Talking About Puberty And Masturbation Just In Time
Talking About Puberty And Masturbation Just In Time
A few months ago, Julie and I agreed to speak to a Grade 7-9 youth group about “relationships.” The day before the event, we asked the youth leader for greater clarity, “What exactly must we speak about?”
“We need you to speak about the M-word,” she answered.
“The M-word, like … marriage?” I asked.
Gulp. Despite the disconnect between the M-word with relationships, we did what she asked. The wide-eyed kids listened with great interest. Afterwards many parents came back to us, thanking us for helping their kids, who apparently raved back to them about what we said. Parents in the main couldn’t believe how open their kids were to talk about this, explaining that Julie and my unashamed candidness about the subject set the tone for the way their kids spoke about it with them.
Many parents remarked how effective it was for us to speak about it before their kids had crossed over the line of puberty. Waiting longer than that would be too late, they suggested on reflection. “The year before they hit puberty is just in time,” said one father.
Let’s talk about sex.
In South Africa, the education department has released their ‘lesson scripts’ for the sex-ed of our kids. Wanting to get to my kids before them, I have written my own ‘scripts’ for the 6 sex-talks I envision having with my almost-teens. In this post I share the first and second conversations, and in the four the rest. Though I am sure you will not want to say exactly what I say, perhaps you can draw inspiration from mine?
The first conversation starts with these words, spoken in the most casual way you can: (You will have to work hard to hide how much your heart may be beating as you broach the subject, and certainly practicing the speech beforehand on your spouse or in front of a mirror will help.)
CONVO 1: PUBERTY
“You’ve heard a lot about it already, let’s start with puberty. Puberty can be a crazy awkward time for everybody! Girls usually reach puberty between 9-13. And boys, later, between 11-15. There’s nothing wrong with you if it arrives earlier or later than others.
Let me tell you about male puberty. Suddenly your body is going to start pumping with new hormones. And your body will change. Both boys and girls often get pimples, and they start to grow hair under their arms and between their legs. They become more moody – and they roll their eyes a lot, thinking they know everything. And they’re up up one minute and down-down the next. It’s because of this crazy chemical in our bodies called hormones.
Then there’s female puberty. Girls start to get a monthly period. Their body creates an egg cell every month. Then every month, the body let’s that egg roll away to make room for a fresher egg. When the egg rolls away, it takes its blanket with it, and this means there’s a some blood that comes out of their vagina. It’s all normal and healthy. And it happens to every girl – so, boys, you must never ever tease a girl about this or make them feel awkward about it. Also, girls boobs start to get bigger. All of this can be really stressful for girls, so be kind, OK?’
Boys get swimmers in their balls during puberty. Their voices get deeper. Their willies, shoulders and chest also get a little bigger. In fact – sometime it’ll feel like your willy has a mind of its own!
Oh, and when they reach puberty, girls and boys start looking reaaallly good to each other. When you were small kids maybe you were irritated by each other, but that will change to a new kind of physical attraction. That’s the most obvious thing about puberty – you become capable of sexual desire, which we can talk about another time…
CONVO 2: SEXUAL DESIRE
Last time we spoke about puberty, remember. When you reach it, your body will be ready for sex (even though you won’t be – more on that in a later conversation). Basically, your body will start to want sex – not all the time, but now and then, especially when you see or think of someone that you find physically and/or emotionally attractive.
For most guys, sexual attraction is more physical and visual. The sight of someone attractive is all it takes. For most girls, sexual attraction is more emotional – the thought of being emotionally close to someone you trust and respect does the job.
We call this sexual desire being ‘turned on’ or ‘being horny’. It’s quite an exciting feeling. Don’t worry, that feeling fades again. It’s not like food hunger which only grows more and more intense. Sexual desire is a want – you can live, even happily, without it being satisfied. Food desire is a need. Without food you will eventually die.
You might assume that because you are physically longing for sex, that you should be ready for sex. I will tell you another time why that is not the case. For now, think of yourself as a motorbike in a showroom. Long before it is actually ridden on the street, it starts to work. The sales-team would put the key in the ignition, and give it a bit of a rev. I suppose, even before they sell it, it’s nice to know that it works. Same with your sexual capacity – long before you have sex with someone, it’s nice to know you could have sex with someone.
