Masturbation is the perfect example of one of those awkward sex conversations I’d like to have with my niece Emmi, but I know her head would explode and I’d be picking brain matter of my hair for weeks.
Growing up Catholic, all conversations about sex were awkward, which is probably why I called lady parts “maginas” till I was twelve. It’s also why I never connected “sex” – a subject that made my mom so uncomfortable – with that delicious, fairy dust feeling I got from sitting on the pool jets.
Sure, my Mom talked a good game and said I could ask her anything, anything at all about sex. But I began to suspect she wasn’t much of an expert when she told me oral sex was just “dirty talk,” which was not what Webster’s Dictionary had to say on the subject.
When I asked her about “hard-ons” and “wet dreams” after reading Then Again Maybe I Won’t by Judy Blume, her head exploded and I spent a week picking brain matter out of my hair.
Judy Blume lightly touched on the topic of masturbation in Deenie, a book I wasn’t allowed to read. After Then Again Maybe I Won’t, Mom had to pre-screen all Judy Blume books and Deenie wasn’t deemed age appropriate. While crouched by the door of our formal dining room (another off-limits space in our household), I overheard her telling my dad that Deenie liked to put her hand “down there.”
I was given a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird instead.
Naturally, I read Deenie anyway and didn’t move my hand from ‘down there’ for practically all of junior high. In fact, I didn’t move my hand at all, so other than its appeal as illicit behavior, the act really did nothing for me. Maybe if I’d lived in San Francisco or some other earthquake prone region, I might’ve seen the appeal.
Ah, but those pool jets…
If I could talk to Emmi on the subject, I’d assure her this isn’t a how-to. I might’ve accidently overstepped that line when when she was three, tugging at her panties and whining to everyone in Target that her “crunch was itchy.” Like a responsible auntie, I bought the appropriate cream for itchy crunches and let her apply it herself once she was safely buckled in her car seat. Seeing her eyes roll back in her head, I screeched out of the parking lot on two wheels before I got into an awkward sex conversation with a cop.
So, no, this isn’t a how-to, merely an opportunity to clear up a few things for the late bloomers, the curious and the misled, since I’d been all three.
Myth: Girls don’t do it.
Except for Prince’s “Darling Nikki”, the utter radio silence on the subject among my friends, in the books I was allowed to read and movies I was allowed to watch made me think masturbation was a boys-only activity. It was years before I learned the real reason all of my friend Christie’s stuffed animal noses were smushed to one side. Plenty of girls do it, so you’re not weird if you do too.
Myth: Everyone does it.
Plenty of girls don’t do it, that’s fine, too. So you’re not weird if you don’t either.
Myth: Doing it makes you a nympho or means you’re a nympho.
Quite the opposite. Masturbation can be a super safe, healthy way to not have sex before you’re ready. Or even if you are. Plus, it can have lots of non-sex related benefits like reducing stress, easing menstrual cramps and helping you sleep.
Myth: I’m encouraging you to try it.
Not at all. Taking matters into your own hands is not as much a suggestion to masturbate as it is a reminder that it’s your sexuality, your choices, your body. You can and should make decisions for yourself when it comes to all things sex related. In fact, masturbation can be a safe, easy first step toward formulating your own personal policy on sex – asking yourself what’s my attitude toward sex? When will I have it? Under what circumstances? With whom? Using what protection? Again this is YOUR call. No one else has the right to police, pressure or shame you, or take away your consent.
Yes, it’s possible to have an awkward sex conversation just with yourself. But it’s necessary. I wish I’d asked myself these questions and articulated actual answers before I headed off to college. I wish I’d asked myself these questions before and after I lost my virginity. After every breakup. Whenever I started dating someone new. Good thing it’s never too late.
From Auntie Venom’s Eighties Audio Files:
So did your head explode? Have you formulated your own policy about sex? Do you have someone you have these awkward sex conversations with or is that what the Internet’s for?