Eleni Economides on How to Talk to Your Teen About Masturbation – Smart Sex, Smart Love

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On this episode, Joe is joined by Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, and AASECT Certified Sex Therapist, Eleni Economides.

Eleni is located in Rochester NY where her work focuses on helping her clients address concerns around sexuality and relationships. On this show, Joe and Eleni discuss how best to talk to your teenagers about masturbation.

As Eleni says, masturbation is a healthy milestone for our teens and is a very normal part of our sexual development. Teaching them to do it right (as an act of self-love, body awareness and self-soothing) is a gift that will serve them for life. “Don’t underestimate your influence as a parent on your teenager,” says Eleni. “Yes, masturbation is a difficult subject to talk to your kids about. But, be brave and guide them!”

Find Eleni Economides at:
Website

Speaker 1:

Welcome to smart sex. Smart love we’re talking about sex goes beyond the taboos and talking about love goes beyond the honeymoon. I’m dr. Joe court. Thanks for tuning in 

Speaker 3:

hello and welcome to smart sex. Smart love. Thank you for tuning in. And if this is your first time listening to my show. Welcome today. I’m joined by licensed marriage and family therapist and Asex certified sex therapist. Alenni it kinda meetings. And Lenny is located in Rochester, New York, where her work focuses on helping her clients concerns around sexuality and relationships. On this episode, we’ll be discussing how to talk to your teenagers about masturbation. As a Lenny says, masturbation is a healthy milestone for our teens, and it’s a very normal part of our sexual development, teaching them to do it right as an act of self love, body awareness and self soothing is a gift that will serve them for life. I couldn’t agree more welcome millennia. 

Speaker 4:

Hi Joel. Thank you for having me. 

Speaker 3:

Yeah. Thanks for coming down here. I’m so excited for your trip to talk to us about now this isn’t going to run in may in may, but may is masturbation month. I’m sure you know that, right. That’s correct. And that’s why we booked you, but I think this is going to be on after, but either way, it’s an important conversation because talking to your kids about sex in general, people don’t have words. People don’t know how to do it. And then talking to your teenagers about master patient masturbation, same thing. So, um, why don’t you start with what, um, w why, why talk to your teenagers about masturbation? Let’s go there first. 

Speaker 4:

Well, I guess a lot of people really underestimate the influence that they have from their children. They think that school is the, you know, the place that they’re going to get their sex education and teachers, or somehow a sex educator will be the better person to, uh, you know, talk about anatomy and all of the things that they need to know about reproduction and birth control and STDs STI, which is what the majority of sex education in the United States focuses on. Hopefully, you know, not, not all States are required to provide accurate information and that’s a little troublesome, but, uh, at least the ones that they do that sex education focuses on those topics that production and STI STD prevention and pregnancy prevention, nobody really talks about pleasure, which is the, uh, major ingredient for, um, why somebody masturbates, curiosity, pleasure is that the, you know, curiosity, one kids discover that it feels good very early on. 

Speaker 4:

And by the time they’re teenagers, um, you know, they have had to either figure out a lot of it by themselves. Um, I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s, it’s, uh, the best ways to kind of start these conversations early on and build on them. It’s more like a scaffolding process where you, you have sort of micro lessons and micro teachings. You talk to them about the birds and the bees, and then those discussions evolves as they should, as their understanding becomes more complicated. And, um, they’re able to process more complicated concepts. So ideally those discussions have started earlier, but, uh, if the teenage years is when you start, let that be, it don’t underestimate your influence and you’re the best person for your child to learn this information, rather than going online and through friends, because there’s a lot of misinformation out there, 

Speaker 3:

right? And, and you want them to your children to have your family values, whatever those are. And so that’s the trouble, right? Is that they don’t do it. And then they learn it elsewhere. And then they’re upset that it was learned elsewhere, but they didn’t step in to teach their children. 

