Savage Love

Relative Values

Comments

1
Honestly, to LW -- this would creep the living shit out of me. I don't doubt your intentions are good, but I ask you to reconsider this.
2
Sorry, that was intended for LW 1.
3
Has CIGGG tried herbal cigarettes? It's what actors use in live performances, to stay on the right side of health codes. If you've ever smoked anything, you should be able to smoke an herbal.
4
@1 that letter was originally signed, "Giggity Giggity."
5
A word for WTT: No. An age-appropriate book with advice is one thing, but have some boundaries and leave it at that.
6
Can someone explain to me why a fist is a valid analogue for a vagina but a finger (or two, or three, whatever floats your boat) isn't a valid analogue for a penis? Dan's mentioned many times how young women who can't (or don't) buy dildos have 'no way to experiment with penetration' (or something like that) without having to resort to phallic fruit (or vegetables, or homefills) and it's always confused me.

What's the deal?
7
@1 Re WTT: This would have creeped the living shit out of me, too. I mean, I think I still wouldn't be over it now. Ick ick ick ick ick.

Scarleteen is great. I will trust the book is great. You drop off the book with a post-it along the lines of "Want you to have a decent resource. Also recommend scarleteen.com. Just want you to have reliable info I couldn't get at your age."

Carrying it on into "... and when I was your age I was suuuuuper curious about penetration! BUT not with a penis. I wanted it to be something notapenis. It was an unlubed banana--are you picturing that? Ha! So here, THIS is exactly what I fantasized about at 14! You will love it! Here, I marked the pages in the book for you..." is just really wrong. This seems to fall from "parents give advice about sex and respect and boundaries" well over onto the side "Kids who want to explore sex should do so with people their age, not with adults who are eager to show them the ropes."

8
Why not try a local woman that plays sports DFF? If you want a gf who has stinky sweaty feet that might be a good place start.
9
To DFF: I'm not saying you should just approach any girl wearing a pair of TOMS shoes, but in my experience those get you seriously stinky, sweaty feet.
10
Dan's advice to the first letter threw me, since he's been harsh in the past on parents being overinvolved in speculating about their kids' sexuality rather than providing guidance, boundaries, and privacy. I'm guessing it's a girl thing and he figures maybe women wish our moms and aunts had taken us sex toy shopping? (I'm guessing minimum 80% on GOD NO.)

My raises an excellent point. If you would let a boy experiment with masturbation without first buying him a fleshlight, girls could be allowed the same 'start with the basics' approach. Especially since penetration is not the be all end all of masturbation for a lot of women: maybe the girl could work her preferences out gradually on her own rather than being guided by her alarmingly eager aunt?
11
First comment here; I would have been HORRIFIED if my aunt/mom/older cousin/any of my older family members had done something like that for me when I was a teenager. Comment #7 was right on; a copy of the book w/a sticky note would be the furthest that I think WTT should go. Frankly anything more than that would just be creepy and horrifying and relationship-damaging. As #7 said, if an aunt of mine had bought me sex toys in my teens, I would probably still be slightly traumatized by the whole thing.
12
I agree with 6 and 10. A finger or two is a lot more like a penis than a fist is like a vagina! And as far as avoiding all the awkwardness of an after-hours sex shop visit with your aunt, why not just get her a gift card? Even amazon.com sells sex toys now so it's not like it has to be too obvious or embarrassing.

And to girl who doesn't want to smoke, maybe try an electric cigarette? You can get them with no nicotine and a flavor you might like. I once unexpectedly got super turned on by a girl smoking one of those in bed, and I can't stand regular cigarettes!
13
DEAR GOD SERIOUSLY DO NOT TAKE YOUR NIECE SHOPPING. That's crossing a major line, embarrassment-wise and also just privacy-wise. Get the girl a book, but leave the rest to her. I'm a super-liberal 20-something female, but if I'd been shopping at a sex store or even online at age 14, I would have been exposed to a lot of things/images I wasn't ready for. Go with the age-appropriate book. If she's living in a sex-positive household and has access to information, she'll figure out the masturbation thing on her own just fine. Trust me.
14
@6: Honestly? Because fingers aren't nearly big enough to approximate a dick. Nevermind that it's difficult to get a similar kind of thrusting when the angle is so awkward. While I tried fingers plenty of times as a teenager, it wasn't until I got a boyfriend and saw his dick that I realized that my own fingers were minuscule in comparison with what I'd eventually want to put in there.
15
@6, reach factor? I have a very long torso, making self penetration with my fingers more awkward than enjoyable. Part of my enjoyment of penetrative playtime is the otherness of it; when it's your fingers you feel the penetration as both the penetrator and the penetratee.

I think this is the type of Auntie that every girl should have. Although at 14, I would have rather had a vibrator.
16
I am going to buck the crowd. The momentary awkwardness of knowing that a relative had noticed that I was maturing would have been far outweighed by having access to sex toys long before I did. I'm really unclear how this is so significantly worse than your mom buying you your first "grownup underwear".

There are so many ways to do this privately now that just weren't the case back in the day. Like give the girl a catalog and a card saying that if she wants anything from it, to email you the item numbers and you'll order them for her. (Having already shared a few good resources so she has clue one, of course.)

But yeah, DON'T tell her about the banana.
17
I made it clear to my daughter from maybe about 14 on that if she ever wanted something from a toy store, we would arrange a way for her to get it -- one that didn't involve me. I figured one of her cousins (both female, both about a decade older) would be a good choice, but when the time came (her 17th birthday), I discussed the options, told her that amazon has good reviews, and let her borrow my credit card. She went to Babeland's website (or so she said) for most of her research and her purchase.

I have no idea what she bought; when the box showed up, she skittered off to her bedroom with it and hasn't mentioned it since, nor do I expect her to.

As a teenager, I thought fingers (and the ubiquitous shower head) were fine for external stimulation, but fingers IMHO just didn't cut it for penetration. I still feel the same way as a middle-aged mom. Besides, what I was really curious about back then was what sex (by which of course I meant PIV sex) would feel like, and for that a dildo is the obvious choice. I would have loved the opportunity to discreetly acquire one of my own.

