Adolescence is a time of sexual discovery and development. New hormones cause all sorts of physical and emotional changes. Some examples of changes are – getting taller, feeling moody, getting a deeper voice, growing breasts or having a crush on someone. New feelings may cause changes in your relationships with your family and friends. For example you may start dating and wanting more independence.
Sexuality isn’t just “sex.” It is a major part of who we are throughout every phase of our life – from birth to death. Sexuality is part of our human make-up, part of our mind, spirit and body. It is not separate from self, but it is part of who a person is. There is nothing bad or mysterious about sexuality. It is normal and an essential part of every one of us. Can you imagine someone without sexuality?
Humans are very much alike – we are sexual regardless of intelligence, physical or mental fitness, life style or whether or not we are engaging in sexual behaviors. To deny that we are sexual beings is to deny a part of ourselves. One thing that is unique about sex that is unlike many other human characteristics is that we all have sexual feelings. But we have a choice on acting on those feelings.
Like other human characteristics sexuality can be used to enhance our lives or to demean others or ourselves. Beyond the physical connection, our sexuality connects us emotionally and spiritually to other human beings. Usually connections are positive. There can be less positive or even destructive connections. Sexual exploitation, torture and violence are some examples of extreme negative connections.
Although sometimes they’re confusing, sexual feelings can be wonderful. It can even be fun to enjoy sexual feelings with out acting on them. Private sexual feelings also avoid the risk of sexually transmitted infections (often called sexually transmitted diseases or STDs) pregnancy or rejection. Sharing these sexy feelings with another person can be enjoyable too as long as the other person feels the same way. Figuring out how you want to deal with sexual feelings is a life-long process.
Masturbation is sexual stimulation of oneself-sometimes to the point of orgasm. Masturbation can be a natural sexual expression for both males and females, young and old. It is estimated that by age twenty-one, 97% of males and well over 90 % of females have masturbated at some time in their lives. Whether or not to masturbate is a very personal decision. It is normal, but like all other sexual feelings, you can choose what is comfortable for you. Doing it, or not doing it, are both normal.
Masturbation is also the safest form of sexual activity. In addition to being an alternative to sexual activity with another person, masturbation may have other benefits. For some it is a chance to release sexual tensions, and to figure out what you enjoy. Masturbating alone means you are not likely to get pregnant or catch a sexually transmitted infecton (often called sexually transmitted disease or STD). If you masturbate with another person without any clothes on, there is a small possibility of pregnancy or passing an infection. If a person masturbates with an object, they must be sure they won’t hurt themselves with it. Sharing the object with another person can pass along infections. Masturbation is your choice and can be a healthy and fun part of a person’s sexual experience.
Myths about Masturbation
There are many myths about masturbation. Most myths incorrectly state that masturburbation is dangerous or that there is such a thing as “too much masturbation”.
Like many other things in life (eating, exercising, talking on the phone, or even playing cards) masturbation might be harmful if used as a way of avoiding dealing with a problem or facing feelings. There is no rule or even best advice about how much is too much. It is up to you. Just ask yourself – Does masturbation take the place of other pleasurable activities such as talking to a friend, going on a date, seeing a fun movie with friends or reading a good book? There are lots of fun things to do – masturbation is just one of them.
Feelings of Guilt
It is a mistake to believe that masturbation is wrong, harmful or bad. People who believe masturbation is bad are the same people who deny that sex and sexuality is a normal part of who we are. Often these people have inherited their own sense of guilt from religious beliefs or family teachings. It is as ridiculous to deny sexuality as it is to deny eating or sleeping. Sex just is, there is no good or bad. We suggest that if you are masturbating or having sex and are feeling guilt or shame that you talk to a trusted adult such as parent, counselor, doctor/nurse, teacher or pastor. Or you can talk to a trusted friend.
Different people and cultures view masturbation very differently, so it’s difficult to provide information about this controversial topic that fits for everyone.
