Dear Families: Tips For Talking to Your Sons (or Parents!) About Masturbation

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Self-pleasure is considered one of the most uncomfortable topics between parents and kids, but it doesn’t have to be. Here, Danny helps parents and boys start a respectful and important conversation.


Recently I saw the following note in an article shared in my Twitter feed. It was from a mother who has had enough of her son using the towels for some, shall we say, “special time”.





One of the folks who I was talking to about this on Twitter is a woman who has two sons and she expressed a little hesitation about when they get to this point in their lives. I thought about how I felt when I was a young guy just learning about my body. And as such I think I may be of service to the moms and sons out there on this subject that can get quite touchy (yes that pun was totally intended).

Such a threat as replacing the towels and decor with Justin Beiber and My Little Pony seems to be a bit of a shaming tactic. It sounds like she is trying to get him to stop using the towels for masturbation by either trying to shame him by bombarding him with material that could be seen as gay, or surrounding him with immature kiddie stuff so that he feels too disgusted to masturbate with it.

I don’t think that’s a very good way to go about approaching this topic. But how would I do it differently?

I plan to split this up into two letters, one for parents and one for sons. 


Dear Parents,

Your son will reach a point where he will begin to explore his body sexually. Likely you don’t have a problem with him masturbating, and that’s a good thing because your son may not be fully informed on the subject. With that in mind, this is an opportunity to sit down and have a real talk about masturbation with your son.

This is a chance for you to bring up your concerns and a chance for him to bring up his questions and concerns. It might be a good idea to talk among yourselves before going to talk to your son. This will give you the opportunity to work out exactly what you want to talk about, to think about what your son may want to talk about, and to get an idea of how you will answer his questions. And more importantly, you can discover (and hopefully work out) any differences in how the two of you—as parents—feel on certain topics.

Obviously this can be a pretty embarrassing and confusing time for your son. Mom, you may not understand just how embarrassing and confusing it is for boys—Dad, chances are you do, so draw on that experience. This is a time where he’s just learning what an erection is and probably doesn’t know much more about sexual pleasure other than tugging on his penis will feel very good after a while, and that afterward there is this sticky mess that needs to be dealt with.

I can’t tell you exactly how far into details to go with him, however you must bear in mind that semen and masturbation are a part of sexual education, and he is reaching that age where he will be constantly surrounded by other influences that could sway his mind in unhealthy ways. This is your chance to inform him and prepare him for these other influences.

It may help to instill in him the awareness that while there is nothing wrong with masturbating, it is something that he should keep private at this point in his life. He has to learn that there are some things that others may not want to know about. To this end you may want to talk to him about where and when its okay and not okay. Talk about suitable places (like his bedroom) and unsuitable places (like the living room and bathroom).

Also of importance is what he is thinking about or what material he is using, if any, while masturbating. He may be into some things that you don’t approve of or some material that is not necessarily bad but requires a bit of discussion. Remember that this is a part of his overall sexual education and masturbation material could have far-reaching consequences and implications.

There is one other thing you have to be prepared for. There is a very real chance that he will not want to talk to you, which is probably more likely to happen to you, Mom, simply because you are not a man/boy.

Please do not take it as a personal slight. It doesn’t mean that he doesn’t like women or hates you as parents. It’s just that he doesn’t feel comfortable talking to you about this. Please do not try to force the conversation. He may take it as being intrusive and close himself off on the subject.

Mom, if you are running into trouble trying to get the conversation going don’t be afraid to seek out a male proxy to have the conversation with your son. This male proxy is going to be an older guy that you trust who has an understanding of what I’m going over with you in this letter. Your son may feel more comfortable having a conversation with another guy instead of his mom. It may help to talk to some of your male relatives before approaching your son just to get an idea of what you may face.

Dad, it is likely that you went through what he is going through now. Hiding your erections, dealing with nocturnal emissions, trying to clean up your own stains. You also likely didn’t have a very comprehensive education about sex but instead were left to figure it out on your own because you’re a guy. This is an opportunity to save your son from such experiences. And even though you are a guy, it may still be worth talking to other guys ahead of time just so you can hear some different experiences.