An aside: one of my proudest parental moments was when, after a marathon podcast-listening session, she told me that Dan said some of the same things that her dad and I had told her. I got _something_ right. :D
18
I am sorry, but if I had received such "gifts" from my aunt when I was 14, my first and only response would have been: EW.
19
I agree, the proposed gift is creepy. The book is fine (make sure she gets it in private, stick it under her pillow, wrapped, with a note to only open it alone), and a reference to a Scaleteen is fine. But if you want her to have access to sex toys, buy her a gift card to a reputable website. Then she can shop - or not - on her own terms, in private.
20
@ everyone commenting on letter 1: I wrote it, and I am curious about any more thoughts people have on this. Dan edited it (adding grammatical errors in the process) - I had originally asked about buying her a vibrator as well. I wanted to know if it was a bad idea, since I've heard women can become "dependent" on them, and maybe I shouldn't set my niece on that path at such a young age? But I don't know if this is just anti-female pleasure bullshit. Thoughts anyone?

I also said I was planning to get her Our Bodies, Ourselves. Anyone recommend this over the book Pritchett recommended or vice versa? I just wanted to go with the classic, but if this other book is better...

And OF COURSE I am NOT going to relay the banana story to her!!!!! For brevity's sake, I didn't want to give Dan a play by play on what I am going to say, which would basically be, "Here's a book and some websites you might find informative. The items you may or may not want to use now, two years from now, or ever. It is up to you. If you ever want to talk about anything, I am always available." I still want to write her that letter - maybe letter is the wrong word, more like note - because I don't plan to be there with her when she opens this gift (and I sure as hell ain't taking her shopping! Maybe I'll throw the offer into her note along with her beginner's pack, but I don't think she'll have any idea what she wants anyways - I'm thinking a small, least-resembling-a-penis silicone dildo and a simple vibrator). I'm trying to make this the least embarrassing possible. I might even just give it to her anonymously (which would mean leaving out the "I'm always here to talk" bit, which she'll probably never take me up on anyways).

Any thoughts? I agree with everyone's comments on penetration: I started with fingers, of course, but I wanted to explore more "sex-like" penetration on my own before having another person present. And for me, fingers left A LOT to be desired. Maybe it runs in the family.
21
I agree with the above commenter who said that, in a word, her response to a gift like the one proposed in letter #1 would be HORRIFIED. If my aunt had given me a sex toy at fourteen, I would have been INCREDIBLY mortified, and unable to look her in the eye for at least a couple of months. Besides that, I would never have been able to use the toy without thinking about the unconscionably awkward circumstances under which I obtained it, meaning I would've ended up in the trash. Please, please, WTT, for both your sakes and the sake of your relationship, come up with another gift idea for your niece.
22
Buy the girl a vibrator - simple, effective, and almost everyone loves them.
23
Don't buy your niece a sex toy (how would this come across if you were an uncle?). Get her a book, that will also probably list websites, but do not make assumptions about what she wants needs or likes. If she's fourteen she also already knows how to use the internet, and definitely doesn't need her aunt taking her to a sex shop. Totally mortifying and creepy. I agree that there's no way I would have been able to use a dildo a family member bought be at that age (I threw away books and articles from good intentioned parents in embarrassment at that age).
24
@12: Spot on, getting an e-cig is the answer. Looks and feels just like smoking, without smoke or nicotine.
25
WTT@20 "I might even just give it to her anonymously"

No, then she'll think some stalker is after her. Just give her books and a gift card to Amazon and let her figure out herself what she wants to buy.

Are you closer in age to your niece or her mother? If you're close in age to your niece and she talks to you about sex, then you might be able to go shopping with her. Possibly.
26
@20 Our Bodies Ourselves always seemed kind of... not geared towards teens. I'd get her the book Dan recommended or the Guide to Getting It On or something. Honestly you don't need to feel so concerned about your niece's imaginary need to be penetrated. She could just as easily want the first thing inside her to be a dick. She's perfectly capable of getting a hold of sex toys on her own, especially just dick shaped things (every girl has a hairbrush, no?, or can afford a cucumber if that desperate?), and an Amazon gift card is a good idea as she can spend it on other things if she doesn't want a rubber dick or a vibrator. Lots of people prefer fingers to tools. So so so creepy to have an uninvited adult to buy you shit like that at that age, or really any age. If she had asked you to, sure! She didn't. Butt out. She is not you at her age.
27
And that note, written verbatim? No. She will definitely never talk to you about anything after that. You are being way too angsty about this and the note makes that obvious. It sounds like she isn't voluntarily talking to you about sex now, which means she doesn't want to talk to you about sex, so respect that. The present of the book itself shows her that she can if she wants to. You can offer to drive her to Planned Parenthood when/if she needs it if you think her mom can't handle that or that she won't ask her mom.

Maybe..

"You're growing up fast and here's some things you are probably going to need to know. If you ever need any help with anything, rides to Planned Parenthood, advice, whatever, I'm there for you."
28
And by the way, she can get "back massagers" Pocket Rockets at Walgreens, there are ads on TV for Trojans vibrator line which are carried next to the tampons at the grocery store, she knows what they are and it's easy to get them, buying embarrassing things at stores is part of growing up. Sex toys are much more normalized then they were when you were growing up.
29
WTT leaves out a key data point: Does the niece already ask WTT about sex? If yes, the letter and advice makes more sense.

If no, then standard polite behavior applies: Don't give sex advice to and don't buy sex toys for people who don't talk to you about sex.

Age is also a factor here. A sex toy from your sibling can be funny. A sex toy from your parent is creepy. A sex toy from your aunt can go one way or the other depending on the nature of the relationship which is heavily determined by age.

In a remaining area of gender inequality, a sex toy from your uncle is ALWAYS creepy.
32
Goodness, there are some strong reactions to WTT here!

WTT, you know your niece and your relationship with her well enough to decide whether or not this is a good idea. I noticed you weren't asking permission AND her mother has given you her blessing, so don't let everyone project their own hang ups on you. If you're certain that the time and your relationship is right, go for it.

I'd suggest the book Dan suggested over OBOS. I wouldn't suggest a gift card, as she might not know where to start. The brief note sounds fine. Something non-threatening, like a non-penis shaped slimline vibrator sounds excellent. No, vibrators aren't addictive, in my strictly anecdotal experience.

I was 14 in 1997 and EVEN THEN there was a ton of pressure to have sex and a large group of peers who has already done so. If you're completely certain that you're not going to scar her for life, addressing a big part of the penetration curiosity now could potentially improve her odds of avoiding the far more confusing and dangerous "awkward and uneducated 14 year old sex" experience.
33
@30:
I don't agree that it is sex-negative to suggest that a 14 yo might first explore her body and masturbate with her fingers before getting a dildo or vibrator.

And the equivalent to a fist for a teenage boy are fingers for a teenage girl. Some will need something else, but they can still get that one or two years later when they figure out that even the ways they enjoy most to touch themselves aren't enough for them.

