Wednesday, February 09, 2005

teens and toys

no, it's not a porn film. rather a discussion topic.

should sex toys be available to teens?

should there be an age limit? when is too young?

in light of the number of women who do not experience orgasm until later in life, should tools for masturbation (and outercourse and other sex play) be accessible? physiologically, there are many barriers women must address, including learning about their bodies and overcoming social stigma attached to sex and pleasure. could encouraging masturbation help? and, since many women grow tired and frustrated with masturbation that does not result in easy climax, should sex toys be incorporated in education and marketing around these issues?

many young men are satisfied with hands and lotion. although, what about appropriate butt toys, with flared bases, to prevent injury and embarrassment?

please discuss.



31 Comments:

Blogger Jane Vincent said...

from everything bagel:
Yes! Toys for teens! There's really no harm that can come from sex toys used properly, and there's not harm that can come from using them improperly that can't also come from using household objects as sex toys. I don't think there is a too young really, except that I don't think it's appropriate for adults to buy teens sex toys without having been asked to do so. If a 13 year old wants a vibrator, and goes to a store and buys herself one with saved up allowance and babysitting money, I don't see any problem. I got my first vibrator when I was 14 (they don't card so much in New York), and well, it was happy happy happy.

2/09/2005 1:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes! All gyrls should have wonderful empowered womyn mothers who give them rites of passage rituals and sex toys. Of course, they should also buy them alternative, earth freindly, menstural supplies. If I ruled the world.

Ember

2/09/2005 2:11 PM  
Blogger Jane Vincent said...

live journal is kicking blogger's ass today.

digital monk says:
I think if a kid is aware enough to want a sex toy, they should be able to get what they want. But I think from 13 to 16 they should only be available with parental consent. That age group I just don't think is overall mature enough to know their sexuality (and that's just personal experience, I've been known to be wrong). Plus parental consent would encourage more open sexual education in the home, which is where I think it belongs (at least until college).

Of course this is a country where cigarettes and smokeless tobacco is legal and gay marriage is banned by right wing knobheads who wouldn't know a good lay if it sat on their face.


My reply:

check out eric schwartz "keep your jesus off my penis"
www.ericschwartz.com

i saw him perform last night and laughed my ass off.

in regards to the bulk of your comments, how could a 13 to 16 year old better learn about their sexuality than through self exploration, via masturbation? if a 13 yr old can masturbate, shouldn't they be able to invest in tools to masturbate more skillfully without parental consent?

similarly, should 13 to 16 year olds be required to have parental consent to purchase condoms or other sexual accessories?

2/09/2005 3:39 PM  
Blogger Azuzil said...

I live in Texas where many of the crazies live. But I think we should allow anyone who wants one buy condoms. I mean what is the point in denying people condoms? The worst thigns they are going to do with them are use them and have protected sex or fill them up with water and throw them at cop cars...but hey who hasn't done that. As for sex toys...here in Texas you have to be 18 to enter a shop that sells anything sexual at all. I think we should allow them to be sold but what do I know you can't sell dildos in my state, and you can get arrested for having more than 5.

2/09/2005 3:46 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

My first reaction is that it's an unsalable. But, whether or not it will happen doesn't have much bearing on whether or not it should happen. So, thinking about that, I'm in favor of sex toys being included in sex ed curricula, and allowing the kids to decide for themselves whether or not that's something they want to try out.

If they do go for it, however, I don't think it's wise to let them head out to sex shops unsupervised. While I'm sure most customers and employees are healthy, normal people, better safe than sorry. I'd be in favor of stores adopting guidelines that no minors are allowed in the store without an adult. Not necessarily a parent, but a sympathetic person over the age of 18. And while this person is watching the kid's back, he/she can also dispense some useful buying advice.

Of course, online purchasing would negate this entirely, but also carries the problems of potential credit card fraud if Mom and Pop don't foot the bill.

2/09/2005 3:58 PM  
Blogger Jane Vincent said...

as a native texan, i know what you mean. i grew up there with bush's abstinence only sex ed and look how great i turned out.

there are some interesting peculiarities to the texas laws, like dildos that are not penis-shaped are okay, and phallic dildos can be sold as "education tools". there was a great documentary making the rounds called "the dildo diaries". reaffirmed my love of molly ivins. additionally, i have heard that the anti-dildo laws were cast down with the sodomy of lawrence v. texas (as part of the law's definition of sodomy was penetration with an object or device intended for sexual stimulation, i paraphrase). however, shops were still sketchy and afraid to sell this past fall.

do you happen to know of any sex positive scenes in the houston area? (we can't all trek to austin) i may be returning to texas in the fall and want to start cultivating a perverted little support network.