Try offering to talk things out with him or instructing him on what is acceptable and not acceptable when it comes to masturbating in your house rather than threatening him with some sort of “punishment”. You could teach him how to wash the towels he uses, which would involve teaching him about doing laundry in general, a worthwhile skill that a man could use. Perhaps even use the laundry lessons as time to talk things over.

In closing, just let me say that this is very sensitive time for him and also a golden opportunity to give him a head start on educating him on masturbation and sex in general.


Parents—Was there anything else I should have included in this letter? Something I should have left out? Are you a parent that’s about to approach this point in their son’s life and are a bit fearful? What do you think?


This next letter is to sons with some advice on talking to their parents about masturbation and some direct advice as well. Visit this link to read the original note that inspired this letter.

Dear Sons,

Boys, you’re at a time in your lives where you are beginning to notice changes in your bodies and you may have noticed that certain parts of your body, when touched, make your body feel good. These changes are completely natural and normal parts of growing up and there is nothing wrong with recognizing that touching yourselves feels good. You may refer to such touching as jacking off, beating your meat, or choking your chicken. All in all these terms are slang for masturbation.

As I say there is nothing wrong with masturbation in and of itself. There is no reason to be feel embarrassed or ashamed about doing. You may not be aware of the entire picture on the subject. However there are sources for information that could help you understand things a whole lot better.

Your parents.

Now I’m sure that something so private as your genitals may be something that you don’t want to talk to your parents about but please hear them out. Remember that at some point your parents were kids themselves and may have had some of the same feelings. It would be worth it to go to them with any questions, feelings, and concerns you may have.

For example after you masturbate there is this substance that comes out of your penis. That is called semen. Do you know what it is, what it does, how to clean it up when you’re finished, etc…? If nothing else, be considerate about how you are cleaning up when you finish. Masturbating into tissues that can be thrown away or you hand which can wash is a good idea. Using towels that other members of your family use is not a good idea.

You may be thinking about when and where it is appropriate to masturbate. For the most part you want to keep such an activity to yourself. This isn’t because there is something wrong with masturbation but because it’s something that other people don’t want to know about or see and thus it’s something that is generally kept private.

Are you thinking about people when you masturbate? Again there is nothing necessarily bad about doing that. It’s just that depending on who you are imagining and how you are imagining them is something you have to be mindful of. There is material out there that, if you just take it in without thinking about it, could cause you to have pretty unhealthy sexual attitudes about people later on.

I won’t pretend that these are the only things that you may have on your mind about this. You should be able to talk to your parents about any questions or concerns you have about this. When it comes to speaking to your parents there are a few things to be aware of.

You probably feel as if talking to your parents about this is embarrassing. Try not to feel embarrassed by this because, as I said, this is a perfectly normal activity that may require a bit of guidance. In fact, your parents are the exact people who you should be able to talk to about this. If they bring it up first please don’t feel like they are trying to talk to you for the sake of knowing all of your business. They are just doing what parents are supposed to do. Help their children.

More than likely you feel that since your mom was never a boy there is no reason to talk to her, and that since your dad was a boy you must talk to him and him only. That’s not really the case. While your mom may not know exactly what you are going through at this time in your life as a boy, remember that as your mom she loves you and cares about you and will do what she can to help you through this. Likewise you can’t just assume that even though your dad was a boy he went through exactly what you are going through now. In other words, try not to close your mom out and assume that your dad is the only one you can go to about this.

There is one last thing you need to be aware of. Even though masturbation is a sexual activity that you do by yourself it is still a sexual activity. A lot of what you learn about your body will have an impact on the sex that you have with other people later on in life. That means that you shouldn’t limit your conversations with your parents to masturbation, but should be open to talking about sex in general.

Did I miss an important piece of info? Should I have left something out of these letters?

Are you a son that’s about to approach this point in your life and are a bit fearful? What do you think?

Photo: Flickr/Emily

About Danny

Part techie, part gamer, and part cook, Danny can often be found tinkering with a PC, pondering short story ideas, or playing a game. When asked, “If you're so opinionated, why don't you start your own blog?” one time too many, he did just that. As a result, Danny's Corner was created as a place for the rage, confusion, comedy, and calm that are natural for one that's pondering the basics of being a man. He can also be found haunting Twitter from (@dannyscorner).


