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My Sister is 9 and She Masturbates

Published: January 03, 2017
Dear TeenHealthFX,
My sister masturbates and she is 9. I have caught her multiple times and she just says she is scratching her leg but I know this is not true. We share a bunkbed and most nights I have to deal with a shaking bed and wet noises. I know that she knows what she is doing as I have caught her watching porn. I am 11 and didn't know what was going on until a school lesson. How do I tell my parents?!
Signed: My Sister is 9 and She Masturbates

Dear My Sister is 9 and She Masturbates,

TeenHealthFX would like to start with some information presented by the University of Michigan Health System about masturbation:

Masturbation is deliberate self-stimulation that results in self-comfort or sexual arousal.  Many parents are alarmed to find their young child engaged in such activities.  Our Western society does not generally like to think of children as sexual beings, but sexual development is as much a part of their normal growth and development as is learning language, playing, and getting the proper nutrition in order to grow. 

It is a common childhood habit.  Most children—both boys and girls—play with their genitals (external sex organs or “private parts”) fairly regularly by the age of 5-6 years. 

No one has to teach a child to explore his or her genitals.  It provides a feeling of pleasure, that once discovered, the child will most likely repeat. 

 

Given what professionals know about masturbation, there is nothing wrong or problematic about your 9 year old sister exploring her genital area as long as she is doing it in private and not in a way where she seems overly preoccupied with it. There are, however, two areas that concern TeenHealthFX. The first is that your sister has access to pornography at the age of 9. This exposes her to images and information that she is too young to process. The second is that she is doing this with you in the room. That said, it would be helpful for you to tell your parents what is going on so they can have a conversation about it with her. It would be helpful for your parents to let your sister know she should not be looking at pornographic websites and then take steps to ensure that your sister in not able to access any pornographic websites. It is also important that your parents speak to your sister about the private nature of masturbation, explaining that this is not something that should be done with others around.

TeenHealthFX can appreciate this might be an uncomfortable topic for you to bring up, so here are some options of how to do it. You can simply tell one or both of your parents what you told TeenHealthFX. Or you can show them the question you wrote into TeenHealthFX or write them your own letter. Once your parents know what is going on they can talk to your sister about it. And if they have any questions about how to talk to your sister about this issue, or any concerns about this issue, they can always consult with your family’s primary care physician.

Signed: TeenHealthFX

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