2/09/2005 4:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the only danger of selling sex toys to teens and young women is that they may develop a dependency on the sex toy in order to achieve orgasm.

2/09/2005 4:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jane:

It's an interesting theoretical question, but not a practical one. As other readers note, we can't even get every state to acknowledge adults' right to sexual self-exploration (and it is not at all clear to me how Lawrence will play out with the dildo laws in those Gulf of Mexico states). Even in states where adults are not barred from buying products to explore their sexuality, where would a teen get them? Do shops that sell vibrators have an "under 18" section? Not really. Same practical problem for mail order, plus the probability that parents will intercept packages.

Finally, teen masturbation patterns often become highly specialized and result in habituation to one kind of stimulation -- that can take years to change. I'm not sure vibrators are a great idea for young people who haven't fully mastered the equipment their bodies came with.

That said, precocious teens will do what they have always done -- adapt, overcome, borrow, buy on the sly. The ones with the imagination and ambition to buy themselves sex toys are not the ones that will stagnate without them. The kids who are not developing their own sexuality would probably not be helped by any object, and what they really need is 1) access to information; 2) a more sex-positive culture; and 3) a more sex-positive home environment.

Thomas

2/09/2005 4:42 PM  
Blogger Jane Vincent said...

this is another question inspired by a meeting in the office. we were discussing the inclusion of examples of outercourse in abstinence client education information and education materials geared towards adolescents.

as many have pointed out, the problems of learning about, finding, and purchasing quality toys is a challenge for many adults.

there is no way that i know of for teens to purchase sex toys legally in the US. stores require you to be over 18 or over 21, as do websites. you can buy a "massager" from the drug store or a tickle me elmo or harry potter broom, but nothing designed specifically with sexual pleasure in mind. so the toys aren't readily available.

but should the information be?

2/09/2005 4:50 PM  
Blogger Jane Vincent said...

and a note on vibrator dependency: myth myth myth. vibrators do not damage nerves or cause someone to be incapable of orgasm without one. however, the can help women to obtain orgasms more readily with or without the vibe and with or without a partner.

many (not all) of the stories of vibrator dependency come from women who couldn't orgasm without one before their vibrators and can't orgasm without one now, heterosexual men threatened by their partner's ability to achieve sexual satisfaction without them (similar to women being threatened by their partner's porn), and women who no longer have the patience for manual stimulation since they can have a quicker orgasm with technology.

is this a bad thing? an orgasm is an orgasm, after all. i say get 'em how you can.

2/09/2005 4:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jane:

I've always been skeptical of the "vibrator dependence" stories, but on the other hand I don't know anyone who used a vibrator as a part of a regular masturbatory pattern before college-age. I do know, however, that lots of men have trouble coming outside their habitual pattern -- especially from blowjobs, which are very different from handjobs. I'm not talking about some mythical nerve-damage (that is insecure men talking). I'm talking about the mental aspects of a conditioned response.

2/09/2005 5:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry -- the "conditioned response" comment was mine.

Thomas

2/09/2005 5:15 PM  
Blogger Jane Vincent said...

some men come better from hand jobs than blow jobs. i come better with a hand on my clit while being fucked from behind than in missionary position gazing deep in to my lover's eyes. the point being, if we're coming at all, that's a good thing. if it ain't broke, don't bitch about it.

2/09/2005 5:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jane:

I do take your point that getting off is better than not getting off. Maybe it's partly gendered: I think I take my ability to come for granted a little because I have always had it.

I also think that making information available to teens is a good idea, including information about vibrators and/or penetrative toys. Anything that takes the focus off intercourse will have a net positive effect on their sexual health, IMO.

Where I'm not on board is with an orgasm being an orgasm. I never thought I would hear that from a woman -- that's usually something men say. But it's not true for me, at least. Some are a nice release, and some make the walls melt, and they're all a little different, if in subtle ways.

Thomas

2/09/2005 6:51 PM  
Blogger Librarian Babe said...

If sex toys were available to teens, we'd probably be living in a world that was more open about sex and that would make a huge difference in and of itself.

Teenagers have raging hormones. If you want them to put off having intercourse, then you'd damn well better give them another outlet for their horniness. Maybe if little Mary had a vibrator to enjoy and explore her body with, she'd be more likely to make her boyfriend wait for sex until she was emotionally ready (the age for that varies greatly).

