    I *do* have some regrets, naturally, but those that I do I feel for other reasons…certainly not regarding my approach to sexuality or relationships.
    And I do firmly stand by the belief that it is easier to share parts of myself in this oddly anonymous medium, than in other situations.

  17. Nope, you didn’t say you were scarred, but there will be some people who read what you wrote and think you must be in some way — your experience comes of a little rough and cold and lonely — so I was letting them know you are fine and doing well, thankee!
    Your revelations are especially fun coming out of your innocent and highly pink Angelic Avatar! Harr!

  18. Nope, you didn’t say you were scarred, but there will be some people who read what you wrote and think you must be in some way — your experience comes of a little rough and cold and lonely — so I was letting them know you are fine and doing well, thankee!
    Your revelations are especially fun coming out of your innocent and highly pink Angelic Avatar! Harr!

  19. Nope, you didn’t say you were scarred, but there will be some people who read what you wrote and think you must be in some way — your experience comes of a little rough and cold and lonely — so I was letting them know you are fine and doing well, thankee!
    Your revelations are especially fun coming out of your innocent and highly pink Angelic Avatar! Harr!

  20. Brilliant article David!
    I am an only child like Musings too, and I really cannot think about any kind of ”sexual tension” or ”power transfer” between me and my mom. As far as I can remember my mom wanted me to be a responsible human being first and I am grateful to her for that. I was a bit tomboyish (I still am!), an athlete, didn’t really care much about my own sexual prowess till late but while reading your article I can recollect one incident – I would like to share. It was in one of our relative’s wedding when we were watching the video together – I was a senior at that point and definitely was looking gorgeous with all those dresses and make up (I still remember how grumpy I was because my mom made me wear some jewelries!!!) and my mom commented – ”now you will rule the world – I am proud of you!”
    Was there any faint tone of regret for passing the baton? I don’t know!!!

  21. Brilliant article David!
    I am an only child like Musings too, and I really cannot think about any kind of ”sexual tension” or ”power transfer” between me and my mom. As far as I can remember my mom wanted me to be a responsible human being first and I am grateful to her for that. I was a bit tomboyish (I still am!), an athlete, didn’t really care much about my own sexual prowess till late but while reading your article I can recollect one incident – I would like to share. It was in one of our relative’s wedding when we were watching the video together – I was a senior at that point and definitely was looking gorgeous with all those dresses and make up (I still remember how grumpy I was because my mom made me wear some jewelries!!!) and my mom commented – ”now you will rule the world – I am proud of you!”
    Was there any faint tone of regret for passing the baton? I don’t know!!!

  22. Brilliant article David!
    I am an only child like Musings too, and I really cannot think about any kind of ”sexual tension” or ”power transfer” between me and my mom. As far as I can remember my mom wanted me to be a responsible human being first and I am grateful to her for that. I was a bit tomboyish (I still am!), an athlete, didn’t really care much about my own sexual prowess till late but while reading your article I can recollect one incident – I would like to share. It was in one of our relative’s wedding when we were watching the video together – I was a senior at that point and definitely was looking gorgeous with all those dresses and make up (I still remember how grumpy I was because my mom made me wear some jewelries!!!) and my mom commented – ”now you will rule the world – I am proud of you!”
    Was there any faint tone of regret for passing the baton? I don’t know!!!

  23. Thank you, Katha!
    I think regret is a natural part of saying good-bye to the baby daughter and hello to the woman before you.
    If you were in competition with your mother for the sexuality of the home you would have known it because it grinds against your natural instinct to blossom and thrive.
    Thank you for being open and sharing your life with us!

  24. Thank you, Katha!
    I think regret is a natural part of saying good-bye to the baby daughter and hello to the woman before you.
    If you were in competition with your mother for the sexuality of the home you would have known it because it grinds against your natural instinct to blossom and thrive.
    Thank you for being open and sharing your life with us!

  25. Thank you, Katha!
    I think regret is a natural part of saying good-bye to the baby daughter and hello to the woman before you.
    If you were in competition with your mother for the sexuality of the home you would have known it because it grinds against your natural instinct to blossom and thrive.
    Thank you for being open and sharing your life with us!