But a good book, aimed at teenagers, is a good thing to give a niece- please without awkward letters. I will probably give my oldest niece the updated version of a great sex ed book I devoured when I was 16. And I will give it to her in person, and tell her that I liked it in my youth, and that I hope she will like it as well.
34
WTT-- Noooo! The book is fine. The toys are not. If there's anything we learn in this column it's that there's tons of variation in the way we each grow into our sexuality and what we like. (We also learn that Dan has a horrible time putting himself in the place of teenage girls.) A toy, even a well-meant one, carries with it the implication that she ought to be using it, not the implication that she might use it if and when she feels comfortable with it.

Migrationist-- What's the title of the book you liked?
35
@20: One book--not a library's worth--with maybe the Amazon gift card. (Which could be used on a book she chooses, a toy, or a nice copy of His Dark Materials to read while trying to pretend none of the adults in her life are thinking about her being penetrated by anything.) Leave it up to her.

As 23 notes, you are assuming your teenage curiosities and desires and such must be hers. Hers might be completely different.

@30: It's possible to be sex positive and not want to discuss one's sex life and fantasies and desires with any number of people. For most kids, high on the list of people they don't want to talk to about specific sex acts and exactly how they like them and how they'd perform them would be any adult with power over them.
36
One more vote for a much more hands-off approach to the 14-year-old than Dan described. Maybe a book and a gift-certificate, both well-wrapped, that she can open in private. Do not mark pages in the book, do not make gift suggestions. I experienced an information vacuum from my mother, interspersed with a couple of TMI revelations, and I did not appreciate either. If my aunt had over-shared I would never have been able to look her in the face again.

Is it part of DFF's fetish that he smell the feet of women he doesn't know? I would think he could just start a relationship with a woman and tell her that he's got a stinky feet fetish. Why isn't Dan reminding him how much worse it could be? He isn't into poop, dead bodies, drastic body modification, 24/7 infantilization...even small towns must have women who are willing to let their guy smell their feet.
37
You guys are forgetting something. You want this girl to get what she wants in the company of people her own age, or online alone? I'd agree, but she CAN'T. Even online you have to at least pretend to be eighteen and over.

I think the book gift should come first, but perhaps the note can include the offer of loaning her your credit card when she's ready.

I really have to wonder if all this negativity would have accompanied a story from an older relative who is concerned about a nephew.
38
I find it hilariously ironic, the thought of a city full of (mostly straight) teenaged boys who would absolutely kill for offers of blowjobs from girls, and here was young, supergay Dan getting all the head.
39
I know I'm Paranoid Pearl, but I kinda smell the James O'Keefe brigade in the first letter. Dear Prudence received a similar-but-two-steps-more-distubing one recently, and I just think they were both calibrated a smidge too carefully.
40
I think it all depends on the relationship the girl has with the Aunt. If the Aunt feels comfortable giving such gifts then I think she should. Sure, it might be a bit awkward but still better getting socks.

As for the fingers as a women with short arms and a long torso, I'd have to bend myself into an unconformable position to really get them in. Even then they wouldn't go that deep and my fingers are thin and short. When I first started masturbating I used markers (the end with out the cap...) but even then, that isn't really that great. A nice dildo is much better and easier to manage.
41
@37: Yes, if the aunt or uncle wanted to direct their young nephew to scarleteen (which you do not need to be 18 to read) and give him a good reference book and a gift card to Amazon, people would nod along. A selection of vibrators and lube, with a note about how you would have loved one of these--guys can enjoy being penetrated too!!!!--and advice on how to use it, would be a terrible, terrible idea.

Pretending to be 18 when ordering from Amazon is not exactly an insurmountable barrier in life.
42
Oh good, now I know what to get my niece when she turns 14. Ha! I don't think so.
43
@37:
If an aunt or uncle suggested getting a flesh-light for a nephew, I'd be similarly taken back.

@Crinoline:
It's in German, so won't be of much help, probably. In case you do understand German: Günther Amendt, Das Sex-Buch, ISBN 3-499-19945-9
44
For those who don't read unregistered letters, all those so far have been non-trollish, legitimately worth reading. #20 is from WTT herself.

I'd add mine to the chorus of voices saying don't buy your niece a toy. At 14 she will be embarrassed and that embarrassment will override everything else. Unless, as someone else has pointed out, you are very young, much younger than your sister, and close enough in age to your niece to feel more like a peer/cousin. I'd say if you're over 23, you're too old to pull that off, but it depends on the relationship you two have had her entire life.

I think that positioning yourself as the adult to whom she can tell anything or of whom she can ask anything is a great idea, and presumably you already have a very close relationship. I think you should occasionally bring up mildly sexual topics in a general way to let her know that you aren't freaked out by discussions. Make it known that a lot of people confide in you because you're so non-judgmental--but don't appear to be asking her to tell you all.

"Our Bodies, Ourselves" is a great book, but the last time I read it, the focus wasn't on sex as much as a lot of other things. But I haven't read it in a long time, and most likely it has changed a lot over the years. When I was a teen (in the Mesozoic Era), it was the only game in town, but it wasn't what I wanted. I think scarleteen is a great resource, and the book that was recommended sounds good, too.

She can and will find what works for her. Even if she uses a plastic banana without lube, it won't kill her. But you could let that story slip, as a funny one, so she gets two or three points:
1) Don't use plastic things with presumably sharp pointy parts.
2) Lube. Use lube.
3) Other people have inserted non-penis things into themselves (she may have already done this) and they're no real indicator of how a real-life penis feels (neither, really, are dildos, wielded by oneself). Just because a girl may not enjoy the feel of the first penis-substitute she chooses, doesn't mean she won't enjoy the real thing.
4) There are dildos for sale out there. One can shop online and pretend to be 18 (this is made easier by the fact that it sounds like her mother would not pester her about what is in the box from Amazon or Babeland or Smitten Kitten, etc.)

I think a vibrator is a better tool for orgasm than a dildo, but I remember having a lot of curiosity (and some fear) about what a penis would feel like at 14. All my sexual fantasies also revolved around penetration and I felt this great ache to be filled. I agree that fingers aren't the same. They are shorter and skinnier, and move differently than a penis, and for many of us, are difficult to get where we want them to be, if they're our own. Fingers are probably best deployed on the clit, and I'm sure your niece either has or will figure that out on her own. I used unlubed cucumbers or carrots (carrots proved too skinny and pointy to be what I wanted), and I survived just fine. I file it away under "growing up."

45
Dan,
Would you have wanted your uncle to take you to the sex shop store? Yeah, we don't want our aunties to so much....and I'm a little skeeved out by how into it you got without even a hint of salt present.

