Even when girls and boys get the same negative message about sex, girls seem to come out worse.
Many young people only get silence from their parents on the subject. But silence communicates: Sex is unmentionable, shameful.
Parents often worry that raising the subject will lead kids to have sex. Actually, when parents talk, their children are less likely to become sexually active, and more likely to behave responsibly.
“Don’t touch yourself there.” Another message linking sex and filthiness.
The advice doesn’t always work as hoped. Sex therapist Lonnie Barbach tells of one little girl who, “put that extraordinarily dirty place directly under the faucet of the tub in order to wash it more thoroughly and was pleasantly surprised to find that the water created a most intense sensation which culminated in orgasm.”
Other little girls aren’t so lucky.
Here’s the downside to the parental rebuke. Touching yourself is exactly what sex therapists advise when women have trouble achieving orgasm. Because they often don’t understand how their bodies work.
In fact, while parents may scold both boys and girls, the reproach seems to have a more negative impact on girls. Boys who don’t touch themselves, and who don’t have sex, will have wet dreams because their bodies need regular ejaculations to create fresh sperm. This clues boys in to how their bodies work.
Girls don’t always figure out how the clitoris works. It’s an organ that’s small and hidden, and girls’ bodies don’t force orgasms. Women can go their entire lives, having many babies, without ever experiencing one.
Nearly all men masturbate, but only half of women do. Perhaps this is why.
But parents give boys more positive messages about sex, too. “Never waste a boner,” a male student volunteered when I asked what sorts of parental advice they’d heard.
Girls probably won’t hear anything remotely similar.
We’ve all heard how boys are told to sew their wild oats before marriage, while girls are encouraged to abstain. Some dads have even taken their daughters to “purity balls” and vowed “before God to cover my daughter as her authority and protection in the area of purity.” A little extreme. And the notion of “covering” a daughter seems a little creepy. But it reflects the larger society’s concern with girls’ “sexual cleanliness.”
Girls and boys get different messages on sexuality from parents. And even when they don’t, girls’ sexuality can be more damaged.
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