Speaker 4:

Correct. Correct. Right. That, uh, now this is a little bit of a tricky topic there that you started, Joe, because, uh, you want them to have your own, you know, to come from a place of family values and, you know, certain principles that you have as a parent and an adult, but at the same time, it’s important that you are aware of your own biases before you talk to them. Meaning we, you know, some of us have had traumatic sexual experiences growing up. Some of us come from a religious, uh, or more of a conservative background. Um, I guess, what is it that you want them to understand? Um, do you, do you understand what I’m trying to say? 

Speaker 3:

Yeah. You’re saying you don’t want them to pass on misinformation or information right. Based out of their lack of knowledge and awareness. 

Speaker 4:

Correct. If, if a parent is very hesitant in talking about these things, because they understand that they themselves have limitations and they feel, you know, there’s a certain amount of discomfort around, gosh, how can I talk to my kid about this? I don’t know myself. I don’t want to, you know, give them, give them false information. There’s nothing wrong in acknowledging that you feel uncomfortable and that you’re out of your element. Um, but don’t fake comfort kids, you know, teenagers can sort of, they smell bullshit. They don’t, they, they, they know when you go to feel comfortable and they’re not going to come to you. They don’t, if they don’t think that you’re the person they can go to. It’s okay to say, I don’t know. It’s okay to say let’s, let’s, let’s research that together. It’s better to do that than to try and lie or manipulate your way to kind of, um, you know, what you’re sharing. 

Speaker 3:

Right. It’s okay. Not to know, you know, when I did, um, I did a seminar last year on talking to kids about sex. I tried to get a community going to my practice in Royal Oak. And I was bringing in groups of people just from volunteering to talk about it, you know, and what I learned was parents have difficulties talking to their children because they weren’t talked to when they were children. So they don’t have the language. Have you seen that? 

Speaker 4:

Yes. For sure. They do. They don’t have the language and they have the same, uh, oftentimes misinformation or limited, let’s call it information as to how do I talk to my kid when I, you know, I had to go through what I had to go through to learn the hard way, how can I, we either become over-protective right. I don’t want them to know or engaging in any of that in hopes that they’re going to stay safe and they’re not going to go to what I went through or the issue that you just discussed comes up where I don’t know how to do this. And maybe, maybe, you know, their father or their mother or whoever the other caregiver can do the hard work. I leave it up to them. Um, and I guess it, yeah, we try to either limit the information or abstain from, you know, just hope that somebody else is going to do it and won’t have to do it. 

Speaker 3:

I’m just thinking when I’m listening to you and reading over the notes before we got on that, I could just see the trouble and the discomfort that parents would have talking to the kids, teens, whatever about masturbation being pleasure, self love, self soothing, and then on top of it, a safe, alternative to partnered sex. How, what do you say to parents that say, what do you mean that maybe they don’t believe in that? And maybe they, they feel like they’re going to be encouraging all kinds of acting out behavior. 

Speaker 4:

Correct. A lot of people do think that if I start this talk, I’m going to encourage my kids to be sexual. And that is further from the truth. Uh, when, uh, you know, when children are curious and they’re going to, um, you know, um, discover their body or start experimenting with what good from a very young age, and that can be very confusing to them when they don’t know why that’s happening. And if, if the parent is sort of, uh, trying to, you know, a lot of parents, I guess, end up shaming, I’m trying to stay away from the word because I don’t want to, I guess, guilt trip anyone. But, um, it’s easy for us to kind of say, don’t, don’t, don’t touch yourself there. You know, this is, you know, it’s not right to touch yourself that way, but we don’t explain why we don’t talk about the concept of, you know, this is pleasurable and that’s why you do it. 

Speaker 4:

And that’s okay because it feels good. But at the same time, it’s something that you do in private. And you can have your own space that you can do that in the right time. And that is not in public where a lot of go ahead and a lot of younger kids will, you know, will, uh, you know, touch themselves. And there’s exploration between children. People are scared. They don’t know what to make of, uh, you know, the fact that a child is curious. And, um, they’re afraid that if they talk about it, that it’s going to make the child more sexual, which is part is not correct. 