I'm tired and rambling. But I know I wish I had had my own vibrator as a teen.... instead of the ickiness of washing my mom's before and after and then using it while everyone was out of the house!!! Eeek. LOL

2/09/2005 8:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nadia:

You wrote, "If sex toys were available to teens, we'd probably be living in a world that was more open about sex and that would make a huge difference in and of itself." I think that's right, but the contrapositive is also true. Until we live in a world that is more open about sex, sex toys are not going to be available to teens. Lots of people are deeply uncomfortable with accepting that teenagers are sexual beings, and the prevailing view seems to be that stifling that sexuality is the way to delay exploration of it. Now, I agree with you and Jane that 1) encouraging self-exploration may in many cases move the age of partner exploration closer to maturity instead of farther from it, and 2) that self-exploration through masturbation without shame and guilt is important to producing sexually healthy adults. But that view holds sway in a fairly narrow band of the population.

My major point is that information is the winnable battle now. Access to sex toys is a question for another generation.

When I was a teen, I had to steal or improvise all my toys, too. I learned ass-play with a drink-stirrer and a 1/2" plexiglass dowell rod (long enough that retrieval was not a concern). My first pain toy was an alligator clip from the highschool science lab, which was harsher than anything I have found since. So, I know where you're coming from that access to the right tools for the job would have been helpful. And those kind of stories are true of basically everyone I know who is kinky.

But we can't even get much of the American public on board that adults ought to masturbate, explore themselves with penetration toys and vibrators, etc. If you want a theoretical answer, I don't think any teen have ever been hurt by using a vibrator on themselves. But if you want a public policy answer, the argument that access to toys will delay teen intercourse is just nowhere close to overcoming the public's issues with teens and sex.

Information is, of course, another matter. Because we all know how determined some of us were as teens, we all know that somewhere in rural Indiana there is some kid playing with him- or herself in some dangerous ways because s/he doesn't know any better. Safety information that tells teens what not to do with their own bodies allows them to explore themselves more safely. Of course, the proponents of enforced ingorance will protest that this will only encourage teens to be sexual in all kinds of ways. That's not substantially different from the battle that goes on over abstinence-only programs. In much of the country at least, that battle is winnable for the forces of freer sexuality.

2/10/2005 10:22 AM  
Blogger Kim said...

Hmmm. Nice thought but I'd settle for universal sex ed that imparted sound basic information. Anyway fingers are nice and speaking from experience various elongated objects are found in every home. Just don't put them back in the fridge.

K

2/10/2005 10:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kim:

You have to either wash them or put a condom on them -- they can cause irritation.

Thomas

2/10/2005 11:29 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

"do you happen to know of any sex positive scenes in the houston area?"

You're joking, right? I mean, I'm sure it exists, but what makes you think I'd know anything about it?

2/10/2005 11:32 AM  
Blogger Tom Indigo said...

While I wish I weren't, I think I'm one of those people who are deeply uncomfortable viewing teens as sexual beings. Maybe it's partly my late entry into sexual experiences, and partly the fact that I have a daughter and have trouble thinking about her being sexually active, at any age, really.

But sex is such an enjoyable experience that from a mature, distant standpoint, I want everyone I know to enjoy a full spectrum of sexual experiences.

I still feel sheepish about sex, but I wish I didn't. I'd like to try lots of things but feel self conscious. I'm still trying to muster the courage to buy and try an anal toy.

2/10/2005 1:48 PM  
Blogger Azuzil said...

"do you happen to know of any sex positive scenes in the houston area?"

Why yes I do, I've lived here all my life. I'll drop you a line if you'd like about the scene here, we are a rather small community.
The 5 dildo law was challenged in Dallas/Fort Worth not too long ago and a woman was cited with intent to distribute. She eventually got off(no pun intended) but was forced to pay legal charges that ended up bankrupting her and her husband.

2/10/2005 2:32 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

Yeah, DFW cops and politicians are real dickbags about going after adult retail to score points with their whitebread constituencies. Google the name "Jesus Castillo" sometime.

2/10/2005 4:08 PM  
Blogger Sk8RN said...

I think one could argue that it's discriminatory against women NOT to. I didn't bring myself to orgasm until I was 21 when I bought my first sex toy. And this was after years of sex with both men and women. Just think of all the teen pregnancies that could bee avoided if teen women knew how to pleasure themselves! :-) I think it could even be sold to those puritan Republicans as part of an abstinance campaign. :-) Not that I support abstinance, myself. Practice what you preach, right? But still... I'm all for it!