Gawd, it's so fun to bitch at the advice columnist, feels like we're in high school. hahaha. Dan does all this work and we all weigh in with our comments, sheesh.

Regardless of the relationship, I echo the other posters. If niece is trusted enough to read a book about sex & get the info, niece should be trusted enough to shop online w/ a giftcard w/ a maybe a note that says, "start small."

46
@20, the WTT letter writer, you sound so reasonable! I think your note is perfect. And the starter kit sounds great too. Glad to hear you aren't planning on taking her shopping! lol. Kinda echoes Dan's bad advi -- ohhhh, it was just a plug for a good sex shop. I get it now. :)

Regarding the vibrator, I dunno if you can get dependent, but if you masturbate the same way every time, you kinda can rely just on that stimulation to get you off. So, maybe just start w/ the dildo?

47
@ WTT

IMO (and from memory), OBOS was a terrific and revolutionary resource when it first came out and was hugged to the collective hippy/feminist bosom. I was in my early 20s when I picked it up. So I probably would recommend a more age-relatable book instead. And definitely Scarleteen as a resource. Depending on where your niece lives and considering how much resistance there is to offering teens reliable information on their OWN sexuality in school, the accompanying note could say something like "to give you the facts where health ed hasn't".

OTOH, so much NO to offering to buy her a toy and definitely NO to going shopping with her. Even if you were in your early 20s (because, in some families, the aunt could be the same age or younger than the niece), that's still a major gap in development and crossing a relational boundary. Please do NOT include a gift card or ANY type of toy, well-intentioned as it may be. Why? Well, you're making assumptions of her sexual maturity. She may be maturing physically but that doesn't necessarily mean she's ready to be OUT about it. You may not have all (or ANY of) the facts of her sexual orientation or proclivities. [Just as a reference, I matured physically at 10, but wasn't emotionally ready to think about sex as it pertained to me until around 15. Growing up in a sex-negative, ignorance-positive household really did a number on me. However, I did have an adult library card at 10 and certainly used it to its fullest (borrowing adult-themed novels).]

It's terrific that you're wanting to give her as much affirming support and information as possible, but I'd recommend not stepping on her toes or anywhere within her personal boundaries.
48
I am a female nearly 21, and personally I would have loved having the means of getting a dildo/vibrator at that age. I did receive books from my step mom (even though i'd had preferred if they were from my biological mom), and I did read them! They offered to be there to talk which I'd never have taken, but the books were great. I may have felt uncomfortable receiving it(I always thought I couldn't look on the web because someone would find it, and freak). Do what you feel is best, but leave out the banana lol
49
I'm fifty five and have had two children, and I'm *still* not all that interested in a dildo. At fourteen I would have been permanently squicked out. A vibrator, now.....

Yes to the book, yes to referencing some good websites, even yes to a gift card to a sex toy online shop. No to the dildo and lube. Really, no.
50
So, I gather from the comments that a lot of people have a tendency to sexualize ANY conversation about sex, and thus find the idea of discussing sex (or sex toys) with a parent creepy. Not everyone dose this, guys (if we did, we wouldn't be able to have academic disciplines that dealt with human sexuality, as every class would turn into an orgy or be so awkward that nothing could be discussed; I assure you this is not what my classes are). Buying your kid a sex toy doesn't strike me as radically different from buying your kid condoms (buying a supply ze can access if necessary). You're all projecting your hang-ups onto a complete stranger, one whom presumably her mother and aunt know far better than you. The teen MAY share your hang-ups, but I'm going to default to assuming Mom and Auntie have a better idea of what's going to go over well than random strangers on the internet. (I should acknowledge that many comments were simply saying what the authors would feel in that place, which is not projection.)

Also, go donate money to Scarleteen. They pick up the slack left both by sex-phobic school districts and parents who are mortified at the idea of discussing sex (including masturbation, which may well and probably should include talking about sex toys) with their children. But, if you help fund the constantly-underfunded organization, you can sleep well knowing that you'll be able to pass the buck with respect to your own children if you wish to do so.
51
The admonition of moving to a bigger city would be better of framed as advice and not an absolute necessity. When I was 22 and living in Alabama I peed on a guy a year or two younger while he very gratefully jerked off in a bathtub. No big cities, there!

While a city increases your chances, you don't need them. If you can't find the others out there on your own (such as we found each other), there are things like craigslist where you can anonymously state your interests and others can respond.

Also, a foot thing is so mild as far as these things tend to go, I don't think it would be especially disasterous (beyond risking inducing some giggles) to bring it up to people he had already gone on a few dates with. While the threshold for winding up on the sex offender registry is notoriously low, it's not going to happen for mentioning that you like feet on your 3rd date.
52
Man, I am really glad that my feminist dyke friends (who were my age & younger) bought me a vibe for my 16th birthday and I didn't have to get one from my aunt with a weird letter.
54
My first thought about Auntie is "ewww...OMG no!!" My daughter is 14. I have no idea if she is interested in inserting anyting inside herself. Seems to me that at 14, most girls are just beginning to explore their sexuality and their bodies - many haven't even been kissed yet, and basic finger/clitoral masterbation (maybe w/help of a shower head) would be enough to start. I think buying a toy is something personal, not something one should receive as a gift. If she wants to use an implement, she can - same as a boy can use a fist/donut/bagel/whatever. Not rocket science. I don't think most dads/uncles would be buying blow up dolls for their sons to experiment with, so why the need to buy a really kinda young girl-(middle school/just starting high school) something? Book, note, info on websites, "I'm here to help" - all fine - but back off on getting in her personal space. She'll proabably look at it thinking "Oh G-d, what if she asks me if I've used it and liked it?!" Orgasms should never be on the discussion table between a teen and a relative. Side note - penetration has never done it for me - feels completely like nothing, no matter the size of the penetrator. Clitoral stimulation, via vibrator or shower head or fingers is the only thing that works for me!
55
Agree with someone upthread: anything you're doing to yourself is rather unlike something being done to you by someone else.

@30: Condoms imply you think they are considering having sex. Toys imply you think they are missing out on this particular variation out of the 1000s of possible things and so you're going to help initiate them, expecting them to use and enjoy your own preferred toy. The latter gets creepily mini-me.

