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Your teen shouldn't feel guilty about masturbating

Bethany Ramos is an editor, blogger, and chick lit author. Bethany works as Editor in Chief for Naturally Healthy Publications.

What I wish my parents had never told me about masturbation

Masturbation and guilt should never meet. If you make your teen feel bad about this healthy sexual act, a long road of shame and confusion lies ahead.

To fully understand my pro-teen-masturbation stance, you have to understand my background. I grew up in a very, very religious home. My parents were missionaries. My dad was later a pastor. After my parents divorced and my mom remarried, I even attended Bible college as a young adult with my mom and stepdad.

I don't regret my time as a super-Christian — it helped me develop a strong relationship with God that still holds true as I discover myself outside of the religious box. I do regret some of the crazy crap that I was taught as a Christian teen and young adult. This crap is hard to scrape off my shoe and still sticks with me today.

The most vivid story I can remember about how Christianity affected my view of sex goes a little something like this: As a teen, I had never masturbated. I was told flat out at youth group that it was wrong, and even one dirty thought could send you down the slippery slope of porn addiction.

I asked my mom the question, "Is it wrong to masturbate?" To her credit, my mom has now changed her views, but at the time she said, "Yes. The only person who is allowed to touch your body is your husband."

There is so much wrong with that statement that I don't even know where to begin. I was never given the guidance to love and care for my body and my sexuality first of all. I didn't matter because someday I would just grow up to be "the wife." My body would always belong to another.

But the teen abstinence sword cuts both ways. My husband, the son of a lifelong pastor, has a similar story from growing up in a Christian household. As a teenager, my father-in-law found my husband's porn that he had picked up from the trash, as ninth graders are wont to do.

When he discovered the sinful porn that my husband was hoarding, he sat him down and said, "What if these women were your mother?"

Just no. As a parent, I can now see that both of these responses are terrible. I don't necessarily fault our parents at the time, but I do fault strict religion that enforces absolute rules about sex and masturbation.

If you are wondering how and when to talk to your teen about masturbation, do it now. Do it yesterday. Do it often. Thankfully, I have worked through many of these issues and have a very healthy sex life with my husband. But it didn't come easy. I had to knock down walls and challenge stigmas that made me feel guilty for the act of self-pleasure. Now I know that self-pleasure is a great and natural thing and is even necessary to support your sex life.

There aren't many parenting don'ts on my list, but this is a big one: Don't make your teens feel guilty about masturbation and sex. It absolutely will affect them for the rest of their life.

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