Would you (or should you?) buy your daughter a vibrator?-Romi Lassally, BettyConfidential.com
Recent studies have revealed that women who use vibrators are healthier - and sexually happier - than women who don't. Finally, the stigma of the sinful sex toy is fading, and women can hold their Rabbits and Pocket Rockets proud. So if good vibrations are good and good for us sexually evolved women, are they good for our daughters too?
This question came up recently on my Web site, truuconfessions - when a mom shared the following:
My tween daughter and I got into one of our sex/sexuality discussions today and she brought up that a friend's mother had gotten the friend her first vibrator. DD (dear daughter) says "isn't masturbating safer then having sex?"
Don't know how to handle this one ladies!!!! While I have no problems with masturbation ( go for it!) I think 12 is a little young to buy them vibrators. Input please!!!
Like this mom, I've had a pretty open and ongoing dialogue with my two girls about sex. We've covered the nuts-and-bolts basics, and just last week I blushed my way through masturbation (clean hands, privacy is good), oral sex (this is not casual!) and the mechanics of bi-sexuality and two men "hooking up." (Thankfully my daughter got it before I had to explain).
But sex toys? This was a new one for me so, I asked our online community to chime in along with sexperts, experts and friends.
Needless to say, the topic struck a nerve and provoked a lively and at a times contentious debate. Many moms were as stumped as the confessor, fessing up to having NO idea what to do in this situation. But the majority of moms came out swinging on both sides. Some were encouraging but cautious:
"It's great she's exploring her sexuality, but maybe she should start with her hands first"
Some believed this was clearly a sign of an over-involved, indulgent parenting style:
"Do we have to do everything for our kids? Get out of the helicopter and let your daughter explore her sexuality on her own!"
And some were clearly in the abstinence-only camp:
"That's sick to me. I think it' (buying a vibrator) s more encouraging her daughter to have sex than anything else. I mean, how many people who experiment with sex toys are virgins? It won't be long now for that 12 year old..."
In a controversial Oprah segment last April, sexpert Dr. Laura Berman countered this vibrator-leads-to-promiscuity issue head on, claiming quite the contrary. The good doctor not only encouraged parents to talk to their kids early, she gave vibrators for teens a ringing endorsement, extolling the dual benefits of helping a girl learn her way around her own body and acting as a possible deterrent from early (or inappropriate) sexual activity. And to ensure that this episode was not just good TV, but really good TV, Dr. Berman encouraged moms to help their daughters along in this department, even joining them for a shopping outing to a sex shop.
Susie Bright, mother, author and sex advice columnist/expert weighed in here but didn't jump on the Berman-buy-it-bandwagon. Instead she focused on other positive aspects of the confession that an untrained eye might have missed - the fact that the young girl had asked her mother about a FRIEND'S sexual situation and that she believed this was the IDEAL way to talk about sex. She also added that she didn't know anyone who had bought their own kid a vibrator (nope - never heard of it), but did recommend keeping good sex ed books around the house and encouraged talk about sex in popular culture and politics (the headlines certainly make this easy to do these days!).
Dr. Karen Rayne (along with this post in Boinkology) shed some interesting light on this topic as well and addressed the age question. First of all, she reminded us why a mom, her daughter and a vibrator became the provocative and polarizing conversation it did:
"...our society does not just dislike teenagers having sex because it may produce babies or spread disease - they dislike teenagers, particularly girls, having sex because it acknowledges the teenager as a sexual being. And follow that train of thought to this point: Teenage girls masturbating acknowledges them as sexual beings too. Maybe even more than just sex - because that might have been at the prompting of a boy. Masturbation is purely about the young woman's own sexual desires, which we're scared shirtless about."
As to when a young woman should receive her first vibrator?
"Well, the problem with going too young is that it might just scare her off masturbation entirely. In general, I would probably suggest when she turns sixteen. However, with the caveat that some girls will put them to good use younger. Girls who are particularly vocal or active about their sexuality could probably use one much younger."
The jury's still out on whether kids should have sex toys and who, if anybody, should be buying them. The overwhelming consensus on the confessional seemed to be "NO VIBRATORS for 12-year-olds" (unless you have an extreme case), but most women agreed that discussing and encouraging masturbation (no matter how embarrassing and awkward) seemed like a good idea - a very good one at that.
Most importantly, the fact that this conversation came up and involved one of the pleasurable aspects of sex (even if questioning it) makes me hopeful that our attitude toward sex ed (and the programs themselves) might be undergoing a change, and as this article notes, "growing up." Sex Ed should be about more than all the things that can go wrong and absolutely include the things that can go right. Teenage pregnancy and STDs have their place in "the talk" (and let's admit it - are much easier to discuss!) but so do choice, responsibility and last but not least, pleasure and desire.
I doubt we'll be adding "vibrators" to our mother-daughter shopping trips anytime soon, if ever. But as awkward as it's going to be - I'm determined to step up my sex-talk game so my daughter doesn't have to wait for a new study to come out telling her that sexually educated and active women are healthy and happy. She'll know this first hand.
What about you? Do you think it's appropriate for tweens/tweens to have sex toys? And if so, should their moms be picking them out?
Romi Lassally is the author of True Mom Confessions: Real Moms Get Real and the founder of the anonymous, online confessional community for women, truuconfessions.com. You can also find her co-hosting MOMS GET REAL with Juju Chang on abcnewsnow.com.