My daughter asked me about sex again. Surprise, surprise.
Marcia came back to me one day while I was folding laundry on the bed with another whopper of a question… and I was glad she did. She asked me if there were more ways to have sex and not get pregnant. If you recall from a previous post, I was bummed after I gave my answer to her last question because my answer was very heterocentric, meaning defining sex as only penile-vaginal (P/V) intercourse.
I’m building up to my answer: Some of you might already know where I’m going with this. But, before you read on, you probably realize that not many people like to talk about “This”. “This” is highly controversial stuff. The “This” I’m referring to is Masturbation. Some call it self-love or self-pleasuring along with other more silly names depending upon your gender.
Dr. Joycelyn Elders was forced to resign her post as U.S. Surgeon General in December 1994 after suggesting masturbation be taught in sex ed!! She was asked at a World AIDS Day conference if she would consider promoting masturbation as a means of preventing young people from engaging in riskier forms of sexual activity. Elder, as quoted in US News & World Report responded, "With regard to masturbation, I think that it is something that is a part of human sexuality and a part of something that should perhaps be taught."
Dr. Elders is a very wise woman. Genital self-stimulation is very natural; some babies in their first year of life explore their bodies and this behavior has been observed in utero as well. But it is also important to remember that we as adults tend to sexualize things that a child does NOT see as sexual and a child’s self-stimulating behavior is not “masturbating” like an adult. I think this fact is an important piece to remember: When a child overhears that two people are sleeping together, they picture two people snuggling in the same bed (something they probably like to do with Mom or Dad), whereas an adult pictures the “Sleeping Together” we all know and love. This is sexualization, making something sexual or attributing sex or a sex role.
Back to my answer to Marcia’s question.
Me: “I’m so happy you asked. I realized last time you asked me I forgot THE very best way. You are not going to get pregnant and you are not going to get any sexually transmitted infections! It’s called masturbation.”
Her: “What’s that?”
Me: “It’s when you touch your private parts.”
Her: “Do you do that?”
**Spoiler Alert**: those of you who know me can skip down to the Punch Line if you prefer …
Me: (ugh. I did NOT expect the line of questioning to go this way. Did I REALLY say I was going to try to be up front and honest with this stuff??) *blushing* “weeelll, yeeeaaahh.”
Her: “You DO??!”
Me: “Yeah, but I didn’t until I was older mainly because Grandma told me only girls who are dirty, nasty, or naughty do that. As I got older I realized that was a bunch of nonsense.”
Her: (grinning) “Really?”
Me: “There are all kinds of things people say about masturbation that simply aren’t true. But it’s your body. It belongs to you. I’m ok with you touching your parts. But please keep it private, say when you are alone in your room or in the bathroom. It’s not something to do in public.” (That last sentence said with emphasis to lighten the mood.)
Marcia, giggling, fell down into the folded clothes on the bed. We snuggled, laughing together, big smiles on our faces.
Masturbation or self-pleasuring has many benefits. It improves immune function, relieves menstrual cramps, and is the safest kind of sex … meaning it is risk-free: no chance for pregnancy or STI’s. Masturbation also helps a person know his or her own body better and s/he learns what feels good. Some parents would rather their teens release the sexual tension alone than feel pressure to have P/V sex. All of this reminds me of my favorite line in the YouTube video of a “Weeds” episode talking about masturbation. Uncle Andy says, “Practice makes perfect so work on your control now while you’re a solo artist and you’ll be playing some long happy duets in the future”.
As for what Grandma said, some would say Masturbation IS dirty and nasty…but in the GOOD way. :)