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Why Do We Still Stigmatize Childhood Masturbation?

Why Do We Still Stigmatize Childhood Masturbation?

For parents and children with questions, there is surprisingly little guidance available.

In a refreshingly frank and beautifully written opinion piece in the New York Times columnist Perri Klass, M.D. tackles the almost never discussed topic of children and masturbation.

Klass recalls she "took a certain amount of ribbing from my colleagues for even asking the question, which is not necessarily a bad thing; humor can help defuse a potentially embarrassing subject. Debby Herbenick, a professor at the Indiana University School of Public Health, who has conducted research studies related to child and adolescent sexual expression, said that as an icebreaker for talking with undergraduates, she shows them comments about the now-discontinued Harry Potter Nimbus 2000 battery-operated vibrating broomstick."

Klass continues: “Young children, older children, adolescents and adults touching their genitals is perfectly normal, there are actually images of fetuses where you can see they’re touching the penis or touching the vulva,” said Leslie M. Kantor, a professor at Rutgers School of Public Health. “Where we culturally get confused is that when younger children are touching their genitals they’re doing it because it feels good,” just as other sensual experiences feel good, like stripping down and running through the sprinkler, but parents interpret it as overtly sexual.

So parents of these young children often worry, Dr. Erickson said. They may leap to the conclusion that this is a learned behavior, perhaps suggestive of abuse, rather than an organic and normal part of development."



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