Speaker 3:

You know, one time, uh, this was Oprah Winfrey, you know, in the last two or three of her seasons on a regular show, she had a sex therapist, Laura Berman. I don’t know if you remember this or not. I love dr. Laura Berman and she had really good input and they did one show on, uh, on masturbation and vibrators vibrators. Well, obviously masturbation and Laura Berman said she recommends gifting of your 13 or 12 year old daughters vibrator. So they can learn how to manage their bodies, because if they don’t, then when they get together with boys, they’re in service of the male body and they don’t know how to help the boy teach them how to manage her body. And I remember the audience of reaction was very negative and, uh, Gail Oprah’s best friend gal was the first color in and was mortified that this was the show and mortified that Laura Berman was recommending this and all the reviews after that were so negative. And I remember being shocked. What do you make of that? 

Speaker 4:

Well, 

Speaker 3:

shocked at the negative feedback that check that 

Speaker 4:

got it very progressive. Yes. Yes. Well, uh, it kind of, I think it goes, it’s a parallel of what we were talking about, the fear of what is going to there is this also coming from a patriarchal society where, um, you know, there’s still a lot of, um, massaging isn’t going around in female pleasure. It’s still taboo to, to, to recommend something like that on the show that has so much publicity. I can understand that people were shocked too. You know, how open and, um, I guess inviting this person might have been to, to tell people, you know, give this to your daughter, you will give her a gift that will serve her well. But at the same time, I mean, I don’t know that I agree with that recommendation per because I find that getting a vibrator is a very, very personal decision and a choice that wants to should make for themselves, but certainly being open to tell your daughter that, you know, there there’s these things that are called vibrators, that they’re intended for you to discover and to help you figure out your body, would you be interested in one, that would be certainly something that I will vote for. 

Speaker 3:

Now. What about, I don’t know if this is an area of that part of your expertise, but religious families that forbid masturbation. I mean, like, I’ll tell you I’ve had males, uh, in my office, not be able to stay erect and have intercourse because I, because they were taught not to masturbate or touch themselves really. And so they learn to masturbate through, uh, uh, pillows or the mattress. So that’s the only way they can be sexual. So it’s really put them in a bad position. That’s why they come to therapy to learn how not to stop masturbating, but do it differently so that they can enter, you know, into an intercourse. What do you tell religious people about masturbation? 

Speaker 4:

Um, well, uh, trying to be respectful of their, you know, the spiritual and religious beliefs, I think, uh, education is key and that’s the way that I approach it. I kind of talk about the limitations, the limitations of, you know, um, I guess how dangerous is to not have accurate information then in trying to be respectful of, uh, the principal that they’re coming from and to help them see that there is a lot of dissonance in it, in that you are required to be a non-sexual person before marriage, and then after marriage, you, you know, especially for females, but you mentioned males as well. You’re supposed to kind of, you know, procreate and be this, everything, each other’s sexual partner for life, and people just don’t have the skills for the knowledge of their own body and what it is that they should be doing. 

Speaker 4:

And, you know, people that come from such conservative, conservative backgrounds, they also have their limited access to technology and, uh, uh, which would be a way that they would educate themselves. Unfortunately, sometimes for some people that only happens to core, what’s going to be very misleading, but, uh, I certainly have encountered couples and clients that struggled with a lot of shame and a lot of guilt with wanting to, you know, to be sexual in all sorts of ways, because, uh, pleasure, pleasure through sex, um, is such a major, uh, I guess, component of our lives that sort of becomes suppressed. And it sort of sometimes leaks out in other areas, people, once they figure out that masturbation and releases certain kinds of substances in their body and they feel great, it’s easy to start using that as a way to sooth anxiety and people can run into all sorts of issues if they don’t have correct information and they feel shamed about what’s happening. 

Speaker 3:

I’m glad you brought up porn because I think that’s another issue is where does porn fit in and how do you talk to parents about talking to their children about pornography? Because they are, I always tell people your kids are watching it, whether you ban it, whether you limit it, whether you put parental controls on it, whether you scare them, um, they’re going to do it. And, you know, and so they, it’s so important to have a porn literacy conversation so that they don’t begin to reel the thing. This is normal, and this is what everybody’s doing when in fact much important isn’t. So how do you help parents with that? 