  1. I am a single mom of a 16 yr. old boy. I have recently started finding dirty kleenex bunches in his room around his bed on a regular basis (at least every other day). He and I have a very close relationship and I am going to use your tips for talking with him about masturbation/sex, etc. However, I am not quite sure how to approach the issue with the kleenex. I don’t want to make him feel bad but sure would like to have him clean up after himself. 🙂 Thank you for writing your article. I found ti very helpful. Look forward to hearing from you.

  2. It’s a nice piece as far as “masturbation” goes. I also agree that it’s not cool to shame the boy about his masturbation. I think more needs to be discussed when it comes to other material boys may use for masturbation though. More then the proverbial “Hey, not all of it is good and if you have any questions, just ask.” Aren’t good enough to address it entirely I think.

  3. Rich Krzyzanowski says:

    Hi Danny,

    Thanks for writing this. I’m not currently a parent or a pubescent boy exploring masturbation, but I think that this article would be of great value to any who are. I might even be inclined to “accidentally” leave this open on a computer for the boy in question to find as a good way to lead into a conversation about masturbation.

    I disagree that telling a kid that masturbating in the bathroom is a good idea. The shower was one of my favorite spots for alone time when I was young (still is). Also, pretending I was going to go poop and rubbing one out into a wad of toilet paper was a great way to take care of business in the event of getting a boner when not at home. Obviously, it seems like a good idea to mention that public restrooms may not be the best places to masturbate, but if at a friend’s house and the need arises, it seems like an okay way to go.

    I might add something to the conversation about what happens when girls do come into the picture. Obviously there will be kissing and petting before clothes ever come off. Maybe these make out sessions don’t always end in either person having an orgasm. That’s great. It just makes sense to me that people should teach their kids that it is okay to finish yourself off, privately at first, mutually when the time is right.

    Thanks again. I look forward to reading more of your work.

    • Hi Rich.

      I’m glad you enjoyed reading.

      I might add something to the conversation about what happens when girls do come into the picture. Obviously there will be kissing and petting before clothes ever come off. Maybe these make out sessions don’t always end in either person having an orgasm. That’s great. It just makes sense to me that people should teach their kids that it is okay to finish yourself off, privately at first, mutually when the time is right.
      I agree that mentioning that there is more to sex that having an orgasm is good advice. Help keep sex from being boiled down to a recipe where there is only way to get the desired result.

  4. Mr Supertypo says:

    use a old sock, then after u’r done put it between the dirty laundry.

  5. Thank you for this perfectly timed article. As the mom of a 12 year old boy, I am hesitant to talk to him about such things – and didn’t even think about some of these points. I’ve asked my husband to talk to him, but my son will say he doesn’t want to talk about it, and my husband will just back away. I feel like I’ve got at least something to start the conversation with, even though it won’t be an easy conversation to start. Thank you!

    • Wow this must be a scary thing. Part of the reason I did this post was because of talking to a woman who has two sons that are closing in on this age.

      Yes the conversation is going to be hard but I think its really worth it.

      Its pretty common (even right here on this site) to see mention of how boys are learning about sex from all sorts of sources (including porn). I think if we head off those sources we can educate our boys on sex it would do them a lot of good.

      Thanks for reading.

      • So… I started the conversation in the car – kind of a quick chat – when it was just he and I in the car. He was a million shades of red, but I got most of it covered – then gave him options on asking questions later – (me, his dad, his doctors, etc) and let it be with that. I kept it kind of a funny and light – which made it easier. He’s still a young 12, and I have no illusions that he doesn’t know anything about it, but I’m hoping to keep him from feeling like it’s a bad thing. Sex is something that should be a good thing (even by yourself!), not something to be ashamed of. Thanks for this article. It made it much easier – for both of us.

  6. What about condoms? Pre-lubed, easy clean-up, Training / experience in unrolling and applying, ensures that he is comfortable using them. $15 a hundred on amazon, so fairly cheap even to supply an “active” teen $100 a year to eliminate the issue….pardon the pun.