Also, there is a big difference between the niece generating the discussion with her 23 year old hipster aunt with whom she can discuss anything--in which case the letter would be quite different--and an adult in authority over a child deciding that they should start discussing the details of specific sex acts the adult enjoys and thinks the child would too. There's a reason Dan thanked his dad for never sitting him down and explaining how to perform oral sex on someone.
56
30 s.b. 50
57
My mother and step-father gave me a dildo at 15, so I guess I’m qualified to discuss this. They bought me a giant, orange, “life-like” (complete with testicle and veins), seven-inch model that vibrated. And some soft-core porn. No lube (that really would have REALLY helped). I had two problems:

1) The thing was enormous and hideous. Particularly without lube, my virginal parts were just not going to accommodate it. Especially since, as I didn’t have any information, I just laid down and tried to ram the thing inside of me without and warm up.

2) I didn’t realize the vibrator could be held on my clit. I’m not sure I knew what my clit was.

Was I embarrassed? Yes. Was a permanently traumatized? No. Does it make a fun story to tell now that I am in my thirties? Oh, yes. Just don’t underestimate the degree of teenage ignorance. If you don’t give your niece instructions, she probably isn’t going to figure it out on her own. I thought that sex was a very dry, painful experience for the next two years.
58
@51: While I realize letters are edited, the fact that it didn't occur to him that there might be methods of finding a sex partner other than fetish parties or just cold asking strangers on the street sounded like there's a lot more going on than just feet.
59
It's interesting that Mr Savage focuses on whether it went farther than AMU's husband admits. The point would seem to be that his not being comfortable telling the whole truth about this one incident might coincide with a tendency to be deceptive in general. But it seems at least possible that going through with such an experience and finding it unsatisfactory might make one less likely to repeat the experiment than if one had declined it but continued to wonder what it might have been like.

Also, encouraging her turn-on reaction may be one thing, but it could end up being one of those things best kept to herself. She does not mention her husband's view of the aborted encounter now that it is well in the past. If he wants to keep that door locked, chained and nailed shut, while she has plenty of turn-ons without encouraging herself to go there, then encouragement even to herself alone might not be the kindest path. I shall choose not to speculate farther in this regard as to various possibilities.

Economy of words presumably accounts for considering that the desperation mention adequately covers the idea that someone with a satisfactory sex life is less likely than someone in a years-long dry spell to seek out unpreferred partners.

What I wish would date Mr Savage's history for me is not so much who had celebrated status at the time but that it was apparently so normal to have unilateral-service encounters. The progress against such a general expectation has been slower than one would have liked. At least one might hope that now there would be a discussion about possible reciprocation, even if the offerer in question had no desire to receive. (Comparing the two types of unpreferred encounters could be quite interesting, as each evokes considerable potential ick, but the ick is vastly different in nature. Unfortunately, my digestion is too far off today to let me follow this line as far as it might reward reflection.)
60
In response to WTT and the comments about it: I know that it's not very common yet to have a teenage girl's mom or other close relative buy her toys to further her sex education, but saying things like, "Fingers should be enough until she's older and can buy her own toy" sounds kind of close to "She'll learn all she needs to on her wedding night." Dan's posted TONS of letters of kids using all kinds of unsafe, unclean inanimate objects to experiment with penetration. Not everyone does it (I didn't start masturbating until I was 17, and even then, penetration squicked me out) but if she's got a good relationship with her aunt and with her mom, temporary embarrassment seems a small price to pay for safe penetration play, some education most teens don't get, and a really awesome story to tell her friends when she's older. Maybe give her the option of buying a toy rather than buying it for her if you're worried about her feeling pressured to use it. But i'm betting embarrassed or not, curiosity will get the better of her eventually.

In response to CIG, electronic cigarettes or E-cigs are pretty cool little doodads that don't use any nicotine (or they can in small amounts if you're using them to quit) and aren't dangerous or unhealthy to smoke inside. You can even get yummy flavors like vanilla or bubblegum for the smoke.

61
LW1: I have a pretty cool uncle, and if he had given me a fleshlight when I was 14, I would have freaked out something fierce. We're talking completely mortified.

The advice of a good book and an Amazon gift card are spot on. That way, she can use it on something else if she's a late bloomer.

LW2: Even in rural areas, there is probably a kinky group within a workable distance from you. We kinksters are everywhere! Look for localish munches and start meeting people.

LW3: He's not gay or even bi. If he was, he'd have accepted the blowjob without thinking twice. At most, he's a bit "hetroflexible", and there's nothing wrong with that. And you don't need to worry. He's not going to leave you for a dude because he once, a decade ago, almost got blown by one.

LW4: Another option is a hookah with flavored tobacco. The smoke is filtered through water, so it is very easy on your lungs. It's still tobacco, so obviously you're not going to want to do this every night, but once in a blue moon isn't gonna give you cancer.
62
LW1 is ultra creepy aunt. AT 14 my vejayjay was tiny and finger sized, and that is all that should be inserted their. Little girls should be dreaming of kissing and petting, not penetration. The whole thing smacks of grooming. Auntie should watch out, even if it is veiled in the guise of 'eductation' it is inapproriate at 14. Ask any little girl that has been given a sex ed by 'that creepy uncle'. Just because Auntie is woman doesn't make it any less inappropraite.
63
CIGGG: Hookah might be a good alternative, if his fetish doesn't specifically deal with cigarettes. The smoke passes through water, which cools it and eliminates a lot of the harshness. It comes in fun flavors, and there are a lot of varieties of shisha that don't contain tobacco (I've smoked shishas made of tea leaves and sugar cane) if you have health concerns. If you're interested, hookah-shisha.com is an excellent website, with both a shop and a hookah education blog.
64
Sounds like WTT is trying too hard to be the 'cool' aunt, the one that's hip with all the kids. I'm sure if your niece feels close enough to you and wants advice, she'll ask for it.
65
People have mentioned the embarassment factor of auntie giving the 14 yr old a toy. I didn't see where anyone mentioned that in this day and age there could be other ramifications for WTT. Girl tells friend that creepy aunt gave her a dildo, friend tells mom, friend's mom overreacts, etc. - a story that would not be far fetched if it were a creepy uncle. People who are not a child's parents have to be careful in their interactions with said children, regardless of their good intentions or perceived permission received from the parents.
66
@WTT/commenter #20:

If you AND your niece's mother are both okay with this gift idea, then you sound like the kind of family where communication is open enough that your niece won't be "creeped out." She might feel awkward, but this isn't going to traumatize her.

Before I saw your comment, I was going to suggest what you seem to be contemplating: two toys, one designed for penetration, and a smaller vibrator designed for clitoral stimulation only. Definitely throw in some quality lube, as well as condoms for her to practice with if her mother approves. I say condoms not only for her future safe sex life, but because they are often handy for safe use of toys and/or keeping toys clean. I don't think it's necessary to take her online shopping. She may have no idea what she wants at this stage, so I would advise choosing a couple of basic toys for her to get her started. If she's curious about more options, an offer to help her explore it in the future is sufficient.

