When I was a pre-teen, about to go off to camp, my mother told me that I had a special place I could touch, that felt very nice. But that if I did that, it would cause me to think about and want to have sex. I'm sure there's more to what she said. There are holes in that story. Clearly I knew this special place was not on my big toe, but how did she express that? I don't remember. All I know is, I didn't discover masturbation until I was in college. (After which, my mom's talk finally made sense, at least the touching feeling nice part.)
That's later than most, I believe, and, knowing what I know now, I'm grateful. Looking back, I do wonder if my depression didn't start in college, due to orgasms. I continued masturbating until, two months ago, when my husband found NoFap.com, and I agreed to a hard mode reboot with him. Which meant, for the first time, I wasn't going to masturbate to help me fall asleep. Two weeks in, I gave in. I'm happy to say I pushed past the next two week barrier and now don't miss my solo Os at all. I'm not even tempted. I learned a lot through that "failure." Even before I read "Cupid's Poisoned Arrow" I came to the conclusion that I was self medicating by masturbating. I also discovered it was stealing sexual energy from my marriage and committed, with my husband, to only orgasm with him. (After that, we discovered karezza and we're talking about experimenting more with that. I'm more enthusiastic than he is, at least right now.)
I don't know for sure why I didn't masturbate any sooner. I don't think it was my mom's pep talk. Maybe it was because I didn't have a boyfriend until college? The timing is right for that theory. Maybe it was because I grew up in a conservative Christian community, which valued saving sex until marriage? (Which I did, kind of. Saving it for one man, my now husband, but not after the actual marriage.)
Now I'm a mom of a toddler daughter and my time at NoFap and reading "Cupid's Poisoned Arrow" have turned my world sideways. What do I tell her about masturbation? I could put off thinking about it and coming up with a solution, but that's not how I do things. Plus, it already has come up, in a way. We're doing a lot of naked time because of potty training and, eh, she's a toddler, naked is better, and she does touch herself. Of course she does. It belongs to her. Just as her elbow or her nose does. Nobody says anything when she touches those body parts. (Unless, of course, she's digging for a booger.)
My plan has always been to say what goes around the online mom groups. "It's OK to touch yourself but you need to do it in private and wash your hands afterward." No shame. Never.
I'm still down with the no shame. I got a dose of the, sex is bad shame, growing up Christian. Like my mom's talk, there are holes, I don't remember specifics, what was said and by whom. I don't think it was my mom. Was it the sex ed I know I went through in elementary school but don't remember anything about? Did it seep through from my friends, who, according to my memory, were my strongest inspiration to save sex for marriage? Again, all I know is, I ended up with the shame. It took quite a while after I was married to stop feeling like I was doing a bad thing, having sex with my husband. But it wasn't the kind of shame that stopped me from healthy sexual exploration. To be honest, it just made it feel a bit more exciting and thrilling.
But back to my child. What do I tell her? Is the standard, it's OK to touch but wash your hands line still the right thing? I'm not at all concerned she's going for self pleasure. Like I said before, to her, it's just like another body part. An interesting one. It produces pee and poop, accompanied by much clapping and praise from mom and dad. It makes funny noises! (farts) It's the perfect place to hide things (by sitting on them) in the bathtub. Oh, the wonders of a vulva and a butt.
I'm a very open person and I feel it's important she feels comfortable talking to me now, so when it's time for these bigger questions later, she will come to me. We talk very calmly and matter-of-factly about the food to pee and poop journey. She knows to look at her pee and see if it's dark yellow, because then she needs to get hydrated. She uses the proper terms, daddy has a penis and mommy and me have a vulva. She has heard her birth story, starting from her being half mommy (egg) and half daddy (sperm) all the way to me pushing her out.
I was amused and pleased the other day, when she joyfully shouted, "I like my boobies just the way they are!" This was after a discussion she initiated, which repeated earlier conversations, about the fact that she has small nipples and mommy has big boobies, but someday she will have big boobies just like mommy. The whole thing combined Daniel Tiger's emotion and people positive messages with mommy's frank body talk. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6bFPjdPG5ec&noredirect=1 She's definitely going to be that kid that uses proper body terms and other parents complain about. Which I'm totally fine with.
For now, I've just taken the calm, now you need to wash your hands, route. Is there a better way to phrase it? And I want to be ready, when it's time to say more. Anyone with kids knows that day always comes much faster than you think it will.
Maybe my mom's approach wasn't so terrible after all? Again, how can I phrase it better?
If my husband and I do decide to make karezza part of our lives on a regular basis, will my daughter be able to enter her first relationship armed with that knowledge, rather than having to stumble across it accidentally at age 40, like I did? What will it take to get to the point where a whole generation of children enters adulthood, better prepared to understand the impact of orgasms, with and without a partner. How can we do that without shame and without pressure one way or another, allowing them to choose their own path?