  7. in addition to tissues, a plastic sheet, like a plastic bag can be used to masturbate onto.
    that way the emission can be easily washed off the bag under the tap, and after the bag rolled up and disposed of

    • One could also use toilet paper. Wrap it around the hand like they would for, eh other uses, from there just slide it over and masturbate as normally. If done correctly all the emission would be inside the tissue. Just slide it off (and there would be room to wipe the tip off) and throw away.

      Thanks for adding this james because I was kind of hoping to get some recommendations on what the son in the original letter I linked could do in order to not use family towels. While I don’t like how the mom addressed her son in that letter it is wrong to masturbate into the family towels like that, mainly because it can leave real nasty looking stains behind if not cleaned up in time.

      • Toilet paper is certainly a better alternative, though not flawless, or so my husband told me when I showed him this article. He had a rather mortifying experience when he was just 13 and learning to masturbate; after getting in trouble for stains, he started using toilet paper, and eventually developed a sore on the underside of his penis, which got painful enough that he had no choice but to tell his mother. She promptly freaked out and rushed him to the Emergency Room, thinking he had somehow contracted herpes! Fortunately the doctor he saw that day was a kind man who apparently still remembered what it was like to be a young adolescent male. After convincing hysterical Mom to leave the treatment room, he got my husband to explain what happened. The doctor gave him some ointment, advised him to try and cut his masturbatory adventures back to no more than once a day after he had healed, and use a sock (to be washed out in the sink between sessions) instead of toilet paper.

        Personally, I love the condom idea that someone else mentioned. Not only would it provide a less-messy, easy-to-dispose-of masturbation aid, boys would learn how to properly put on condoms, learn what styles and sizes work best, and discover that condoms are not incompatible with sexual pleasure, encouraging more guys to use them regularly.

        As to the issue of fathers talking to their daughters about masturbation: as a female, I’m not sure how I feel. There is definitely a generation gap here; personally I didn’t even know female masturbation existed until college, when I caught my roommate in the act. Awkward. It would be several more years until I tried it myself. These days thanks to “Sex & The City” and such everyone knows what vibrators are for and you can buy them off the shelf at Target, but it was a far different world 20 years ago.

        Female masturbation is also different than male masturbation in that there is seldom any “evidence” left behind (excepting so-called “female ejaculation” and I’m not going into that here.) I was raised in an extremely conservative family, and my mother did not even mention masturbation when we had our “talk.” Nor was it mentioned in my limited sex education classes and readings. What was mentioned was exclusively focused on men. Personally I think I would have been more than a little uncomfortable if my mother had brought it up, and absolutely mortified if my father did (especially since my father’s only sex talk to me was “don’t come home pregnant.”)

        We’ve come a long way since those days, but as some of the reaction to the “Dear Daughter, I Hope You Have Awesome Sex” essay indicates, we are still very, very, very uncomfortable with the idea of fathers talking to their daughters about sexuality, beyond “don’t come home pregnant” platitudes and threats to meet boyfriends at the door with a shotgun. I read an advice column somewhere a couple years back where a woman was concerned her son-in-law might be “some kind of pervert” because he was asking his teenage daughter “very specific questions” about what she did with her boyfriends when they went out on dates. Maybe he did have an unhealthy interest in his daughter sexually, but it’s also possible he might have been trying to be more open about sexual matters than his own parents were, and trying to let his daughter know that she really could talk to him about anything. Unfortunately, we are conditioned by the epidemic of child sexual abuse, and a repressive puritan culture, to believe the former much more likely than the latter.

        All the more reason, I suppose, to find a way for fathers to be more open to their daughters about issues like masturbation (though it will likely always be something girls would rather talk about with their mothers.) How to do that? Frankly, I haven’t a clue…

    • and if in a seated position with feet on the floor.
      first place a towel or sheet across the thighs (might need to put the towel ends under the thighs to keep it in place), and then put the plastic sheet ontop of the towel.
      now some men have cannons that can launch vehicles into space, i imagine they would be draping the place with extra plastic sheets, or could even construct somesort of artifical wall to aim at

      • or could even construct somesort of artifical wall to aim at
        like a high backed chair, with plastic sheets draped over the back, that could work

  8. What about daughters? Not a word in here about them.

    • Veronica Grace says:

      Sandra, we’ve had several wonderful articles about dads talking with their daughters about sex recently. But I think a “tips for dad’s” on talking to their daughters about masturbation is an awesome idea! I’m a brand new editor here but I think I will look for someone who might be able to write that.