Speaking of safe sex, a book that includes information on STIs, pregnancy prevention, what to expect at her first gyno visit, etc. would be great. I'm all for reading material on the pleasures of sex, but when I was a teenager the information I sought out the most was the medical stuff. Unlike masturbation, that's something a girl can't really learn on her own. My parents were too reticent to talk about it, and my school didn't teach it, so I mostly relied on Seventeen magazine (which was actually useful in those days).
67
Also, turning your niece loose with a credit card or gift card isn't a good idea unless you also provide her with information about what kind of sex toys are safe and healthy. Dan's had a lot of guest experts talk about toys that are made with harmful chemicals, and you wouldn't want your niece to be exposed to that.
68
I cannot smoke anything at all without coughing. I can however hold smoke in my mouth after pulling it off a cigarette convincingly enough that people don't realize I didn't inhale. I simply hold it in my mouth and part my lips like it is gone (not taking enough smoke to have it escape is key here.)

It can be done! (It is quite another story as to why I would do this at all and only when I am smashed on tequila...) lol :D
69
#68 if you're hammered on tequila, how can you be so sure that you're fooling anybody?
70
I'm LW4...while the kinkster and I have since broken up (turns out he also has something of a fetish for driving drunk), I'm still grateful for all the advice.

Alas, the electronic cigarettes didn't do it for him - not realistic enough.

Regarding the "herbal cigarettes" suggestion from @3...just in case I meet another such...what are these and where can one find them? I'm assuming this isn't just code for THC, which also didn't satisfy the kink.
71
I'm going to add my voice to the few who aren't totally horrified by WTT. When I was a teenager, I asked my mom to get me a vibrator. I didn't know what "sex-positive" was at the time, but my mother is the complete opposite of sex-positive. So she never bought me anything (not even a Magic Wand!) and never brought it up again, and I was too embarrassed to ask a second time. And the only sex shops in the area were 18-and-over so I couldn't go by myself (and didn't have an older aunt/cousin to take me). Promoting healthy sexuality is always a good thing, but I agree with the other commenters that maybe an Amazon/Babeland gift card is the way to go. I wish I'd had an aunt like you, WTT!
72
I let my kids read _Our Bodies, Ourselves_ as soon as they were old enough to begin to comprehend it (which was a lot younger than 14). We also had various books aimed more at preteens and teens. I have mixed feelings about the Heather Corinna book but generally think it's pretty good.

It always seems weird to me that boys supposedly start masturbating immediately on puberty and girls supposedly put it off so long, when in my actual experience girls are far more likely to start before puberty than boys -- I was ten, and of the friends I've been able to talk to such things about, most had started at ten to twelve*. (I realize both things could well be true, given a bimodal distribution of when girls most often start masturbating.) Incidentally, according to Emily Nagoski, the majority of women do NOT use penetration, and it's even less common in those who still have a significant vaginal corona.

I don't really get why people are pushing sex products on teenagers, who have so much going for them in the way of hormones anyway. I'm not against teenagers having access to vibrators and such, but I can't see the point of assuming that they're going to need them. Some kids, honestly, still aren't that good at keeping their stuff clean or private at fourteen -- I'm blessed if I want to see my kid's dildo sitting next to zir alarm clock, or worse, on the floor of a messy room, and I'd worry about infections.

*Now that I think about it, I did get a certain amount of well-meaning advice about masturbation in my mid-teens, by which time I was a bit puzzled that anyone thought I would need such a thing.
73
#70 you can go to any tobacco store and buy herbal cigarettes. And no, they are not marijuana. They're just various dried plant matter that are ground up to look like tobacco cigarettes.

For what it's worth, herbal cigarettes are roughly as bad for you as tobacco cigarettes, but they contain no nicotine, so they won't cause nicotine addiction. Any time you burn something and breathe the smoke into your lungs, it's going to be bad for you. It doesn't really matter what you're burning.
74
Sweet Jesus. I cannot imagine having been approached by a relative and given a dildo at AGE FOURTEEN. I truly think that would have scarred me for life. Now, a nice nonjudgmental talk, and a good book, would have been great. Do that.

75
@WTT: I'm with whoever said to give her a gift card and say "start small". I bought my first vibe when I was 17, and it was a rabbit... and it was too big for me, so I just used the ears most of the time. Yeah, it would've been totally awkward to receive something like that from most of my aunts, but then, they're MY aunts. Also, my mom eventually discovered the packaging and we had a completely awkward but totally hilarious conversation about it. It's really not permanently traumatizing to talk to your teen about sex. They might be mortified, but if you go on after that conversation like nothing is different, they'll get over it.
76
WTT, here's the problem. I would not, at 14 or at any other age, want to play with any toy that I knew an aunt/parental figure had touched, seen, chosen, or even thought about.

Your family may be all groovy and open and cool like that, but any sex toy you give her/enable her to buy necessarily projects your presence into her play.

Besides, I don't know how well you know her, but there are so many unknowns to take into account about buying a toy for someone. Maybe she was abused as a kid. Maybe she identifies as male and hasn't come out yet. Maybe she's a lesbian and hasn't come out yet. Maybe she's a furry and is secretly eyeing baddragon.com. Maybe she ALREADY has a dildo. Maybe she's been having sex for a year already. All of these things are things she may not have shared with you and which would make a huge different in knowing how to approach buying a sex toy with/for her.

I say back off and let her figure her shit out.
77
As a once 14 year old girl I can tell you that I could not (still can't) bring myself to climax with my fingers. I tried (and have tried again)! Lots of gals need more clitoral stimulation. I finally orgasmed with my first boyfriend while having sex.. oral or penetrative I can't remember.. and it was years later that I bought my own vibrator and was finally able to climax all on my own. What a revelation! woo hoo!

That being said I would definitely go the book and gift card route. It's embarrassing enough being 14 without your mom and aunt knowing what kind of dildo you use.
78
Allek@60: saying things like, "Fingers should be enough until she's older and can buy her own toy" sounds kind of close to "She'll learn all she needs to on her wedding night."

Actually I don't think so, given that I would say the same thing about a guy, as mydriasis pointed out early in the thread, and no one thinks they're being treated like late-Victorian brides because people assume they use their hands.

