Welcome to re-Prudied where I fix the terrible advice of Emily Yoffe, a.k.a. Dear Prudie, in the dim hopes that the original letter writer will read it and disregard Prudie’s terrible advice. Today’s response fixes Prudie’s dismissive response to a woman whose husband is insisting that their daughter massage his feet.
Q. Happy Feet: My husband loves to get his feet massaged. When he was younger (think elementary school and up), his mom had him massage her feet often, probably once a week. When he told me about this, I was horrified, even after he assured me these massages were purely a therapeutic thing and not sexual. Now my husband has started telling our young daughter about how she needs to start rubbing his feet. I’ve told him that either I’ll massage them or send him to a professional, but I don’t want her massaging anyone. Am I wrong for putting my foot down (sorry for the pun)?
A: And you just brought back memories of how my father would ask his four offspring, when we were little, to scratch his back. Sometimes two of us would go at it and we loved getting the spot he couldn’t reach. This spot was generally just below his shoulder. Let me assure you there was nothing remotely sexual about this, it was just an entertaining primate grooming thing. You are turning something fun into something ugly. I bet your daughter will thrill to working the kinks out of her Dad’s feet, and there is nothing kinky about that. If your daughter gets good enough, you may want some free reflexology yourself, Mom.
Oh dear, Prudie, what are we going to do with you? First you assert that women have a responsibility to protect themselves from sexual assault (as opposed telling men not to rape in the first place), and now you’re saying this woman’s daughter needs to comply with a request for physical contact because it’s “fun.” Which is it? Either we’re dumb drunk whores or we’re compliant women?
LW, Prudie is an idiot. What your husband, and every other man, needs to understand is that a demand for physical contact need not be sexual in order for it to be offensive. That’s not the point. The point is every child, adolescent, and adult has agency over her own body. Your daughter needs to learn this now and start saying no to such requests while she’s living under your roof so she can know herself better and navigate these situations under a parental eye.
Do note one other detail, LW, in this response. You said, “[daughter] needs to start rubbing his feet,” whereas in the anecdote Prudie says, “...how my father would ask...” See the difference? One is a demand, and one is a request. The demand implies entitlement and compliance; a genuine request is a favor and not a requirement. If your husband feels entitled to foot massages from your daughter, he has bigger problems than sore feet.
Finally, when it comes to requests/demands for physical contact, everyone else’s opinion doesn’t matter, especially Prudie’s. If your daughter doesn’t want to do it, then leave her alone. Massaging feet is nowhere near similar to taking out the trash or washing the dishes. It’s not an expectation out of any self-reliant adult. I would hate to see this young woman give in against her will because she feels compelled to and/or that she can’t say no. That’s not a path any person should take even if others think you’re daughter is being rude. (She’s not.)
As for Prudie and everyone else who feels entitled to a foot massage from their child? No always means no.