Teens and Sex, A Reality Based Approach

Feelings About Masturbating

Girls have profoundly varied feelings about masturbating which can be generally broken into four categories as shown in a recent study. Group 1 never thought about it or didn’t know about it. Women rarely talk about female masturbation even with close friends and it isn’t a common topic in the media. Why is it that something so many adult women are doing (~50%), isn’t really part of our cultural lexicon or language?

Younger women need to know that this avenue for sexual release exists and that it is a great form of “safe sex” that they can completely control themselves.

Group 2 lacked the knowledge about their own bodies to “make it work.” As one girl said “I sort of know what to do but it never seems to work.” Girls that failed at masturbating didn’t talk to people about it and were left feeling like something was wrong with them. If girls can’t figure out for themselves how to achieve an orgasm, communicating their needs to a future partner could be difficult at best. And this is one talk no one is going to initiate with her parents, although several girls expressed a wish that they could talk to their moms about it. Group 3 girls viewed masturbation negatively. Many knew boys masturbated but thought that it was “disgusting” or “gay” for girls to touch themselves. A few even refused to believe that women did this. For girls who were sexually active in this group, they more often felt disappointed and let down by sex with their partner than other girls. They also tended to have less effective communications with their partners about sexual activities, such as not having sex if they didn’t want to, the need to use a condom, or how to find their own pleasure. And they described conversations with their parents as uni-directional  or “being talked at” instead of “to” by their moms.

Group 4 girls had a positive view on masturbation and described it as a source of release and reward for them. This group tended to have more open communications with their parents, especially their moms about sex. As a part of this discussion style, these parents gave examples from their own lives and presented things in a less black and white open manner, allowing the girls to talk about what was going on in their own lives. They were also better able to handle disagreements about sex with their partners. Overall, in this study, the young women who had never masturbated were more likely to have had negative or disappointing first sexual experiences with boys. This may not at the onset seem like a bad thing. But these girls tended to frame sex in a language of it being about their male partner’s pleasure, rather than their own needs, since they hadn’t really enjoyed the experience yet. They also seemed to confuse their own emotional need for intimacy with their physical sexual feelings of desire, making them more at risk for having sex with someone to feel close to them instead of because they wanted sexual intimacy.

Most of our teens are masturbating – it is a fact of life.

By 18 years of age over 70% of young men and 50% of young women record that they have masturbated in the past 90 days. Following Dr. Elders' lead and reinforcing that “self pleasuring” is an excellent way to handle feeling horny, especially for youth who choose to delay sexual activity, should be a part of parents' open communications with their kids—since we really can’t seem to get it together to discuss this in school.

Coming Soon, Part 2: How Teens Relate to Sex.

- Dr. E
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