Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Jason G. asks:
Okay, Stephen & David, my boys are 12.  They've got newfound emotions, a growing
sense of autonomy, and hair growing in new places, too.

With their budding sexuality and growing awareness of girls, I've been
wondering about how to bring up the topic of masturbation with them.  We've
had the birds and the bees talk and we enjoy a pretty open conversation
about most everything.  In a way I think I blew it by not talking about
masturbation with them when we had the birds and the bees talk.  But now
that they're older, there seems like ample opportunity for it to be awkward.

I never had anyone to talk with me about any of these things when I was
growing up, so I was left to navigate these waters on my own and felt
embarassment and shame over my own burgeoning sexuality.  I vowed that I
wouldn't leave my kids similarly in the dark.  But now that the moment is
here, I'm a little unsure of the dark and don't know how to proceed...  Got
a flashlight?

Stephen & David Answer:


Here's  a light.  Don't fret over having not had the talk yet.  Yes they may have been better served to have talked earlier, but what matters is that you want to talk now.  Go ahead and expect there to be some awkwardness around this topic.  There is good reason for this: It's an awkward topic.  With that said, the more at ease you can be and comfortable in discussing it, the less awkward your sons will likely feel in the midst of this conversation.  

You are so on target, out of your own experience, about how much shame we make boys vulnerable to when we don't help them navigate this area.  Boys desperately need to hear from their dads )or other trustworthy men) on this topic.  Our approach in this kind of conversation is to do it around a task—shoot some hoops, walk the greens, change a tire, fish, canoe, hike . . . anything where he doesn't have to look you in the eyes from start to finish.  Boys talk well around a task.  Eye to eye can feel really threatening to them, and particularly with this kind of topic.  So first of all decide when and where you want to open up a dialogue with him.  That's foundational.

Secondly, we recommend talking more about the biology of masturbation than anything.   We put together some helpful guidelines in Wild Things for guiding a dad through this conversation.  Check out the Hot Topics section of our book and see if it's helpful in navigating the conversation. We go deeper into this in our book, but, briefly we suggest:
Normalizing the behavior.
Talk with him the pros and cons.
Don’t make this a one time conversation. (We suggest making it a part of broader conversation about sexuality, masculinity, and his heart.)

We're grateful you are wanting and willing to step in the game with your boys in this way. And for sending in such a great question, your book is on the way.

Stephen & David

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