With all the changes of adolescence, it’s normal for a person to question their sexual orientation (whom they’re sexually attracted to) or their gender identity (feeling female or male). Some people have sexual and romantic feelings for people of the opposite gender – men attracted to women, and women attracted to men. These attractions are heterosexual. Another word for a heterosexual person is “straight”. Other people, who are homosexual, have sexual and romantic feelings for people of the same gender – women attracted to women, and men attracted to men. A lesbian is a woman who is attracted to other women. The word gay usually refers to a man who is attracted to other men, but sometimes people use this word to include gay men, lesbians, and people who are bisexual. People who are bisexual can have sexual and romantic feelings for both genders. Feeling attracted to someone of the same gender for the first time can be exciting. It can also be a little confusing or scary. While researchers don’t really know why people turn out gay, it’s a normal and natural part of the human condition. People don’t choose to be gay, and people don’t choose to be straight. A person’s sexual orientation is a part of who they are and the way they were born. A person who is gay can be from any race or ethnicity and any class background. People might realize they’re gay when they’re young, during the teen years, or when they’re older. Either way is normal. This process of figuring out you’re gay and telling others about it is called “coming out”. This can be an incredibly exciting time in a person’s life. It can also be stressful. It’s important to find supportive friends and adults to guide you through the process. While coming out might seem to others like it happens over night, usually it’s a process that goes on for awhile. It might take time for you to figure out whom you’re really attracted to. It’s normal for someone who turns out to be gay, lesbian or bisexual to experiment with someone of the opposite gender. It’s also normal for someone who identifies as straight to have sexual experiences with someone of the same gender. Homophobia often impacts the coming out process. Homophobia is fear and discrimination of individuals who identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual. Sometimes gay, lesbian and bisexual people internalize this homophobia making then feel ashamed or scared of who they truly are. Homophobia can sometimes causes violence against people who are lesbian, gay or bisexual, or others that don’t fit into society’s strict gender stereotypes. It’s important for people who identify as straight to be allies in the fight against homophobia. Homophobia hurts everyone, not just lesbian, gay and bisexual people. Many high schools have gay/straight alliances. They’re a social and support group that might help in the coming out process and beyond. Find out from someone you trust at school if they have gay/straight alliances. See below for resources for gay, lesbian, and bisexual teens below. The term “transgendered” refers to people who feel that they’re gender identity is different from their biological sex. While they might be born a girl, they really feel they should be a boy, etc. A person born female who identifies as male is often called female-to-male or F-to-M. There are other words that F-to-M individuals use to identify themselves, like “boi” or butch, etc. This varies by communities and by individuals. A person born male who identifies as female is often called male-to-female or M-to-F. Some people want to surgically alter their sex organs, and others choose not to. Transgendered people are not always attracted to the same gender. Many are heterosexual or straight. heterosexual.
For more information on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender information, check out the following web sites:
- www.dist202.org District 202 is a center in Minneapolis created by and for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth and their friends.
- www.pflag.org PFLAG stands for Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. It is a national nonprofit organization that promotes the health and well-being of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered persons, their families and friends through support, education and advocacy.
- www.outproud.org !OutProud!, The National Coalition for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Youth, serves the need of these young people by providing advocacy, information, resources and support.
- www.youthresource.com Youth Resource is a project of Advocates for Youth, an organization dedicated to helping young people make informed and responsible decisions about their sexual and reproductive health.
- www.glsen.org GLSEN stands for the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, and is a national organization that brings together teachers, parents, students and concerned citizens to work together to end homophobia in our schools.
- www.trevorproject.com The Trevor Project is a nonprofit endeavor to promote tolerance for gay and questioning youth, and to aid in suicide prevention among that group.
- www.apa.org/pubinfo/ansewrs.html The American Psychological Association (APA) is a scientific and professional organization working to advance psychology. They have a helpful page entitled “Questions and Answers about Sexual Orientation.”