How do we feel about acknowledging or encouraging masturbation for developing children?  
 
Considering my non-theistic but uptight childhood it seemed touchy to encourage masturbation yet as a parent I discussed it at dinner table for my son and daughters.  It embarrassed them at first but when sex came up at all I took the occasion to say that everyone learns sooner or later to satisfy their natural sexual urges by rubbing themselves.   I would take the conversation as far as they were interested. 

Whenever crude sexual terms were mentioned I blandly translated them into semi-clinical terms, penis for prick, vagina for cunt etc. and then discussed sexuality as a natural and healthy part of life.  

I am curious how and why the masturbation taboo came to be so prevalent and so hush-hush.  Any ideas?


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Because the clergy realized control of your sex life was both a convenient and powerful way to control your mind?
I agree with Jaume. The desire to control others has a lot to do with it. Generate fear and guilt in people, and then offer to remove it via your own brand of superstition.

Of course, guilt over self-pleasure is not unique to the West or to religions, so is there something more fundamentally wrong with humans to make us feel guilt and shame over such a natural behavior? Perhaps so. Or perhaps it is just one of those memes that seeks to replicate itself regardless of its inherent worth, or worthlessness.
From the evolutionary perspective you could see it from two perspectives: throughout history, possibly time spent on masturbation reduced time spent on, or attention to, sexual intercourse, which could be disadvantageous to an early Homo sapiens. Then again, in my case, it seems that increased masturbation leads to increased sex drive, so it could be viewed as advantageous to procreation... :)
Conan O'Brien cleverly remarked on a study that showed that increased sexual activity actually increased sexual readiness. He then stated, 'from personal experience' that decreased sexual activity also increased sexual readiness.
Masturbation is, technically, a homosexual act and, therefore, obviously an abomination. Can't you see that? And every one does it.

But I wouldn't put this all on the 'clergy.' I think that in psycho-sexual interpersonal/cultural politics a percentage of women and men want to discourage each other from self-gratification because it reduces their ability to manipulate each other through the withholding of sexual favors. If your partner can take care of themselves, they 'need' you less - and, to the extent that relationships are based on insecurity (which is a prevalent dynamic in almost every culture to a degree), you'll see this. In other words, your partner becomes jealous of your hand.
The only time I remember negative feelings about masturbation (except frustration that I can't have the real thing) is back in adolescence. I think that had more to do with developing sexuality and not knowing if I was "normal." My parents never talked to me about masturbation (I never had "the talk" either). It was something I almost never discussed with my friends of the same sex and rarely with my friends of the opposite sex. Now, in my twenties, I discuss it with my friends of the same sex and my partner often, and with some friends of the opposite sex occasionally. I don't have kids, so that side of things hasn't been an issue.
Our neighbour was a trucker... By the age of 10, we'd sit in the cab (his boy and girl) when he wasn't around and read his little Harlequinny porn trash. Actually, I read and they listened, cuz I was the better reader :) After that I needed no lessons from anybody!!! Especially not parents, I was the one who ended up sharing this stuff with the less experience of my friends in highschool. But I'll confess to not sharing too much, it was almost too much fun to share... gulp!
I learned everything from trashy novels too, since I didn't even have cable.
Delight. Unless you do it so much that it starts to annoy or desensitize you. (That can happen. I scaled it back to a few times a week and now it's optimal.)

I never had any religious feelings of taboo, the only thing I felt was that if other people (especially adolescent peers) found out they would think it was pathetic and embarrassing, but at middle school age it seems like people try to act like everything is hilarious. The religious taboo is that it's doing sexy stuff that has no potential of reproducing. Some couples probably think sex with yourself is cheating on your partner--as pathetic as that sounds. Otherwise, it's just that "you can't find anyone else to have sex with, so you have to do it yourself?"

Some of my friends have kids, they just tell them that it's OK to do but it's a private thing. I don't think it should be discouraged or discouraged--just say there's nothing wrong with it if a person wants to do it. And most people do it at some point.
I think your addition of 'but it is a private thing' is very wise.
I have no problem with my kids masturbating, as long as it is done in private and it is not excessive (staying in the bathroom for hours, etc). However, I am against minors looking at porn. I think it gives them unrealistic expectations and beliefs about sex. If they choose to look at it as an adult, that's their business. When it comes to masturbation, I would much rather buy my teenage daughter a vibrator than for her to be out having sex and running the risk of getting pregnant or an STD. Although I plan to teach my kids about responsible sex when they get old enough. It is unrealistic to expect teens not to experiment with their sexuality. We already use proper names and terms for body parts. We are generally pretty open.
Well, they do sell "personal massagers" (hahaha) in the same section as condoms and lube now at some regular stores. Which I say is a good thing, because you shouldn't have to be 18 to have something that helps you masturbate.

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