  26. very interesting assessment. make me kind of think… you can always tell the mothers (sometimes grandmothers ) who refuse to let the spotlight of of them..usually tell by the number of facelifts and teenager clothing

  27. This is a very old post but maybe you will still be able to read my comment.

    My mother was extremely competitive but in subtle ways. I was made to feel gawky and ugly and is if were my fault somehow, but I could never pinpoint where my own fault lay, because my mother was so beautiful, so stunning. As a small child she bought me tomboyish clothes and insisted on my having my hair cut short. My dresses looked awful; she told me my hair was awful. I only realised later that she was ultra competitive when she started her nonsense on my sister in law. She couldn’t stand it when her only son got married and openly dissed her daughter in law. She was unbelievably hostile. The daughter in law fought back and told her to go take a running jump. She had problems with my sister in law’s mother as well. When she died quite a while ago, my father told me at her funeral that I should know that I was in no way as beautiful as my mother had been. So I had this coming from my father too. But I am in no way unattractive, I am considered a very good looking woman. My father used to beat my mother. He smashed her front teeth when my brother and I were small children, we were forced to see this. I was divorced when I was 34 because I grew bored of the rather sweet but inept guy I’d married. We’d had no children. She banned me from her home outright for getting divorced. Until she died at a rather young and very miserable 63, she insisted that only married children with grandchildren be allowed to visit (meaning my brother). I dreamed about her last night. I dreamed that she owned a fabulous home and that she had sold the property but had not yet moved out. She wanted me to come and visit. her. When I got there I discovered there were hundreds of visitors, and that she had owned this marvellous property for ten years, and she had only invited me now that she had sold and was moving out. At that point in my dream, I packed my suitcase and got out of the place for the airport. At her funeral, my father hissed at me that I was in no way as beautiful as my mother had been, and never could be. Despite this, I have been married for 20 years, to the same man, but we don’t have children. In any event, by the time I did get married again, it was a bit late to start with children, but this has never bothered me or my husband.

  28. She was stark raving mad, of course. I think she drove my father mad as well. The downside of marrying an airhead is when she turns into a whining child craving attention and adulation when you come home from a hard day’s slog at the office. I think they both got what they deserved.

    1. I appreciate your incredibly brave stand, Tracey. It’s a great thing that you are able to deal with this nightmare relationship with words that the rest of us can comprehend and share. Stories like yours may seem impossible, but these sorts of stranded relationships wound a lot of people.

  29. My brother’s a doctor and he says this kind of dysfunctional marriage happens so often it’s practically the norm. We make jokes about about what happened, in a slightly nervous, Stephen King kind of way, although it wasn’t funny at the time. My brother married a great woman, the very opposite of an airhead, and I married a fantastic, gentle, clever man. Nobody is doomed to repeat the mistakes their parents make. You could say our parents did us a favor in setting an example of what to avoid although it took me a while to fully appreciate what they did for me.

  30. True David, although it can make one seem a bit insensitive to other people’s petty complaints. As in, “Say what, you felt that your mother ignored you in favor of your sister?? So why did that happen, was your sister an only child?? Get a life!” So ok, you become a bit blunt, but with a dark sense of humor.

    1. Yes, it’s true. Mothers are sacrosanct. They get all the benefits of belief by default unless proven unsavory in an ongoing habit of action. Of the most freeing statements made to me as a young child was when an older gentleman told me he hated his mother. Just the fact that he uttered those words aloud as a fact and without emotion was freeing. It gave me the moral mental space to contemplate those relationships without the immediate fear of blind societal retribution.

  31. I couldn’t stand her, but I was never free to say it. When I cried at her funeral it wasn’t sadness at her departure. I cried because I never had a mother.

  32. What I didn’t expect was that my father would take exception to my crying and knock my front tooth out. Wish I’d never attended the rotten funeral in the first place. I never bothered to go to his; I let his then girlfriend toss his carcass away to the people who run paupers’ funerals.