Speaker 4:

I guess, like I said, there is no, uh, I don’t think there is one age to start the talks, but at the same time, one, as kids are getting older and they have more and more access to technology and they have their own devices. The way that I kind of discuss this with parents, usually parents or other caregivers in a kind of a casual way where they either suggest that they use their own experience, um, where, you know, I was online and something popped up and with sexual content. And, um, um, I was wondering if you have seen something like that while you were online, have you ever had this happen to you? And just, if it has, let me know if you have any questions, I guess, using one’s own experience to say I have been online and I saw things that surprised me whether I searched for it or not, sometimes sexual things pop up. 

Speaker 4:

Right. You think you’re looking for, uh, a video that has music and all of a sudden something else pops up. So just an open way of, you know, you may have seen some pictures of videos online that, of naked people or sex. This is called porn. It depends on the age of the child, right? If it is an eight or a 10 year old, that I think it’s important to explain what porn is, not pictures of naked people having sex, or, uh, you know, touching each other. And that can be confusing. Have you seen anything like this before? Uh, I want to talk with you openly so that you have the correct information. If you have any questions, feel free to ask me. 

Speaker 3:

I love it. That’s a great, I think parents do need a script, you know, I think because they didn’t, weren’t talked to about it. They don’t have the language. It is uncomfortable. And if there is something like what you just said available to them, I mean, where can they go to learn about how to talk to children about sex? 

Speaker 4:

Well, there are some great resources out there. Um, there is, uh, are you talking about, you know, like a specific like websites, for example, that people can go educate? Yeah. There are, um, the maze.org amaz a M a T E, I think you’ll, you’ll perhaps we’ll talk about the resources again. That org is a great website, Scarlet team that come and sex positive families that come there, that those are the three major resources that I use to refer parents that are interested in knowing more about how to talk to their teams about musterbation or anything else. But also these are great websites for teens to go to. So if a parent is really, uh, determined not to have their conversations themselves, these are great places to refer your team to, to so that they can get the information that they want. 

Speaker 3:

What I love about Scarla team.com is that, um, it’s all different ages, all different orientations of sexuality, all different gender identities, some stuff for parents, some stuff for teens, some for kids it’s, it’s so all inclusive that everybody could benefit from it. 

Speaker 4:

That’s right. That’s right. And that is, uh, uh, uh, the, the, the beauty of it, because, uh, when kids get their information from porn porn, you know, it has pretty untrue standards of what a person’s body looks like. It’s pretty, there is no inclusion of diverse bodies and, uh, people can maybe start making associations of awhile. I don’t look like that. And what does that mean? Uh, but, uh, having a resource where it’s all inclusive and one can find the place to identify, and the group that they belong to is crucial, especially at that age, right. And teenagers, that the most important thing for them is, um, the feeling of belonging in a group and a friends group that they can identify with. 

Speaker 3:

Yes. And I’ll tell you, what I think is so important about this too, is we forget, or we don’t. We get, we’re not even thinking about the fact that when you have healthy conversations around sexual health and masturbation, then these young people will grow up to have sexual health and healthy conversations with their partners, which when I see heterosexual couples, mixed sex couples, male, female couples, they have not talked about masturbation. They stumble on it years into the marriage. They have either keeping it a secret, or they didn’t think it was important to talk about one or both of them feels betrayed. I’ve actually had women very jealous and feel and get, I feel like an engine, an infidelity response to finding her husband’s porn as if he’s cheating on her. And I’ve had men be very competitive and upset that she’s using a vibrator when he could, she has access to his penis 24 seven. I’ve had men actually say this in my office. So when you said like, vibrators can be, uh, the patriarchal standards is you’re taking sex away from men, you know, that still goes on a lot of the men’s minds, what we don’t. Right. 

Speaker 3:

Right. And we don’t think about the fact that teaching these kids will help them as couples growing up gay and lesbian couples. Do you know how to have this issue? They talk about minister gay guys. Talk about masturbation in their ads. How often before we’ve even, you know, this is what I do. I use my left hand on Friday nights, my right hand, you know, it’s like no big deal, straight couples. It’s such a thing because it’s so much shame and a lack of conversation. Have you seen that in your practice? 

