I wish my mother had communicated in some way about masturbation. She caught me masturbating maybe half a dozen times, from a somewhat early age, and she would always get upset with me about it – but I never understood why! Of course, the angst this caused me wasn’t nearly enough to stop me from doing it altogether.

Finally, in about the 7th or 8th grade (about 2-3 years after my school’s sex ed class), while I was reading a sex ed book my father had taken out of the library and awkwardly handed off to me, I found the word for what I had been doing. I felt like a weight was lifted from me. What I was doing was so common that it had a name: masturbation! And it was normal!

I’m sure it freaked my mom out that I was touching my privates, and it would have been awkward to talk to me about it, but I wish she had just explained basic privacy rules when I was in grade school instead of letting me feel shamed for reasons I didn’t understand.

I now have a daughter of my own, and I’m determined to make sure she understands her body, and to be ready to explain the do’s and don’ts of self-pleasure, however awkward, when the subject comes up.