    A particularly appalling incident showing my mother’s hypocrisy and duplicity was when I was 15 and had a boyfriend. My hair was longer and I looked and felt good. So the boyfriend and I were sitting in the lounge chatting. In storms my father in a frenzy, and tells me to stand up. He slaps me hard across the face and yells at the boyfriend to get the hell out. No reason given. In storms my mother; she wants me to take off and give her my underwear for signs of sexual activity. At that point I startled struggling with her physically, I wasn’t going to take it, I wouldn’t let her sniff around in my pants.

    My hair was cut short again and I didn’t do the normal socialising that other girls of my age did. When I didn’t have a date for the high school leaving dance my mother organised an escort for me.

    The advice I would give to anyone who has parents like this is to leave as soon as you are economically independent.Get out as soon as you can. Leave the area. Leave the country if you have to. Just get out and don’t look back.

    1. You give great advice, Tracey. Get out before it’s too late. As you aged away from your parents, was there ever an impulse of violence in you while dealing with other people? When children experience violence in the home they often become violent in their adult lives because that’s what they were raised to know.

  33. I just don’t like aggressive people around me. If someone wants to start an argument they get very short shrift from me. I think the aggression those two acted out was sadomasochism in lieu of sex or normal affection . My mother reverted to virginity after her children were born. Sex was a big no-no. I never once saw my parents hug each other, or even dance together. Very strange people. But enough of them, they are dead and gone. Thanks for having this discussion with me, David.

  34. And I mean really, REALLY get away from parents like that, geographically, and by a generous distance and CUT ALL CONTACT . My parents were instrumental in messing up my first marriage. My then husband and I lived in a town 80 km away from where my parents lived. My father would make remarks to my husband about not understanding why my husband did not beat me. He also threatened to disinherit me if I did not have children. My husband was young and impressionable, and we didn’t have much money. So he was on at me as well to produce babies asap. I could not imagine a more revolting spectacle than my parents drooling over a grandchild by me, so I preferred to divorce my husband. My father stayed in touch with my ex and when my ex married again and had children, he invited him and the new wife and child over. He made a point of letting me know about this and the new baby-in-waiting..I waited until my father died before I married again. Eerily enough, he had a telephonic conversation with my current husband and acted in such a sickly sweet way that my current husband said he had no idea why I loathed my parents so much. Both my parents misplayed their hands in trying to manipulate me because they did not understand that having children or waiting out for an “Inheritance” (in the end my brother didn’t inherit anything either) was not on my list of priorities.

    You need to have an understanding partner with this kind of situation. Most people will tell you, “How can you turn your back on your own family?” It’s a taboo.

  35. It may seem odd, but I converted to Roman Catholicism. I have a great love for God the Father, and the Virgin Mother, though Jesus freaks me out a bit, probably because I know too much what He must have gone through. They are all very kind to me. I often have supernatural looking strokes of luck that people attribute to my having “connections above”. I am seldom discouraged.

  36. Did my parents have money? They were fairly well off, not really rich. My first husband came from a poor family and was too taken in, he thought he’d fallen with his bum into the butter.

  37. Not for me, it wasn’t. When I was taking a liberal arts degree at college, a very wealthy senior student (in his early 30’s to my 19 or so) fell wildly in love with me. My mother fell madly in love with him as husband material for me. Generous of her, I will concede. However, this senior student was a bit slow at his law studies and his divorced mother was as neurotic as hell. From the frying pan into the fire, I thought, and was having none of it. I wasn’t trying to annoy anyone in rejecting him, I just didn’t fancy him.

    It’s a catharsis to be so open about it all. I can finally help other women who find themselves in a similar situation to develop self esteem and resilience. As Oscar Wilde put it so truthfully in jest, “To love oneself is the beginning of a life-long romance.”

    Another writer and social critic who is well worth a read is dissident feminist Camille Paglia. She never fell for the lie of female bonding that some so-called feminists invented out of nowhere. Life is competitive and tough, so be careful who you trust. I’m working my way through her “Sexual Personae: Art and decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson”. She’s as compelling as Marcel Proust in her own way.

  38. In hindsight, I wish I’d had some of that Wildean wit at the time of my mother’s funeral. A good riposte to the bitchy remark about not being as beautiful as my mother would have been, “Yes, it’s so much better to have a good looking corpse.”