      Thank you!

      • But I think a “tips for dad’s” on talking to their daughters about masturbation is an awesome idea!
        Dads may not be the only ones that could use such tips. There’s a generational gap between moms and daughters and A LOT can happen between two generations.

        When I was originally working on this post (if you want to see the original form of this look here) Andrew Smiler commented it would be a good idea to include dads in this and to try to make this talk about masturbation a part of the larger sex conversation (which if you notice there are a few other things I lightly touch on that could very easily be made into their own letters, like any masturbatory images a young boy may be using).

        • Veronica Grace says:

          Absolutely. I was thinking of dads with daughters only because we are on The Good Men Project and the focus is on men and because it may add an additional element of awkwardness.

      • Joanna Schroeder says:

        We had a great piece about dads and daughters’ first period called “Confidence that Bleeds” that you both might like.

        A tips-for-dads about that might be great though!

    • Hi Sandra. This focused on boys for 2 reasons.

      1. Despite what you may think, male masturbation isn’t as “okay” as it may appear to be (if you think it its often treated as a joke or something shameful a guy does because he’s so horny he his sex partners can’t keep up or because he has no sex partner so he has to masturbate for comfort). Well the only way boys will know the act itself is nothing to be ashamed about is to talk to them about it.

      2. The original letter (which is linked at the top of the post) that inspired this post was specifically about a boy who was using the family towels for masturbation and a note threatening to replace the towels with some with Justin Beiber images and the bathroom decor with My Little Pony. That’s not a good way to discourage a son from jacking off with inappropriate material (and hell what if he doesn’t care about the My Little Pony and what if he actually WANTS images of Justin Beiber to masturbate to?)

      Also I was a boy so I think I have enough lived experience to help future boys with this topic. I take it from your name that you’re a woman meaning that you would have the lived experience of girl when it comes to masturbation. I think a post about young female masturbation would be a great idea.

      • I undestand, but at the same time, although you are addressing “parents”, and not just fathers, you seem to be presuming – or preferring? – that you talk to the child that reflects your own gender and, well, not all families are two-parent households. Some have single fathers with daughters or single mothers with sons. Some families have two mothers, or two fathers, and children of non-reflective – or both – genders. I just find this piece much too heteronormative and fenced-in and although I understand that a daughter would rather discuss masturbation with her mother (if she has one) than her father (if she has one), it still feels a little exclusionary , to me. I do recognize that it’s a complex issue, though, and I do applaud you for raising it. It’s very much needed.

        (And it goes without saying that the mother’s “funny” note to her son is absolutely appalling. Wow.)

        • I undestand, but at the same time, although you are addressing “parents”, and not just fathers, you seem to be presuming – or preferring? – that you talk to the child that reflects your own gender and, well, not all families are two-parent households.
          That’s just the limitation of my experience and I actually did consider two dad, two mom, and single parent homes when writing this. But since I was raised in a mom/dad home those other variations are just outside of my experience. Being inclusive is a great thing but at the same time I can’t speak on or give advice on things outside my own experience (or at least it probably wouldn’t be very good advice). If someone from a two mom, two dad, or single parent home were to write some letters like this, they have my support.

          …although I understand that a daughter would rather discuss masturbation with her mother (if she has one) than her father (if she has one),….
          Funny you mention that. I just told my girlfriend about this post and she said, “If we have a son then YOU can talk to him about it.”. Well by the same token she is a single mom of a daughter and quite frankly if said daughter came to me to talk about masturbation I would not know what to say or do.

          Seriously if someone has experience that is different from mine I’d be very pleased to see them offer advice. (And I mean that, like I said I have a young girl in my life who is very likely to become my step daughter so any advice would help.)

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