2/10/2005 10:11 PM  
Blogger Rachael said...

well, i remember being fourteen, still a church every sunday kind of kid... i remember being fifteen, discovering masterbation and copping a feel... i remember being sixteen finding my mom's vibrator, washing it with soap and water and getting my first great orgasm... i remember being seventeen and getting eaten out for the first time, i remember being seventeen and one half and having sex... i remember that urges come in a rush to explore your own body and then exlpore someone elses... i dont think sex toys will be a preventitive measure against premature intercourse... but i don't see anything wrong with kids that are going through puberty being given tools to understand and experiment with sex and pleasure... i'm not sure they're really Wal-Mart material, but having them available to the curious sounds like a great idea

2/10/2005 11:09 PM  
Anonymous Autumn said...

While I agree with everyone here, toys would probably be ok.... but it's the education that is more important!

I was just telling someone the other day that I didn't know you had to rub your clit to get an orgasm (Ok, I know that's not the only way) but you know what I mean.... I thought the guy stuck his cock in and it made me feel good...

If we educate girls early on to get to know their body AND what to do, then adding toys is not such the bigger deal... in my opinion.

2/11/2005 1:55 AM  
Blogger brainhell said...

This may be like asking if they should have access to cugarettes, booze, and sex. The teen economy finds a way to get what it wants, regardless of our rules. It does seem, however, that the toys in question are much less dangerous that the first three. However, I think teen society would completely reject sex toys, even if teens use them in secret. There would be no way to make it acceptable spcially.

2/11/2005 11:10 AM  
Blogger andrea said...

I had my first orgasm when I was fifteen thanks to a vibrator. Now, over three years later, I have yet to have a guy make me come. I lost my virginity a few weeks ago at eighteen, and I attribute the fact that I held out much longer than my classmates to the fact that I had a handy vibrator on hand. I do not see what harm these toys can cause teens. The laws outlawing them are ridiculous. If abstinence is what these people want, they need a reality check. Throughout history, there has never been a time where people have been abstinent, no matter what the doctrine may have been. To think that this "utopian" state can be achieved through denying sex education & even sex toys is blind and idiotic.

2/12/2005 2:19 AM  
Blogger andrea said...

I had my first orgasm when I was fifteen thanks to a vibrator. Now, over three years later, I have yet to have a guy make me come. I lost my virginity a few weeks ago at eighteen, and I attribute the fact that I held out much longer than my classmates to my having a handy vibrator on hand. I do not see what harm these toys can cause teens. The laws outlawing them are ridiculous. If abstinence is what these people want, they need a reality check. Throughout history, there has never been a time where people have been abstinent, no matter what the doctrine may have been. To think that this "utopian" state can be achieved through denying sex education & even sex toys is blind and idiotic.

2/12/2005 2:21 AM  
Blogger introspectre said...

I had a (much older) boyfriend buy me one when I was 16. Thank god for him! What a doll.
Yes, teenagers needs toys... more than anyone else, maybe. Geez.
How can you possibly know what pleases you unless you've already traversed the area yourself?
Knowledge is power, in our heads, our hands and our pants.

Um, I don't know how I would have felt about getting a dildo from my mom or something. That probably would have tainted it for me, badly.
Hmm.

2/16/2005 12:14 PM  
Blogger Kim said...

I am going to weigh in on the vibrator "dependancy" issue. Mainly because I have personal experience from a young age. At about age 8 I camea "body massager" came into my possession. Not phallic shaped, it had a wide flat surface. In the course of "playing" I had my first orgasm through clitoral stimulation. I had never masturbated with my fingers. And I wore the thing out. This was how I masturbated for the next 4 years, until it broke. It took me another 3 years to figure out how to make myself come manually (and believe me, I was trying). And it took me years after that to figure out how to come with a partner.

I agree with the previous commentor that our early masturbatory habits create a conditioned response that can be challenging to overcome (oh, a bad pun!)

That said, and going back to you original question, I am all for teens being given a range of information and experience. For instance, encourging them to use a variety of techniques and sensations for masturbation. Toys could be part of that for some teens. But I think letting them thoroughly figure out the "basic mechanics" of their bodies first (and giving them the info to do so), would lead to more pleasurable sexual exploration later.

2/16/2005 1:45 PM  
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