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Talking about masturbation is easier than you think

Arrière-plan

December 14, 2021 Sexual and Gender Diversity

Parents

Par Meredith Paré et Amélie Ouimet

Psychosocial workers

As a parent, you have likely already addressed a variety of issues surrounding masturbation, such as privacy, self-respect, limits, and boundaries. Using these topics as an entry point can make it easier to initiate the discussion.

That being said, this does not mean that it should not be addressed more plainly. In fact, calling things by their name - masturbation in this case - helps to remove taboos and build a climate of trust to discuss them.

As a parent... 

First, as parents, it can be useful to consider the reasons why a teenager may choose to masturbate, and remember that these reasons may be different from your own. For some, it may be a way to relieve stress or to relax, but masturbation can also be about discovery. Discovery of one's body, sexuality, pleasure, erogenous zones.

It can be easier to approach sexuality with your child by detaching your own sexuality and experiences from the conversation. Remembering that teens are in the process of discovery and that it is not necessary to discuss their preferences allows you to refocus on your role. You have instilled values in your child and it is important to remind them that these values also apply to their intimate lives. This is not about wanting to know the details of their private life!


Masturbation is a natural practice and it is healthy to talk about it. The goal is to provide a non-judgmental and trusting space to respect your child's pace and boundaries.

You may want to do the exercise of asking yourself if you would be comfortable answering these questions yourself. This will help determine whether or not they are too intrusive. Along these lines, be sure to ask questions that you are prepared to receive the answer to. The goal is to provide a space of non-judgment and trust. It's important to respect your child's rhythm and limits, but also to respect your own!

Masturbation is personal 

First of all, it's just as normal to masturbate as it is not to. It's a matter of personal choice and desire. Second, there is no age, gender or sexual orientation that influences the desire to masturbate. Among the important elements to consider is sexual awakening. By this we mean the arrival of puberty and the general development of sexuality. Masturbation is a way to rediscover and reappropriate one's changing body. 

It is a way to become familiar with the new physical manifestations that an adolescent may experience, such as erections or lubrication. This is why you can stress the importance of taking your time, so that it remains an enjoyable experience. This is also a great opportunity to discuss peer pressure and to debunk the different myths about masturbation that your child may have heard.

Right place, right time 

One necessary element to discuss is context. When we talk about intimacy, we are also talking about discretion, respect, and the sharing of common spaces. The teenager needs to consider where and when to masturbate in order to feel comfortable and safe doing so. While bedrooms and bathrooms can be great places to masturbate, it is important that this be done in a way that respects others. 

This includes making sure that no one can come in unannounced, that no one is waiting to use the room, and to leave the area clean. Speaking of hygiene, the place and time chosen should also provide the opportunity to clean up if needed. Masturbation can involve bodily fluids, and one should plan to be able to wash up properly.  

This discussion may also lead to revised expectations about privacy, which may have changed. For example, if you used to knock and enter your child's room, they may now ask you to wait for an answer after knocking on the door.

“Enjoyment, that's all I want!”

There are many different methods and techniques, and everyone will find what works for them over time. Without making all the possible techniques explicit, it is relevant to mention that your teen has the right to explore, to try different things, and that there is no one way to masturbate. Exploration can be done with lube, sex toys or objects, but don't forget to clean them! In adolescence, it's also normal to experiment with non-sexual objects, but you should remind them to be careful.

Discovering one's sexuality is an ongoing process, a learning journey. It’s possible to have positive and negative experiences with masturbation, and that's normal. These are new sensations, and it's possible that it won't live up to expectations or even that some attempts won't be pleasant. Whether it is a question of masturbation techniques, fantasies, or pornography, respect is the most important thing - once again - of one's rhythm and limits.  

All this to say that... 

It's normal to feel some stress about talking to your teen about sex, just remember to be open and non-judgmental. Masturbation is a natural practice and it's healthy to talk about it. You can bring it up through shows, books, school situations, or anything else that creates an opportunity to discuss it.

If you do not feel sufficiently equipped, there are resources to help you. Alternatively, if you are not comfortable having this discussion with your child, there might be another trusted adult or a professional, such as a sex therapist, who your child would be more comfortable speaking with. In the end, the goal is to guide your child as best you can. Trust yourself, you don't need to be an expert - reading this article already shows that you are on the right track!  


References (in French)

On SEXplique ça, Livre par  Isabelle Arcoite, Laurence Desjardins, Anabelle Gauthier, Comment parler de sexualité avec son ado
Roxane Gaudette Loiseau, Mélanie Guénette-Robert, Petit manifeste de la masturbation féminine