Why Talk About Masturbation

This exchange illustrates the kind of anxiety many young people have regarding masturbation.

Recently, I was engaged in this online chat…

This exchange illustrates the kind of anxiety many young people have regarding masturbation, also called “self-pleasuring.” It also shows how desperate they are to find someone they can talk to about their questions. This young man reached across the globe to a stranger, rather than try to talk face-to-face with someone he knows.

My responses to him focused on helping him understand the facts about self-pleasuring so he knew it wouldn’t harm him. I also normalized the behavior, so he didn’t worry that something was wrong with him. Finally, I encouraged him to talk to a trusted adult in his life.

Why Celebrate National Masturbation Month in May?

…because it continues to be the most often overlooked or forbidden topic in sex education!

  1. If you don’t talk to them, your silence will be interpreted as disapproval. Worse yet, silence on this topic might lead a young person to think something is wrong with them.
  2. Most adults have masturbated: 85% of women and 99% of men.
  3. Self-pleasuring starts young. Many infants and toddlers rub their genitals because it feels good to them. Children are curious about all their body parts; penises and vulvas are no different. These behaviors are referred to as genital stimulation or genital play, and children may find them to be self-soothing. Children masturbate intentionally in their early teen years. One Swedish study reports that boys begin around age 12.4, while age thirteen was average for girls.[1]
  4. It is normal developmental behavior for many children. It is normal if someone does it, and it is normal if someone doesn’t do it. Read more about typical healthy childhood sexual development. Read more about masturbation month.
Online chat about masturbation

Facts about Masturbation Among Young People

  • Self-pleasuring increases as children get older. In a representative study of American teens, 63% of 14-year-old boys reported masturbating at least once, but that increased to 80% among the 17-year-old boys. For girls, 43% of the younger teens reported masturbating at least once, while 58% of the older teens did so.
  • Teen boys are more likely to have masturbated than girls. Almost three-quarters of boys and fewer than half of girls ages 14-17 reported masturbating.
  • Teen boys masturbate more often than girls do. Half of boys and fewer than one-quarter of girls, said they masturbated at least twice a week.[2]

Talk to someone about it!

“It is important to let adolescents know about masturbation because they may receive either no information or mixed messages on masturbation, yet it is a major way adolescents express sexuality,” Dr. Cynthia Robbins, lead author from the pediatrics department at Indiana University

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Updated 2023-4-24

[1] Eight Things to Know About Masturbation, Guardian

[2] The Results Are In: First National Study of Teen Masturbation, Time

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