Alec Baldwin gets it right: Parents don't have to be weird about their adult children's sex lives

Baldwin discussed his daughter Ireland's fluid sexuality and its influence on him without creepiness or shame

Published November 11, 2015 8:54PM (EST)

  (Annie I. Bang/invision/ap)
(Annie I. Bang/invision/ap)

Recently, while interviewing Amy Schumer on his podcast “Here’s The Thing with Alec Baldwin,” the actor shared that he’s learned about the idea of sexuality being a spectrum from younger people he’s worked with as well as his daughter, Ireland Baldwin. Ireland made headlines last year for very publicly kissing rapper Angel Haze, who told an interviewer, “I’m just a kid in love right now. It’s just like some 14-year-old posting pictures of their first girlfriend.” While the pair reportedly split up earlier this year, Ireland’s same sex relationship has left its mark on her father, making him more open-minded than he’d presumably been previously.

On the podcast, after being asked whether women throw themselves at her because of how funny and “sexually liberated,” Schumer told Baldwin that “women get confused around me. They want my attention, they like me,” but they can’t quite figure out whether they have a girl crush or a crush crush. “I’m straight, but they’ll sometimes deal with me the way that they would a guy that they’re attracted to,” said Schumer.

This prompted Baldwin to share, “As my daughter said to me—because she had a girlfriend for a while—she said to me, ‘You don’t sleep with a man or a woman. You sleep with the person. I’m attracted to that person. So she slept with somebody who was a woman. I was like, you know, wow, I’ve met men that I loved as much as anybody in my life.’”

When Schumer asked Baldwin, “And you’re never?” he replied, “I’m not built that way.” But the very fact that Baldwin so casually mentioned that his daughter had slept with a woman and that he clearly didn’t consider it a problem—plus that he learned that there’s more varieties to the sexual rainbow than straight, gay or bi—is a sign of how far we’ve come in the evolution of sexual freedom, not to mention parental acceptance and openness. Parents who make such statements are acknowledging that their child is an adult capable of making his or her own decisions, and a sign that the older generation can learn from the younger. As Emily Winter wrote at The Frisky, “[W]hen dads can’t admit that their daughters are sexual, it sustains the pattern of men filing women into two groups: sex ones and non-sex ones. But Baldwin proves he’s a little more evolved.”

In January here at Salon, Tracy Clark-Flory wrote approvingly of Brian Williams being totally supportive of his daughter Allison Williams’ infamous butt eating sex scene on HBO drama "Girls." “Dads have so many opportunities to positively influence how their daughters feel about their own bodies and sexualities. They have so many chances to not teach them shame. They have so many ways to communicate that it’s a woman, not a man — be he her father or husband — who owns her sexuality,” declared Clark-Flory.

She’s exactly right, but this isn’t just about dads and daughters. Kristen Stewart’s mom Jules Stewart was quoted in June in the UK’s The Sunday Mirror saying, “What’s not to be accepting about her now having a girlfriend? She’s happy. She’s my daughter, I’m just her mom so she knows I would accept her choices. I’ve met Kristen’s new girlfriend, I like her. What’s not to accept? She’s a lovely girl.” While Jules later denied speaking to The Sunday Mirror reporter about her daughter, she admitted to US Weekly that she did say in that interview, speaking about Kristen’s personal assistant (and rumored girlfriend), Alicia Cargile, “Yes, she’s a lovely girl” and went on the record as being a “huge supporter of gay rights.” Whether or not she actually talked about Kristen being in love with a woman, Stewart’s outspokenness about gay rights and the fact that she didn’t rush to deny that her daughter might be in a same-sex relationship, speak volumes.

Johnny Depp wore a “We Are You” t-shirt on The Ellen DeGeneres Show to broadcast his support for teenage daughter Lily-Rose Depp, who came out as sexually fluid on Instagram earlier this year by also wearing a “We Are You” t-shirt. The t-shirts are part of The Self Evident Truths project, which is described on its website as “a photographic document of 10,000 people in the USA that identify as ANYTHING OTHER than 100% straight – as in, if you are anywhere on the LGBTQ spectrum in ANY way, even 1% gay, we want to take your picture!” In other words, you can show your support for your child being able to own their own sexuality, wherever it falls on the spectrum Baldwin mentioned, without even saying a word, by aligning yourself with those working to expand the cultural discussion around sex and sexual orientation.

Of course this isn’t going to be the easiest process for all parents, especially when there are still plenty of people out there who think it’s perfectly okay for a daughter to proudly present a “certificate of purity” to her father on her wedding day ensuring that her hymen is intact. The ways Baldwin, Depp, and Stewart have chosen to support their children is the exact opposite of the kind of monitoring purity culture asks parents to do, as if they are the ultimate arbiters of who their offspring should be attracted to and how those attractions should manifest.

This week’s "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" featured a plotline about Rebecca helping her boss in his custody battle. After she accuses him of rhapsodizing about his daughter in way that came off as creepy, he busts into song to declare why “I Love My Daughter,” which features the lines, “One day she’ll fall in love and I’ll give her away/not like I ever had her/what a weird thing to say.” The song is as over-the-top as most of the songs on the show, but it highlights the schism fathers can be made to feel about whether they are showing too much enthusiasm about parenting a daughter. What does that say about our culture when we assume a father can’t be as obsessive of a parent as a mom without bordering on something untoward? This is the start of the kinds of attitudes that breed people thinking Brian Williams should have automatically condemned his daughter’s anilingus scene.

Now, can this be taken too far? Of course. Every family has to figure out what their boundaries are around discussing sex amongst themselves or, in the case of celebrities, in public. Justin Bieber’s father Jeremy caught flak for a now-deleted Tweet joking about his son’s penis after paparazzi photos of it were published, in which he asked “@justinbieber what do you feed that thing. #proud daddy.” But you know what? The Biebs himself found his dad’s comment funny, so who am I to challenge it? I’d rather see parents at least acknowledge that their kids don’t belong to them and have sexual body parts and sexual desires than pretending the opposite.

Someday, I hope that statements like Baldwin’s are so commonplace they aren’t even noteworthy. But until that time, let’s applaud parents who can appreciate that their adult children are sexual beings, and aren’t ashamed or embarrassed about that fact.

By Rachel Kramer Bussel

Rachel Kramer Bussel is the author of "Sex & Cupcakes: A Juicy Collection of Essays" and the editor of more than 70 anthologies, including "The Big Book of Orgasms" and the Best Women's Erotica of the Year series. She teaches erotica writing workshops online and in-person, writes widely about books, culture, sex, dating and herself, and Tweets @raquelita.

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