I think I learned a lot more about my actual anatomy and response because I *could* feel it with my fingers and wasn't depending on an inanimate object in between me and me. That seems like a valuable stage to go through, even if you later decide you like toys better. Plus, to me, fingers feeling a vulva/vagina is just as much of a turn-on as the v/v feeling the fingers.
79
@6, a lot of women have small hands with short fingers. Also, fingers can't vibrate nearly as fast as a vibrator.
80
@20 WTT

Um, I'm not totally comfortable with the idea of a sex toy either. But that's ME, and if you and your sister know your niece well enough to know that this gift would be welcome, clearly that's your call.
However, Savage Love readers are a pretty open, forward thinking, sex-positive bunch, so I think the collective consensus should at least give you pause while you reconsider.

Personally, I have two main reasons for saying no: I'm with the ~this sex toy will always make me think of the aunt who gave it to me, even when I'm using it~ crowd, so that's one of my main concerns. The other concerns is that I've never been into penetrative toys. I love my pocket rocket vibe, it's discreet and doesn't look like a sex toy, which is a big plus. I think you might consider the fact that your niece may be like some of us, and not into the dildo idea like you are. (Sure, she might be like you and several others on this board too. But why give her the unspoken msg about what she should/shouldn't be doing?)

I really think that a sex toy gift should come ~after~ a sex conversation that she can come to you with questions, and she shows clear interest. AFTER. And maybe an offer to a place like She Bop, where the nice saleswoman can suss out the girl, while you stand out of earshot if you don't want to be directly involved.

Good luck! And thanks for being a sex+ aunt :)
81
One of the issues could be that if the 14 year old doesn't have access to a *safe* sex toy (like a dildo) she may end up putting other things in her vagina that aren't so safe (or clean) and could risk damage.

I know that as when I was a young, completely inexperienced (stupid)girl, I was so curious about penetration that I put many things inside my vagina that as an adult I look back on in horror. I could have seriously injured myself, or ended up in the hospital to get something removed.(for reference, this started when I was 12)

Trust me, the potential embarrassment of an awkward conversation with my aunt would have been far better than the potential embarrassment that could have been caused by having to ask my mom to go to the hospital because I lost a household object in my hoo-haw.

Go for the toy.
82
Only thing I STRONGLY disagree with : a fist is NOTHING like a vagina. Women shouldn't talk about things they don't know anything about.
83
@79:
Exactly, fingers don't vibrate. And a lot of women don't need vibration to come.

@Eirene:
I started masturbating a lot earlier than 10. My brother as well. I remember both of us masturbating when sharing our bedroom (which we did until I was 7). Maybe it is orgasming from masturbation what you mean? Or maybe we were just early starters.
One of my three nieces has been masturbating since she had been able to touch her vulva. Her sisters watched her do it and tried to copy- but it didn't do anything for them.
84
First letter: Personally, at 14, I would have found this sort of interest from a relative incredibly inappropriate and scarring. Hopefully this aunt knows her niece a little better, but I think just the sex-positive book (would suffice/be awkward enough. And this may just be my biases talking (I don't do the vaginal penetration thing) but to me a vibe is far superior and less invasive as a beginner's toy.
85
migrationist: yeah, I know there are guys who start before puberty. It's just not nearly as common as among girls at that age as far as I know. (I don't mean just feeling around -- all boys do that from babyhood as far as I know -- but focused stimulation.) Ejaculation doesn't happen until somewhere during puberty, but orgasm can happen at any age AFAIK.
86
@82, it was Dan (a man) who said boys can experiment with penetration by using their hands. And he didn't compare a closed fist to a vagina (or an asshole). The point is that boys can use their hands to safely simulate the feeling of having their dicks in an enclosed space. It's a bit more of a challenge for girls, and no hand can remotely recreate the proportions of a dick.

I actually think fingers aren't a bad way for girls to start experimenting with penetration, and you can simulate some (far from all) of the sensations of intercourse with your fingers. But toys are vastly better.
87
WTT, if you're still reading:
None of us here know the relationship you have with your niece and/or anything about her. Only you know what the background--if any--is to this letter.

So I understand that if the niece has confided in you that she wishes she had a trusted and cool adult helping her with acquiring the correct implements for first time penetrative masturbation, you should ignore all of us saying "don't buy your 14-year-old niece a dildo."

But if a similar conversation hasn't happened, you might want to consider these points:

Why are you doing this?

Is it because you are remembering yourself at 14? If so, you may be projecting a lot onto your niece. She may not be interested in penetration, or she may already have figured it out.

Is it because you wish you had had a supportive adult/family member, helping you navigate your way through emerging sexuality? If so, remember that there are many more ways of being supportive than by taking the lead like this. Support means buoying up, not dragging after.

Is it because you like the idea of being the "cool aunt?" Because what seems cool to you may seem just weird and embarrassing and too-over-involved to her.

Finally, I think you should remember that the point of a gift, if it is given with love, is because you want to make the recipient happy. Many of us are made uncomfortable with the idea of our relatives knowing anything about our sex lives, particularly our masturbatory lives. So no matter how much she might, on some level, benefit from this gift, it might make her extremely uncomfortable. That discomfort may ease as she gets older, but it could take a long time--time that she could be using asking you for advice about sexual matters, if she wasn't freaked out and wondering why you cared so VERY much about what she is or isn't putting in her vagina.

I think it's one thing to bemoan the sexually repressed and repressive culture we live in and another to force our ideas for a better way on young teens that are products of that culture. I have two daughters. As each one first began menstruation, I wished I could celebrate that rite of passage with a party, inviting older girls and women of all ages saying, "Welcome to womanhood. We are your sisters--we will offer advice, consolation, support." But I knew I couldn't do that--both of my 12-year-olds would have curled up and died of embarrassment.

Bottom line, WTT, just be the best aunt you can, and follow your niece's lead. Make it clear that nothing she can ever say would upset or embarrass you; make sure she knows you are sex-positive; continue the warm, loving, supportive relationship I'm sure you already have with her. Tell a story about helping a friend acquire a sex toy; make it obvious that you think most women have them and that they are useful. If one day (but I doubt that day will occur when she's 14) she asks you to help her acquire a sex toy, you can ask her how she wants to go about doing this.
88
On thinking it over I want to stress again that she might very well still have a significant vaginal corona (hymen) to deal with. I don't know what that's like, but I've had friends who had problems using tampons as late as 19 or 20, so there's a whole spectrum of possibilities there. Plus she might have weird feelings about breaking it herself.
89
Lastly, to the fingers-vs-dildo-vs-vibrator issue as well as the related "will-she-be-too-dependent-on-a-vibrator-if-that's-how-she-first-starts-masturbating" issue:

Many of us can't orgasm from fingers alone. The human body isn't capable of the rpm I need on my clit to come, though another human body can give me a G-spot orgasm, and that's something a vibrator can't. If I had had a vibrator to masturbate with as a teen, it might have made a big difference in my life.

