Elle Cosimano

I promise you won't go blind…

(Disclaimer: This post is about masturbation. All those too chicken to talk about it may abort now. I promise you won’t go blind. But you may stay ignorant. I can’t help you with that.)

So here we go…

I have a Facebook page with a small clan of loyal followers (mostly friends, family, and old colleagues). My “Average Daily Users” hover in the neighborhood of five. One of them is usually my mother.

It’s cool. I get it. I’m not very important.

This morning, just because I was curious, I checked out my Insights Report, neat functionality that allows me to see a snapshot of activity (or lack of) on my page.

Here’s what I saw…

Active Facebook Users Feb 7 Daily Post Views

My “Average Daily Users” and my “Average Post Views” shot up to 85 on February 7th.

From 5 to 85 in one day! WTF?

What did I post on my page on February 7th? So I went back to my Wall and looked.

This huge spike in traffic occurred the day I posted a link to “Sticky The Movie” — a documentary about masturbation. I can’t embed the trailer, but here’s a link. If you haven’t watched it, go ahead and check it out now, and then come back… I’ll wait.

So I crunched a few numbers with a calculator (cut me some slack… I failed Basic College Math 101 all three times) and then I threw the calculator out the window. But here’s my best estimate:

Video link + masturbation theme = a big freaking increase in traffic in one day… for one post.

And yet, not one “Like” or one Comment. And not one person shared the link. Hmmm…

Obviously, everyone is very interested in the subject of masturbation. And we all know everyone’s done it. (Any brownie points you think you earn by denying it are wasted. You just wipe them out by lying about it.) Is it possible, that in this modern day of progressive and liberal thinkers, we are still too afraid to talk about masturbating? Seriously?

So, you might say “Elle, your followers are all teens who are probably just too embarrassed to talk about “it” [giggle into your hand and insert creative euphemism of choice here].”

But you would be wrong.

The vast majority of my followers are not teens. And I’ll prove it…

Facebook Page Gender and Age chart

So now you say, “Big deal. We’re grown ups and we don’t have to talk about it.”

To which I respectfully call bullshit.

Those of you in the big, fat column marked “Ages 25-44” are also probably parents. Many of you are parents of teenagers, or will be very soon. My guess is most of you have not, and will not, talk about masturbation with your kids. Most don’t. And we can’t rely on MTV or American Pie (as awesome as that movie is) to do the job for us. These are just vague references, watered down in bathroom humor and flashy lyrics. (Most of my adolescent friends and I thought Cyndi Lauper’s “She Bop” actually was a dance move or a day-glow plastic o-ring bracelet, and The Divinyls “I Touch Myself” didn’t come on the scene until I was college-bound.)

So my point is, no one is really talking about it.

And here’s a true story about that.

When I was a freshman, one of my best guy-friends from high school called me. (For those of you who’ve known me that long, no, I will not share his name, so don’t ask.) For today’s story, we’ll call him Fred. Fred was a little late to bloom and struggled a bit in the cruel and sadistic middle school/high school social mix. He was distraught and crying on the phone (yes, guys sometimes cry).

Fred told me he thought there was something wrong with him and he wanted to kill himself. So I asked him why. He told me he’d touched himself. I asked him if it felt good, and did he make a big mess. He said yes. I assured him his plumbing was fine. There was nothing wrong with him, and not to forget to wear a condom if he had any plans to do it with anyone else.

That’s the problem, he said. Fred assumed his desire to touch his own penis (yes, I said it… go ahead and get your giggles out now. We’ll probably say it again… penis, penis, penis…) must be an indication of sexual preference. He assumed it meant he was gay. And he was devastated by the sudden and frightening implications of what he’d just done to himself.

So I asked him, Fred, what were you thinking about when you got excited? He told me he’d pilfered his Dad’s Playboy (back then, porn came delivered to your house in conspicuously inconspicuous paper sacks) and he was thinking about the centerfold, a blonde with particularly large breasts.

Scary dilemma #2 was solved. No, Fred, you’re probably not gay, I said. And touching yourself when you think of naked ladies is normal. And even if you were fantasizing about boy parts and hot guys, there would still be nothing wrong with you!

But it’s a penis, he argued. He didn’t like penises. Why did he want to touch one? And if it was normal, and all the other guys were doing it, why wasn’t anybody talking about it?

Fred raises a great question. Why isn’t anybody talking about it. Not joking or giggling or making up dance moves about it. Really talking about it. I couldn’t answer that question then. I still can’t. But here’s what still bugs me about this…

1- Fred was scared to death because he touched himself, and he felt dirty and guilty and wrong for doing it.

2- Fred wanted to kill himself because he thought he might be gay.

Now here’s the real eye opener…

3- What if Fred was your teenager? What would you say to him if you could? What if you never got the chance?

Three really good discussion points. Who volunteers to go first?

I know we can’t expect the schools to tackle this subject in Health Ed. And frankly, there are a few teachers I can think of who might be the exception to the “everyone is doing it” theory. Or maybe it’s just been too long since they’ve tried. Not sure how effective that class lecture might be, and a little afraid to think about it.

