Ok, I have a confession to make. Writing the blog entry I did on Masturbation a year ago was so incredibly difficult for me. I realized before I hit send that I had bitten off all my fingernails and tugged at my eyelashes. What is up with THAT? It really makes me wonder what my mom said to me about self love/masturbation all those years ago. I think it had a pretty significant impact on the sexuality of my young adult life. I’ve long thought that my interest in the field of psychology, women’s studies, and human sexuality has a lot to do with my very sexually repressed Catholic upbringing. Since I wrote that blog, I went through a class learning how to help Pre-Orgasmic Women. In it, I unraveled my own first memory of my first orgasm. I’m 42 years old now, and it took 30+ years to recall it.
So it raises a question for me: Why do some parents shame their children about behaviors that feel good and that don’t harm the child? Besides the obvious religious abuse around the topic, what is wrong with it? I’ll note here that when I say religious abuse, I’m using the same definition as listed on Wikipedia.
Well-meaning instances of such abuse are often motivated by genuine concern that the targeted person will come to physical or spiritual harm should they engage in a certain behavior or question their beliefs. The perpetrator then uses exaggerated, distorted or even false versions of their teachings or their position of authority to instill intense fear and/or shame so that the victim will comply.
Typically, lots of parents of girls either don’t talk about self love/masturbation or they tell their daughters, “Don’t do it”. Whereas parents of boys tend to adopt a sort of “don’t ask, don’t tell” attitude on the subject, unless it comes up, then they might say “boys will be boys” and may look the other way. Here’s the thing: you, as the parent, are entitled to have your own views and opinions on this topic. Obviously. If you do not believe it’s okay to masturbate and wish to share that with your children, that’s your right as a parent. You should share that as your belief/values (religious or otherwise), but make sure to give accurate, factual information about masturbation as well. No, hair will NOT grow on your palms. No, you will NOT go blind. No, it won’t hurt you. Marcia caught me off guard when she asked me if I masturbated (I should have seen that coming…), and you can read how I answered the question honestly.
Bottom line, parents who shame their children around masturbation are really messing with their kids’ heads. If parents tell their children things that are not true about masturbation, it creates a huge amount of anxiety and/or cognitive dissonance (a discomfort caused by holding conflicting ideas simultaneously) in the children;”I’m not supposed to do this touching myself thing, but it feels so good!” I understand it isn’t anything parents want to talk about with their children; however, it goes right along with teaching them about the changes that occur in their bodies as they grow. I can’t imagine how freaked out I would be if I were a boy and woke up after a wet dream but had no idea if that was normal. It’s an uncomfortable conversation, but it’s totally okay to acknowledge such. If it fits for you, you can say, “My mom/dad/parent didn’t talk to me about this, and I kinda wish they did. I’m nervous now talking to you about this, but I want to be here for you. There’s a lot of information out there, and not all of it is good. I want you to have the correct answers. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll go find out and get back to you.”
So, how can something that feels so good, really be so “wrong”? Masturbation is self-love. It is instructional and helps an individual understand the functioning of his/her body. It helps relieve menstrual cramps. It improves one’s mood. It relieves stress. Most importantly, the concern for most parents is this: it allows a person to be sexual without engaging another person, or risk contracting STI’s, or risk getting pregnant. This is one of my favorite videos of this talk:
Can someone tell me, what ARE the drawbacks again?