Speaker 4:

Uh, multiple times, Joe, very much so. And both sides are true where a man feels threatened by their female partners use of, uh, the vibrator or, you know, how often does she masturbate and why does she masturbate? It creates a lot of unsafety that heterosexual couples have this, uh, let’s call it. Um, it seems like there is less differentiation. There’s more of a measurement and kind of, uh, they get their validation about their sexual, I guess, performance from their partner, more than, uh, I guess, uh, other couples, it seems. And I encountered this issue very often where pornography becomes this, uh, mistress. And, uh, it’s very hard for female partners to understand, or, um, even consider that this is just a visual imagery that their partner uses to masturbate and have an orgasm that they, they have every right to have an act of self love and pleasure with themselves. Uh, but it seems that it becomes, it cannot find the word it’s possess possessive of each other’s sexuality in a heterosexual relationship, much more than other arrangements. 

Speaker 3:

You say also, um, a healthy relationship with pleasure cannot coexist with shame. Pleasure is innate. It’s available to us through all of our senses until our last breath. It does not have to be earned. Wow. Can you expand on that? That’s really well said. 

Speaker 4:

Well, uh, yeah, I think, um, you know, the concept of shame, the belief that we’re flawed or unworthy of acceptance of belonging, it’s sort of, uh, uh, it can be created early on with, like I said, not understanding for example, why a child might be curious and touching themselves and shaming them in that way. It creates this kind of, Oh my gosh, I did something wrong. I’m not, I’m not being good. Um, and, uh, it thrives in silence. People stay quiet and then they never kind of, once somebody is being shamed, they don’t ask questions. Well, why, why did you say that? Why should I not touch myself? So it becomes this much bigger thing mentally than it actually could be realized. 

Speaker 4:

Um, but yeah, it’s a, I think it’s a pleasure is a very, like, that’s a human basic, right. And, uh, not understanding it as such or something that has to be earned. Uh, I think it’s also a big in the American culture. I find this is more of an issue than I come from Greece, Europe. And, uh, you know, uh, people can have, uh, pleasure siestas or, you know, resting is, eh, it’s celebrated in here. I find that people are much more driven in it from a kind of like, you have to produce all the time if you rest and you enjoy what you have, it’s kind of a, you’re, you’re, you’re being lazy. I think there’s more of a mentality that pleasure is for, for the selfish and you shouldn’t engage in it unless you’ve earned it 

Speaker 3:

awful, 

Speaker 4:

isn’t it? Yeah. 

Speaker 3:

It really is. We’re getting close to the end. What would you, what final things do you want everyone to hear that is important in the work you do around masturbation and talking to teens? 

Speaker 4:

Uh, I guess I’m going to go back to how we started that don’t underestimate your influence that your children want to hear from you. Uh, they look up to, uh, the parents for resources and information, and, um, don’t be afraid to be the one that is going to guide them and lead them to, you know, take care of themselves, trust their judgment, prepare them for independent decision-making rather than instilling fear and messages to scare them. Um, it’s important that we raise children that are have critical thinking. And when we talk about poor, we also, who, you know, who created this, why did they make it? What is the message for who is the message? That’s the amount of detail that one can talk about to help our teenagers thrive. 

Speaker 3:

That’s great. I love that. That’s a really good, good way to end. I really, really appreciate it. Um, Atlanta, Atlanta, uh, Lenny, how can people find you on the internet if they want to talk further with you? 

Speaker 4:

Uh, so my website, uh, and that is better relationship that work. Alright, 

Speaker 3:

great. Alright. Well, thank you so much. It’s very informative. Um, I want to thank you and I want to thank you for being on the show and to thank everyone else for listening and to not forget to follow me on Instagram and Twitter at dr. Joe court, D R J O E K O R T. And please rate, review and subscribe to my podcast and I’ll see you next time. Stay healthy and stay safe. 

Speaker 1:

Thanks for listening to this episode of smart sex, smart love. I’m dr. Joe court, and you can find me on Joe kort.com. That’s J O E K O R t.com. See you next time.

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