So where do we begin having some intelligent adult conversations?

Here’s a start. If you’re curious (don’t lie, we all know you are) here’s where you can watch the trailer, “Like” the trailer, and/or share the trailer. “But Elle,” you whine, “people will see I liked it on my Wall. What will they think?” Who cares what they think! You’re a progressive individual with an open mind, and you’ve got backbone!

And most importantly talk to your kids. If you need ideas, here’s where I plan to start with my boys once they’re old enough to hear it. I’m starting with two Health Ed lessons too often forgetten.

#1 – It’s okay to love yourself, both physically and emotionally.

#2 – You’re okay, and I will love, respect and support you, no matter who you love.


24, 2011 |

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Elle's Life,Website and Media

8 Responses to “I promise you won't go blind…”

  1. Ann Marie says:

    It’s interesting that for as much non-talking that goes on around this activity, someone (many people) could still so completely demonize it. How do we do this?

    I’ve found sex talks with my kids are less stressful since they’re happening before they’re fully in the grip of hormones–lots of mechanical (but still hypothetical) questions rather than specific or personal questions. We’ll see how this evolves as time goes on!

  2. Shelley Souza says:

    The issue of sex and sexuality is hot, confusing and complex. I don’t recall that I was ever told I would go blind if I did the “M” thing by my parents, though I have a feeling the Catholic Church must have tried hard to indoctrinate me with that idea. I remember my mother and the family doctor telling me about “the facts of life” when I was ten or eleven, including homosexuality (which I didn’t understand until I was 18 and met a male gay couple). Interestingly, I don’t think they spoke to me about masturbation. Do you believe it’s still taboo because it’s not discussed in public as much as consensual sex?

    I’m not a prude (I was a child of the sixties). But for me a far bigger concern than whether people are talking about masturbation is that so many young girls, pre-pubescent as well as teens, have no respect for themselves and their bodies in today’s culture of sexual promiscuity (very different from women’s sexual liberation of the sixties) and cynicism.

    I’m disturbed by the insidious cult of Photoshop beauty and body weight; and that that our culture glorifies girls who have a general lack of interest in self-empowering values that would teach them to think more deeply about life and themselves than the mental width of a penny. Help young people today with understanding how to make important moral and ethical choices that they will need to make in an increasingly complex world, and masturbation and the pleasure of sex will find its rightful place in the overall scheme of Life.

  3. Christine says:


    I had my son watch this last year at the age of 13. When he was 11, we had the big talk, he sat and listened silently while I went through a very detailed liberal book that included ever form of conception and relationship combination including surrogacy, donor sperm, lesbian, gay transgender issues. My husband had the mastrubatn talk with him, but I added the video viewing. I put the book on his shelf, it’s not the anymore….. Lol.

  4. Anna says:

    I find silence more scary than the talking. A lot more. And talking about sex, about masturbation or anything it’s in a kid’s mind it’s better to talk without taboos.
    At home I had some issues with my kid’s dad, who sometimes feels he has no right to talk about “that”. And I’m tired of telling him, the more you pretend to be ashamed, the more she’ll learn there’s something fishy there. If you talk about these themes in a natural way, she’ll learn it’s normal, natural and won’t be giggling or hiding.

  5. Dee White says:

    You’re right, masturbation, sex and related themes need to be talked about.

    How frightening is it for kids who don’t know what’s going on?

    It is a completely natural part of who we are, but in today’s society it isn’t always easy to talk about these things in a natural way. Through television etc, kids are overexposed to it without really knowing what it’s all about.

  6. Thanks for these thoughtful comments about STICKY! I did post the link, and I’m going to make sure the director sees this. Your statistics are eye opening!

  7. Jessica Kupferman says:

    UGH I know they need to be talked about but I don’t wanna. I’ve talked about sex with them and they know if they’re gay that’s totally just as normal as if they’re straight. We haven’t talked about masturbation but I suspect my husband has talked to my son about it, in cast he has dirty sheets or whatever. I’ve never talked to my daughter about it but we’ve discussed sex in a positive way. I still don’t want to talk about masturbation! I will if they ask me though, and I’ll be honest and informative, but I don’t ever want to bring it up myself.

  8. Pamela Witte says:

    My son came to me when he was about 10. The big brother of a friend had told him he needed to put a “sock on his wiener and have a good pull.

    It goes without saying. I was surprised. I sputtered. Turned red. Looked around for someone other than me to discuss the topic. Then we sat down on the couch and had the talk. He was all, ewwwww….and didn’t want to meet my eyes. “No way, Mom.” I can remember the doubtful look on his face. So I bought books and we kept having the talks.

    My son would hide the books under his bed. Like if no one could see them they weren’t really there. Then one night I found him reading with his flash light. I was so happy and relieved. I’d taken the steps to educate him about a difficult topic and he understood.

    He understand so well he took it upon himself to explain it all to his eight-year-old sister! Sigh…. 😉

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