Ted Cruz Is Not Perpetuating Rape Culture Against His Own Daughters

By Casey Bennett

[dropcap size=small]R[/dropcap]epublican presidential candidate Ted Cruz is under fire after an awkward video capturing a moment between himself and his daughter went viral.

In the video, Cruz’s daughter can be seen visibly acting up while her father tries to give her a kiss goodbye. She whines repeatedly, a surly expression on her face, before Cruz gives her the kiss and the clip ends.

Unfortunately, what should have amounted to nothing more than a cranky little girl tired of being on the campaign trail has blown up into accusations that Cruz perpetuates rape culture, abuses his children, and doesn’t respect their autonomy. The sexualization of Cruz’s relationship with his daughter by those who consider themselves socially progressive extends far beyond Cruz, of course. It attacks all men who’ve ever shown their daughters affection in times of upset and perpetuates the narrative that men who are emotionally invested in their children are sexual predators, so lacking in respect for women that even their own daughters are fair targets.

Unsurprisingly, criticisms surrounding Cruz’s use of spanking when his children step out of line have been trotted out as an explanation for the eldest Cruz daughter’s fuss. Of course, if the occasional spank led to psychological impairment so severe it prevented children from wanting physical affection from their parents, we’d have entire generations afflicted with emotional issues. As it happens, the most insolent, entitled, and narcissistic generation to date is also the one whose parents think rewarding bad behaviour is the key to unlocking obedience.

The people who refuse to acknowledge that punishment is sometimes necessary are the same people who believe Ted Cruz disrespected his daughter’s autonomy by giving her a kiss despite her protests, and in some cases are the same people who sexualized Cruz’s relationship with his daughter to begin with, implying spanking is akin to sexual abuse. The idea that parents should not exert some degree of control over their children represents a failure on behalf of its proponents to identify the consequences of allowing children total autonomy. “Yes, little Suzy, you can wear your frilly skirt outside in 23 degree weather and develop hypothermia. Who am I to exert control over what you wear?” Of course, Cruz’s crime was kissing his daughter while she was fussing. Those of us who appreciate nuance, however, understand that dad isn’t going to stop showing his daughter love just because she’s in a bad mood, and beyond that, that parents have an obligation to punish, control, and dictate to their children to protect them from harm.

Interestingly, and perhaps tellingly, the moral superiority lorded over Cruz and other fathers is coming predominately from the childless.

I am not a mother myself, but I am a daughter, and as a little girl I was sometimes very difficult to handle. Despite my frequent blowups and breakdowns, dad never walked away from me. He never denied me affection, and would still hug me even when I was curled up on a chair, entirely uninterested in being touched or loved. According to those criticizing Cruz, my father, the man without whom I’d have surely gone off the rails, perpetuates rape culture and doesn’t respect my autonomy. Worse, according to their logic, is he’s guilty of sexual abuse too.

From the comments at LGBTQnation.com:

She looks like her future holds years of therapy.

It’s pretty sad when even a 5 year old who lives with you and sees you when you’re not ‘on’ knows what a sleazy, slimy, soulless piece of human detritus you are, but…

I hope she hasn’t been a victim of sexual assault, but given who that is, I don’t have very high hopes. 

There is more tell tale in this than the average person wants to think about. I wonder what skeleton is hiding in this man’s closet? Is “daddy” really so upright and moral?

She reacted exactly the way I used to, when “Uncle Touchy” tried to use a family moment to cop a feel.

Most daughters are overjoyed to be with their dad, especially when their dad is a “celebrity”. This young girl can’t wait to get away from him.

Who wants to bet not one of these people have children? And is it a stretch to wonder if most of them are projecting their own experiences?

The author as a little girl with her father
The author as a little girl with her father

As an adult woman, it moves me to tears to think about, not because I feel violated or disrespected by my own father, but because he cared so much about me that even at my worst, he didn’t want me to feel unloved. The socially progressive among us would tell me I’ve internalized rape culture; I prefer to think of it as having a great father. Before his week-long trips to Europe for business and seven hour car rides to Quebec with my mother (who, by the logic of the socially progressive, is also an avid perpetrator of rape culture), dad always made sure to give me a hug and a kiss goodbye — even when I wasn’t really feeling it. The idea that children never act up and must only do so when they’re being sexually abused or spanked at home is offensive, deplorable, ignorant, and damaging. It gives men reason to be fearful of demonstrating affection towards their daughters, paranoid they’ll be charged with devastating allegations.

The root of my father’s actions was love. The root of Ted Cruz’s actions was also love. Despite allegations Cruz’s daughter has reason to harbour fear and disdain for him, photos of the Cruz children with their father tell a very different story.

Ted Cruz reads “Green Eggs and Ham” to his daughters from the senate floor
Ted Cruz sits proudly with his daughters
Ted Cruz hugging his daughters at the Fox GOP debate

As TLR contributor and mother of three Lina Bryce puts it: “I think it says more about the person looking at children as sex objects than it does about a father’s intimacy with his child.”


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