Advice From the Trenches

Advice from the Trenches: Is it unethical to flash pics of your teen?


Dear C & Dr. B,

We were at the gym when my husband showed the front desk a photo he had on his phone of our very beautiful teenage daughter in a bikini. He said, “She thinks she is not pretty! I ask you: isn’t she pretty?” I was somewhat mortified. According to him, I am being silly. He claimed that he was pointing out that teenagers today are far more self-conscious and depressed than in 1970, due to iPhones and social media. He read all this in the book the I Gen

Was I being silly to be embarrassed that he was showing pictures of our daughter in a bikini to total strangers?

Modest Mom

Dr. B says: I heard a podcast on the philosopher Montaigne which gave the quote: “It’s complete madness to be enslaved to the social conventions that seek the admiration of other people.” Your husband is seeking the admiration of people to prove that “I produced this smoking babe.” Your daughter is seeking the admiration of others in playing the beautiful girl saying I am not pretty. The podcast further remarked: “It is a stereotype for an old man to walk around naked, to dress in an absentminded way, to talk to people with no reservations. The reason why is because he just doesn’t care anymore. He has lived on this planet long enough to realize that the embarrassment and the desire for respect and all the various things that motivate people to follow social conventions are really pointless.” The podcast says this is an example of natural wisdom.

Your husband should not have bikini clad photos of your daughter on his phone, nor should he be showing private pictures of your daughter to strangers. Instead, when she states, “I am not pretty,” he should be asking her, “Why do you care what others think?”  

C says: Mom, I am not sure I agree with Dr. B. First, your husband is right about one thing – due to the highly unrealistic portrayals of ideal beauty in the media, young women are genuinely insecure about their looks. A majority of women feel badly about themselves after looking at re-touched and photoshopped females in ads. Because of this, I think it quite possible that your daughter is not seeking admiration when she says she’s not pretty. She actually believes it. 

Unfortunately, we live in a society where looks can mean the difference between success and failure in everything from relationships to business. That may not be right, but that’s how it works; and is far more true for the young than it is for senior citizens. Of course that old man walking around naked doesn’t care what others think of him! Why should he? He has already made whatever mark he will make on the world, there’s no future to carve out. He can do whatever he wants and no one cares. Not so with your daughter. Especially if she has any plans to seek public office. Social media does not forget or forgive. 

Real life is different from virtual life. In real life, the ability to solve problems and endure hardships intelligently will matter far more than looks to both prospective partners and clients. But it takes a while to figure this out. Your daughter will get there.

In the meantime, tell your husband that you hope his intentions are good, but all he is succeeding in doing is invading your daughter’s privacy and embarrassing the hell out of both you. Those scantily clad pics have nothing to do with your daughter’s deeper qualities. They will just make her think more about how she looks. If he really wants to help her feel better about herself, he should put away the bikini porn and pay more attention to the things that are going to make a difference in your daughter’s life and possible career – her talents and abilities. 

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