I am speaking (writing) for myself and no one else. I am sharing this because my experience is one that I personally have not read or heard elsewhere. Perhaps this is well-covered ground, and I’ve just missed it. We shall see…
I have no memory of a first experience with, or discovery of, self-pleasure. I believe masturbation is something that I always knew how to do, and always did. When I was very little, masturbation was a kind of physical meditation for me – a very relaxing activity, absent any mental associations or fantasies of any kind – sexual or otherwise. I was always able to achieve orgasm with or without actual direct physical stimulation. I could do it simply by holding my body in a certain position until it happened.
After I started school, and found my fascination with science, I hypothesized that this was something that only I could do, and doctors someday would find out, and study me to learn more. I was disabused of this notion when my parents caught me doing it in the car during a long family road trip. They were very gentle and non-judgmental, but firm: What I was doing was something private, and I should not do it when others were present. I believe I was around seven years old.
Because physical pleasure preceded sexual desire for me, when masturbation finally became attached to my mind, it was to romance, not lust. As I formed one childish crush after another on various celebrities, they began to fill my mind when I was alone with myself. They were doing nothing sexual. I was thinking nothing sexual… Just how much I adored them romantically.
I am female, and I am straight. I know this about myself, because long before desire, lust, or sex were things that I did, I did romance. For me, romance was always about a boy. To this day, I cannot imagine attaching those feelings to a girl. Feeling as I do, I grieve for every person who is not straight, and is pressured to make their heart attach to something it can’t. I think it’s impossible. I find it obscene.
When puberty made its debut in my life, and desire became a real, sexual thing, physical contact was the pinnacle. Not sex, mind you. The first time a boy I liked held my hand, I thought I was going to fly right out of my skin. The same is true for my first kiss. I was a slow mover. I enjoyed every new experience, and I was in no hurry whatsoever to rush on to the next. Necking for hours and hours and hours was so perfect, that I didn’t feel deprived of anything.
When lust finally arrived in all its sudden intense urgency, and I did begin to feel deprived, lust lost. I was raised in a Christian home, and it was an inflexible rule that one does not have sex until one marries. I revised this rule to “one does not have sex until one goes away to college.”
I believe this was a mistake for me. College is not just living away from mom and dad. College (at least the one that I attended) is a strange land booby-trapped with pressures and substances and easy, completely inauthentic relationships driven by both.
When I was a teenager necking for hours on end? That was real. That was desire. Had lust been allowed, nature would have taken its course in a wonderful, natural, unforced way. No substances involved. No time pressure. No peer pressure.
When I lost my virginity in college? That was sport. The clock was ticking, and my peers were leaving me in the dust. I was losing the game.
If you are a parent, you must do what you think best. You know your child, and you know the contours of what you can accept about your child. I would simply say this: My parents did the very best they could, but I wish they had trusted the very bright, very good girl that they had raised to decide for herself when she was ready to explore that part of her humanity. I wish that my home had been the safe space where that could have happened.
That would have been glorious.