"My son is 10 and I don't think he's masturbating yet, " a new friend told me across the dinner table. "Do you think it's weird I'm thinking about that?"
"No. But I do think it's weird that I wasn't thinking the same thing when my daughter was 10, " I replied.
We talk about sex plenty in our house. Sex and bodies and periods and birth control and sexting and so on and so on.
But we've never, ever talked about masturbation even though she's six weeks away from turning fifteen. And as I sat across from my friend that night, I realized that's a problem. The thing is, I'm not sure how this slipped off my radar.
Perhaps it's because I'm not sure what I would say that wouldn't send her screaming and covering her ears.
Perhaps it's because I feel a little embarrassed talking about the subject with my own kid, which is silly, but true.
Perhaps it's because I don't feel like I have any model for doing it. My mom didn't talk to me about it. I've never read anything about talking to your teenage daughter about it. None of my friends have told me about telling their own daughters about it.
Or perhaps it's far bigger than that. Far, far bigger than that.
Perhaps it's because no one's really talking about female masturbation, teenage or otherwise.
I've never talked to my daughter about masturbating, because, well, we simply don't talk about female masturbation.
We talk about male masturbation. Movies, TV shows, jokes, pop culture references. There is a near endless list of slang terms for men getting themselves off. We talk about teenage boys doing it, adult men doing it. Boys and men talk to each other about doing it.
But when it comes to women, it's near radio silence.
When I started masturbating as a kid, the only thing I knew was that it felt good. Period. I didn't know it had a name. I didn't know it was a thing. I certainly didn't talk to anyone about it.
As I got older, I realized the silence around female masturbation was a problem. A big one.
One day I asked a friend for a tampon and she balked.
"I have a pad, " she said. "But no tampons."
"You out?" I asked.
"I don't use them."
"Really?" I said, trying to hide my surprise.
"I can't. I don't want to have to touch…" she paused. "Down there." She whispered it quietly the same way my family whispers the word cancer.
"How do you masturbate?" I blurted out. She turned beet read and, as if on queue, the buzzer for the dryer went off and I've never seen anyone so happy as my friend raced on to rescue the clothes from the dryer and herself from the conversation.
That very day I booked a sex toy party that weeks later proved to be the most successful one the party hostess said she'd ever held. Those girls were just waiting for permission. They were waiting for someone, anyone, to tell them that touching themselves was not just ok, it was a survival technique that no real should do without.