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I think in spite of my routine humiliation, my kids were given the latitude and limitations they needed to develop a healthy regard for their own bodies.Still, every now and then, private time is not as private as it could be, and I wonder if in our attempt to avoid attaching any negative connotation with bodily pleasures, we’ve created an overly permissive environment.Although my parents were liberal about many things, I don’t think masturbation was one of them.I’m sure theirs was not a moral objection, just something they viewed as so mortifying it was worth putting an end to with a harsh reprimand.As a new parent, I shared their point of view that it was embarrassing behavior, but ours was a household far too enlightened and child-centered to use negative reinforcement in an attempt to end an act of healthy self-discovery.When I saw that it was becoming a more frequent, and seemingly intentional behavior on my daughter’s part, I wasn’t quite sure how to deal with it.
But having children has forced this issue upon me and now I find myself having explicit conversations with other mothers, regarding our children’s, ah, personal interests.
Today’s medical experts take a far more enlightened view on the matter.
All the name-brand pediatricians, from Spock to Sears to Brazelton, reinforce the idea that children will engage in self-exploration, and will derive pleasure from such activity.
Over the centuries, most religions have had something to say on this issue (usually in the form of discouragement), but in the mid-1700s and into the late-1800s, the medical establishment jumped on the bandwagon against what was then known as “self-abuse” or “self-pollution.” Health reasons were cited as motivation for preventing children from masturbating, and physicians warned of the horrible physical and mental consequences — blisters, hair loss, seizures, and insanity — certain to follow the act of self-gratification.
A variety of gizmos with names like “the Cage,” and the “Penis-Cooling Device,” that probably sounded ominous at the time but today might sell like hotcakes on an adult web site — were created to prevent children from engaging in self-stimulation.One of the concerns on this week's episode regarded a teenager and his mother.