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By Paris Franke. Art by @collagism

I was standing in line at my favorite local sex store one Sunday evening. An older woman was engaged in a long conversation with an employee behind the counter. I eavesdropped as usual, holding the newest edition to my disorganized-underwear drawer-sex toy collection. The old lady was telling the woman a story about her son. She said that when he was 15, she noticed he was starting to become sexually active and having lots of “me time”.

She decided to buy her son a Fleshlight (a masturbation sleeve for men). She said she discretely gave him the toy and said “Look, I know this is uncomfortable for you, but I want you to have this to use for yourself. You don’t need to be embarrassed. What you’re doing is totally normal.” As she expected, her son didn’t say much, but he took the toy and shut the door.

That was the last they spoke of it for 10 years. And when he was 25, she said he finally brought it up again and said “Mom, I want to really thank you for buying me that when I was a teenager. I was obviously really embarrassed at first, but I did really use it and it helped me feel better about myself and less pressure to have sex. And I think that was really cool of you.”

This was so much food for thought. I’d never even considered what my sexuality was like through puberty or how it would have been different if I had had a dildo instead of using that old toothbrush for so long! My mom handed me a book (the same one she handed my sister 6 years earlier), and said “Here read this.” I spent a long time sitting on my bed peeking through the chapters. It was all about puberty and I remember being especially captivated by the cartoon female drawing with the squiggly pubic hair lines. My friends and I would look at it together and snicker. But that’s about it. I didn’t know what was coming and when it happened, I was a hormonal raging mess.

God, I used to use the end of my dad’s vibrating razor! Wtf.

When I was going through puberty, I wanted to be touched by a guy, I wanted to kiss a guy, I wanted a guy to have sex with me. Why did it have to be all about a boy doing these things to me? I was looking for satisfaction all from another person. I had immediately given away my power to this guy in question. And it was the first of many times I learned to give my power away to men. I did it over and over again. I never once considered that I could fulfill these needs myself.

“Horny” in American media is women and men kissing, touching, and fucking. What if we taught our children from the beginning to not seek out relief of these sexual desires in other people, but to teach them that it’s something they relieve themselves? Instead, teach them that when you have these sexual desires, you don’t have to act on them through others, you can use the tools you have to satisfy yourself.

What if we taught our children from the beginning to not seek out relief of these sexual desires in other people, but to teach them that it’s something they relieve themselves?

Studies have shown that kids that are educated about masturbation and do it are more confident with their own bodies and sexuality. By exploring how their own bodies work, they are learning what feels good to them and how to do it. It re-enforces the self-care that comes along with those sexual urges. Sex toys only help that.

Imagine a kid Billy who wanted to experiment with some harmless ass-play. If he had a small plug to use on himself, he could have avoided that ER trip with a Sharpee stuck in his butt!(I know 99% of you are not relating to that story, but I guarantee you it’s happened.) Kids are going to find things to stick inside themselves. It’s just a part of it. Get them something made for that reason. Something safe! God, I used to use the end of my dad’s vibrating razor! Wtf.

So, maybe you’re on board now. But the question is, how exactly do we go about giving them sex toys in a way that will actually help our kids build a sexual relationship with themselves, and not mortify them into completely shutting down? Here’s a few tips.

Normalize Sexuality in Subtle and Ongoing Ways

The first and most important step is normalizing sexuality in as many subtle ways as possible. I treat sexuality like any other basic human need and isn’t something that’s taught all in one sitting when you’ve waited until the last minute at age 13. Finding ways to put it in a positive light on a regular basis will help destigmatize it and make it easier to talk about down the road. Granted, every child is going to be different. Maybe you haven’t been the most open with your kids because your child is an “oversharer” and you can’t wait for that school conference. How you handle it is going to depend on what kind of relationship you already have with your child. But opening the lines of communication as early as possible will certainly help.

Pick a Toy for Them

You can pick a small, unassuming toy for your teen. You do not need to take them to a sex shop (it’s illegal in many states, anyway), or even let them pick the first toy. You can choose something discreet and unassuming – like this for clitoral stimulation or this one for people with penises.

Keep the Conversation Casual

Gauge how to navigate this conversation / gifting by the type of your relationship you have with your teen. Are they not speaking to you very much? The gist of the conversation should hit the following notes: You’re normal, you don’t need to be embarrassed, and I’m here to talk.

If you can’t do it in person, it’s ok to leave the toy on their bed with a note “You’re going through a lot of changes. This will help you explore your body and get to know yourself. It’s totally normal, and you don’t need to be embarrassed. I’m here if you’d like to talk about it if you want. If not, that’s fine too. Mom / Dad”. A week later, you can prompt them, ask them if they got the gift and if they have any questions.

We live in a different era than our parents did, and we can’t be as passive and absent minded as they were when educating us. Now that I have kids, I can’t wait to help them develop a sexual relationship with themselves by giving them the tools to explore their sexuality. I think normalizing masturbation in general -toys or not- is a great starting point. But I like the idea of buying my kids a sex toy even more.

Paris Franke could very well be the next big thing, if only she could find a babysitter. Follow her on instagram at @666milf as a cautionary tale for never having kids.