My teenage daughter and I have long shared clothes like two college roommates. She’s in and out of my closet all the time, which is fine and good until I realized that I store my vibrator and lube on my sweater shelf. I thought about moving it, but I also have no shame.
So when she went into my closet to borrow my favorite sweatshirt and asked me what all the rectangle boxes and lotions were, I was prepared.
I told her in my best matter-of-fact voice that they were called vibrators and some people like to use them to masturbate. I could tell she was slightly uncomfortable by the way she shrugged her shoulders and turned out of the room, but I’ve been talking to my kids about sex and masturbation since before they started school. I’d learned from a few fellow moms that if I didn’t, my kids would probably hear about it for the first time from another kid on the playground. And I’ve never felt that masturbation should be left out of the sex talk conversation.
I don’t want my kids to feel any kind of shame or embarrassment when it comes to sexual feelings they may have. I didn’t want them to grow up like I did, thinking sex and having sexual feelings was something bad, or should be tightly controlled until you were a certain age or married. I never wanted to give them any reason to think they couldn’t come to me with questions or concerns or their feelings around sex.
And I knew that even if I hid my vibrators away in a secret, dark place they may still find them.
I don’t have them on display by the bed, but there’s nothing wrong with that if you do. And while I don’t go into details about why I have them, I refuse to act like it’s something I should feel ashamed about, especially around my daughter.
I want her to know that women need different things and for some of us, that means using a vibrator. I want her to know that masturbation isn’t something to be embarrassed about; it can be a form of self-care, not something you should feel ashamed about.
Our conversations about this have been brief, but I know she’s comfortable coming to me and that’s been my goal all along. I’d hate to think any of my kids were going through something or had a question and they didn’t dare ask me about it because I’d given them the impression sex wasn’t something we could talk about.
And the plus side to all of this is that it’s been over four years since my daughter learned where I keep my toys and I didn’t have to move them. I kept them exactly where I wanted them: out of sight but very easy to get to.
Diana Park is a writer who finds solitude in a good book, the ocean, and eating fast food with her kids.