I’ve talked to my teenage daughter about anal sex but never about masturbation. I talked to her about the mechanics of sex when she was 11 as she held her hands over her ears and protested that I “Stop talking about that stuff.” I talked to her about losing her virginity and then about when she actually lost her virginity when she called me giggling just minutes after. I’ve talked to my daughter about sex. So how did I not talk to her about masturbation?
I mean we’ve talked around it. She told me about her friend who masturbated under the blanket while she and the girl’s siblings were watching a movie when they were all kids. But even that story she didn’t tell me until she was in college. To make matters worse, I write about sex a lot, including books on orgasm and, yes, masturbation. And I hate to even admit this: I am constantly going on and on all the time in my lectures and my writing about how important it is that we talk to our girls about the power or masturbation.
All of this leads me to one conclusion: I’m the worst. *Sigh* I feel like I’ve kept a secret from her. There must be something about how the harder a talk is to have, the more important it is. Masturbation — and talking about it — is super-important, especially for women, especially for young women, especially now. Masturbation can literally change the course of a young person’s — not to mention any woman’s — life by keeping her from chasing partners strictly for orgasm now and teaching her how to instruct her partner about her body and her orgasm later.
I waited too long to broach the subject, honestly. It doesn’t take long — particularly these days — for a kid to find out enough about sex and masturbation to decide it’s not something they want to talk to their parents about. But if you catch them early enough, you have yourself a little sponge ready to absorb all the facts and all the positive attitudes toward masturbation so she’s too saturated to absorb any of the BS that’s thrown at her later by media, friends, religion and the like.
I don’t have any fancy explanation for why I never talked to her. I was simply too scared and too embarrassed. I was scared I would screw it up, and I was embarrassed because, well, I have no idea why. I just was. Somehow, talking to a thousand strangers about it in a giant theater aboard a massive ship feels like a breeze. But talking to her seemed impossible. I blame the world for that. I should be better than that, bigger than that. But I wasn’t.
It may not be too late for you, though, if you have a daughter. The sooner the better, I say. Masturbation is a powerful thing. It teaches a girl domain over her body. It teaches a girl to be responsible for her own pleasure. It teaches her that she can want a sexual partner but she never, ever needs one. It teaches her how best to operate the equipment she has every right to operate in whatever consensual way she sees fit.
I would keep it age-appropriate, and I would be smart about my timing. If I were to see her touching herself as a toddler, I would reinforce the behavior and remind her that’s something to be done in private. As she got older, I would tell her that masturbating is something everyone does — or should do, anyway — and that as long as she is not hurting herself, there is no wrong way to do it.
https://media.giphy.com/media/CUDXQ7VBGKru0/giphy.gifI would tell her not to insert objects into her vagina, not because there’s anything wrong with penetration but because the wrong objects can damage the vagina and/or get stuck inside. Once she were 14 (that age is arbitrary, really — maturity should be your guide), I would purchase a small vibrator for her, like the Lelo Nea 2 or the Womanizer Deluxe. I would explain to her that there’s nothing wrong with using sex toys alone or with a partner.
The conversation would be about masturbation on the surface. But it would really be about bodily autonomy and pleasure and never letting a partner make her think sex should center on penetration and their orgasm. That’s some old-school, patriarchal crap that's time is up. I would want masturbation to help her wait to have sex until she felt truly ready, both emotionally and physically, instead of wanting to have it to release some sort of sexual tension. That’s the easy part. A girl can take care of that itch on her own and wait to partner with someone who makes her feel happy and safe and desirable and cared for and all that good stuff.
Thinking about this makes me wonder if it’s too late for me with my daughter. Probably. But even without the masturbation talk, I am confident that I got my other points across. So I guess I’m not actually the absolute worst. Still, I regret that miss. I hope other moms won’t end up having the same regret. Don’t wait. Buy her a copy of Our Bodies, Ourselves. Open the conversation early. Tell her the truth. It’s the least we can do.