06/22/2015 05:28 EDT | Updated 06/22/2016 05:59 EDT

Masturbation Is Still Scaring Fearful Parents


Masturbation is psychologically harmful and addictive. It gets boys "charged up" and it made one boy in England go out and rape a girl. This is from a leader of a group opposing the new sex education curriculum in Ontario voicing his concern.

These people have some interesting ideas about human sexuality. Masturbation seems to be the big taboo. Their lack of understanding about sexuality is breathtaking and dangerous.

Sadly, not much has changed over the years. When I was a sexual health educator with Toronto Public Health from 1982 until I retired in 2003, I led parent groups on how to talk to your kids about sex.

One of the main concerns of these parents was masturbation.

They worried, "How much is too much? What if they do it in public? Can it hurt them?"

In 1994 President Bill Clinton fired his Surgeon General Dr. Joycelyn Elders, a pediatrician because she dared to suggest that masturbation should be discussed during sex education classes and that it was a normal human behaviour. This was too much for President Clinton and most Americans. For despite a daily bombardment of sex in movies, television and on the Internet, the very idea that masturbation is normal sends people running for cover.

The opponents of the new curriculum don't realize that masturbation was included in the old curriculum too. They are trying to close a barn door that was open long ago. What we used to say in puberty classes was that masturbation can't hurt you. It's a human thing to do. Some people do it and some people don't. During adolescence when sexual feelings are particularly intense you don't need to feel guilty about relieving sexual tension all by yourself. In fact nobody needs to feel guilty about touching his or her own body.

The sad fact is that some people don't want to tell children the truth.

They prefer to keep them in ignorance and guilt. Rather than getting boys "charged up" as this opponent of the new curriculum, claims, the opposite is true. And when children know the truth they are relieved. One child wrote anonymously, after puberty class one day, "I used to masturbate a lot. I thought I was a pervert. Now I know I'm normal. THANK YOU VERY MUCH. (capitals his, or hers).

Trying to frighten children about their own body and their own feelings is harmful.

It can certainly give rise to guilt and shame. Apparently that's what some parents seem to want to instill in their children rather than confidence and pride. It's probably because these parents have not had a very good sex education themselves and have not bothered to seek out accurate information about normal human sexuality.

It's a shame that they don't know that baby boys usually discover their own genitals at about eight months of age and baby girls a bit later, at about a year. It's a shame that they don't know that young children touch their own genitals as much for comfort as anything, and that children going through puberty may discover the pleasure of arousal. It's a shame that parents can't see that the message, your body is your own, works not just to keep children safe from unwanted touch but to indicate to children that touching their own body is their right and not a shameful act.

Slapping a hand away or admonishing the child not to touch sends a powerful and lifelong message of shame and guilt.

But at least people are talking.

One positive thing coming from this controversy about the new curriculum is that people are talking about the importance of good information and what we owe our children in our desire to help them become sexually healthy adults. Ignorance is not bliss. Knowledge is power.


Ontario Sex Education By Grade