You might think that nature is cruel to give you these desires before you are personally ready to have sex. But remember that your sexual desires are part-and-parcel of the hormones that have been released into your body to start turning your body into a stronger, more adult form – which will be handy in the decades to come. I suppose you can’t have one without the other.
What to do with these sexual desires? There are three options…
1) Sexual desire can be partially sublimated. Think of a hose pipe that feeds water to two or three heads instead of just one. The water flow is being sublimated from just one head to the other two.
In the same way, some of our sexual desire can be translated into relational and creative activity. Single adults who don’t have sex will tell you that they feel most sexual frustration when they are lonely and inactive. As teens, it’s important to stay physically active and involved in life and relationships, doing things you love, being creative, finding things you are passionate about.
By the way, guys, there’s recent false information that has got out there that if you don’t get your latest production of sperm out, that you might get cancer. It’s plain not true! Your body tends to produce it at the rate you use it, and when you don’t use it, your body easily re-absorbs it
2) Sexual desire can be satisfied through wet dreams or masturbation. By this I mean that sexual desire can lead to the experience of an orgasm, which is a very pleasurable experience your body can generate. In the moment of an orgasm, waves of pleasure emanate from your genital area, and your brain releases chemicals that make you feel very satisfied and relaxed.
In the case of guys, orgasm also involves the release of a little bit of sperm (also called semen or ‘come’), which has been stored in their balls, and shoots through their willy. Yes you figured right, that sperm contains sperm cells, which if they got into a women’s vagina, could result in her becoming pregnant with his child.
Guys sometimes have orgasms in their dreams. These are called ‘wet dreams’ (because you wake up with wet pants) or ‘morning glory’ (because you wake up feeling great).
Both girls and guys can masturbate. This means they use their hands or fingers to rub their genitals until they orgasm.
Believe it or nor, this is very common, and a bit more common in guys than girls. If you’re a guy and you do this, its best to have some toilet paper ready, and be sure to toss it in the toilet.
Is masturbation okay? There’s definitely nothing physically harmful in it. Especially for a young guy who has been feeling horny the whole day, it can function as a kind of pressure release valve.
There are five pitfalls to watch out for though:
- Getting caught, which can be very embarrassing. Tip to guys: tidy up the evidence nicely.
- Letting it become a coping mechanism, where every time you feel stressed or down, you do it. In that case, masturbation is the beginning of an unhelpful addiction. Find better ways to cope with your problems.
- Letting masturbation shape your view of sex. By this I mean that one day you will find that the best sex is unselfish – it is when two people seek to please each other rather than themselves. Masturbation is nothing at all like real sex, which involves far more than you pleasing yourself and being very intimate with another. In this sense, masturbation can electrify you, but it cannot truly satisfy you in the way only loving sex can.
- Bringing a feeling of shame. If, despite telling yourself that it is okay, the feeling of shame is so persistent that it gets you down, then I advise you to not masturbate at all or, if you can’t do that, less often.
- Using porn to enhance your sexual excitement. This is an extremely addictive combination – one that tends to stick to you for a very long time. This is the biggest pitfall, and we can talk about porn another time.
Then there’s a third way you can satisfy sexual desire and that’s 3) to get sexual with someone. Now I am not saying you’ll be ready to just because you’ve hit puberty. But we will come back to the subject of sex another time we have one of these chats.
I’m curious: What did you already know? What’s new for you? What questions do you have? And even if you can’t think of a question now, anytime you have one, come and ask – I will be as honest and helpful as I can.”
That’s all folks. Wishing you courage and wisdom as you start to chat to your own kids. I’ll post a new one each week:
Convo 3: “I’d like to talk about the basics of physical sex.” (13 March)
Convo 4: “I’d like to talk about the emotional and spiritual side of sex, and why it’s worth the wait.” (20 March)
Convo 5: “I’d like to talk with you about the pressures you’ll feel to have sex before you’re ready.” (27 March)
Convo 6: “I’d like to talk to you about the stupidity of something called ‘sexting’.” (4 April)