Happy Puberty! Here's a Vibrator

By Sanjena Sathian for OZY, a website that provides news in a completely different way.

Who has two thumbs and remembers sitting through a terrible, grainy, 1980s sex ed video in which boys learned about wet dreams and girls learned about … sanitary napkins?


This girl.

But that age-old “birds and the bees" talk is a-changing. More and more, sex ed advocates are suggesting parents and schools go beyond abstinence discussions and talk to kids not just about the facts of life, but also the good, fun, healthy stuff that goes with them: i.e., pleasure. And that calls for a wild idea: Moms, consider giving your daughters vibrators. Happy sweet sixteen, girls.

There's a sh*tload of stuff wrong with the way women and girls are taught about sex. But chief among them might be the lack of information about pleasure. You've probably heard before that women have a much tougher time climaxing than men — according to a 2008 study from the Kinsey Institute for Sex, Gender, and Reproduction at Indiana University, between 20 and 30 percent of women never orgasm during intercourse. And that, it seems, is more because of emotional or psychological troubles than physical barriers.

The sexperts I called up (while enjoying, exceedingly, the chance to yell about clitoral activity in the middle of a newsroom) suggest TMI from parents is better than none. “Young people receive information about sexuality. They do," says William Yarber, a professor at the Kinsey Institute. If parents don't provide some of it, “that's a message, too."

If your daughter doesn't know what's up down there, she might not know how to say no.

So here's one possibility, moms-slash-parents: Talk to your teenage girls about more than how babies are made. More than how to shove a tampon up there. Try talking about how to get off. Because isn't it a little traumatizing for young ladies to learn more about bleeding out their own uteri than how to enjoy the release of oxytocin?

This seemingly crazy idea has been out there before: Oprah's former sexpert Laura Berman, author of Talking to Your Kids About Sex once suggested something along those lines on TV, “to much dismay, unfortunately," she told me. Her whole thing? “I'm like, it's just an aid!" Plus, she says, if your daughter doesn't know what's up down there, she might go too far too soon, not knowing what she likes, wants or wants to say no to. Girls shouldn't “think their pleasure is dependent on a boy," she says, reminding us of that freaky stat that most women — even when not, god forbid, coerced — regret their first time.

To be fair, even the most pro-touch-yourself advocates have doubts about whether a battery-powered option is the best way to start your sexual odyssey. Figure it out yourself in an, erm hands-on capacity, figures Mary Beth Szydlowski, program manager of School Health Equity at the group Advocates for Youth. “I view it as a kind of passing the buck."

And of course, the vibrator proposal would be excellent for the sex toy industry, a “recession-proof" kind of sector that doesn't exactly need a stimulus. But since most vibes are purchased by women between the ages of 22 and 34, it'd be a whole new market — if the young'uns bite. For her part, sex toy company Babeland's marketing director and author of The Mother's Guide to Sex Anne Semans handed over a toy to her 14-year-old, in hopes of at least starting a conversation about sexual agency. “In the moment, she was like, 'Mom...'" she says. The daughter in question quietly returned the gift to her mother's room.

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