Then again, it might not have, because it turns out that I can only orgasm by using a particular type/style of vibrator, so neither the magic bullet-type pocket vibe, nor a wand-style "massager" would have have helped me at all. But I don't know what happens if you're a girl who's capable of having orgasms from digital manipulation and you never try that before getting used to the much more powerful sensations a vibrator can produce. Maybe it is analogous to the "death grip syndrome Dan has talked about in relation to male masturbation.

The point is, anther person wouldn't be in the position to know what is needed without some very frank conversation. You'd have to know whether your young would-be recipient has tried masturbating without a vibrator, and if so, has she been able to orgasm. Then, if not, you'd probably need to know if she had just started trying, in which case she might just need a bit more practice/time, or whether she'd made a good-faith effort to come and hadn't been able to --all this to avoid a CREATING dependency on a vibrator to come, which might not even be the case. Maybe if you can come with fingers, you can come with fingers, even if your started with a vibrator. And if there is a dependency on a vibrator to orgasm, that dependency may have nothing whatsoever to do with a conditioned or "trained" response; it could be a preexisting condition.

And THEN, if it is determined that a vibrator is a good idea and won't render her incapable of achieving orgasm with digital stimulation, the appropriate vibrator needs to be found. This involves a sometimes lengthy period of trial and error, or an exquisitely in-depth knowledge of one's own anatomy and sexual response--all of which is a lot more than your average 14-year-old girl can supply.

I'd love to be able to help a young girl I loved through this stuff, but some things just have to be figured out on one's own.

90
@78- I don't think you're wrong about the value of your own hand or not relying on a toy. I'm very much the same way personally.

The way that I think those two statements are similar is both of them are saying "this should be enough" but for a whole lot of people, it isn't. You can tell a teen, don't use inanimate objects to experiment, wait till you're 18 to buy toys, but that doesn't mean they'll listen. Just like you can tell a teen don't have sex till after marriage and they won't necessarily listen. For a lot of kids, sex becomes a significant need and curiosity way before the age of 18.

The whole reason the aunt wants to offer this option to her niece is because of her own experience, that out of desperation for wanting to experiment with penetration, she had to resort to something uncomfortable, unsafe, and embarrassing. She doesn't want that to happen to her niece.

What I do think the aunt should do is lay it out as an option rather than a forced gift. This girl might not want a dildo, or might not want one now. But knowing that she's got the option when she's 16 or 17 and that hair brushes and bananas are not the only way might be a comfort, however embarrassing it is.
91
@81: If by "hoo-haw," you meant your vagina, you can stop worrying that you could have lost something there and need to go to the hospital.
As I always tell my students: "the vagina is a cul-de-sac; the anus is a freeway."
Unless you were poking chopsticks up through your cervix, you were probably going to be okay.

I assume you didn't use any knives.
92
Dude.

If I was not ALREADY discussing sex with my aunt, and she gave me that kind of crap, especially putting it under my pillow, I'd start freaking out terrified she was trying to groom me for hot lesbian incest sex, probably sob hysterically to my BFF because I'd be afraid to tell my parents, and my BFF would probably freak to her mom, who would then call CPS.

Just fucking NO. Do not buy her a thing. Mention sscarleteen and (if you absolutely must) that if she wants something you'll happily provide a cc number for some website up to X amount. Say it in person so she can see you're not perving.
93
@88 - I agree - seems like if she was inserting something and broke her hymen (or caused herself pain because of a thick barrier and small opening) and then there was blood - that could really throw her for a loop (and she'll be freaking out thinking she is no longer a virgin, etc.). Overall, I think 14 is too young (most of the time) to start w/toys, etc. For thousands of years, humans have found a way to get themselves off, and I have no doubt that if the niece has been horny, she has figured out masterbating w/o a helpful (?) aunt! Toys and other things can come later, w/sexual maturity.
94
@91 Maybe your anus is a freeway, mine is more of a winding country road.
95
WTT, your situation reminds me a little bit of Edina on Absolutely Fabulous, although you don't sound like the 5-star narcissist that she is. But she sees her daughter's burgeoning sexuality as something that she entitled to be part of, and it seems like you're doing a little bit of the same. By all means, get the kid a book, but leave it at that. The rest of it is none of your business, and your well-intentioned attempts at guidance will only attach even more expectations to sex. You get her a dildo and some lube--what if she doesn't want them? What if she uses them and doesn't like them? What if she can't forget the fact that her aunt thinks about her sex life in such detail? Leave her alone; if she's brought up in a sex-positive family, it shouldn't be too hard for her to figure it out for herself.
96
WTT, please do not let the hangups of some of these commenters sway you from providing your niece with resources. You buying her a gift certificate or even a toy would definitely not "traumatize" her. Sure, she might be a little embarrassed, but what doesn't embarrass teenagers? As someone who was once a 14 year old girl (I'm 29 now) and who has worked with teenagers as a family therapist, I will tell you that it is better to just be honest and caring then to stay silent or let your own nervousness prevent you from talking directly with them. They want to learn about sex (maybe their first choice isn't from an aunt or a parent) but they will go looking for information, and a scientifically accurate yet easy to read book is much better than random google searches.

I definitely recommend the S.E.X. book mentioned in the column or a book called "Sex: A Book for Teens" by Nikol Hasler, which is good for ages 14+. Both books are straightforward and use some humor, which I think appeals to teens more than OBOS would.

Giving one or both of those books with a note mentioning www.scarleteen.com would be great as well as giving either a small sex toy or an online resource for sex toys. I definitely do not recommend Amazon for sex toys though. Their selection includes a lot of toys that are made out of low-quality material that can be harmful to the body. Additionally, they are not an authorized seller of sex toys, so what they have isn't covered under warranties and may even be used. Ewwww. I'd recommend sheboptheshop.com (mentioned in the column) because all of their toys are body safe and they specialize in education. Maybe something simple like the Bgood vibrator on their website or something fun and smaller like the Spring vibe from Fun Factory.

If I had gotten a toy from my aunt when I was 14 I would have been embarrassed, yes, but also excited to try it and happy someone in my family wasn't a prude and would be there for me if I had any questions or problems.
98
She's 14, she apparently has grown up in an atmosphere where sex is a healthy natural thing she is expected to be curious about.

I can guarantee you she's already figured out manual play on her own.

BUT unless she asked her aunt for help with acquiring a toy, I don't see a non awkward solution happening. If she did ask, then I would go with the prepaid gift card to good vibrations or some such and let her explore on her own.

If she didn't ask directly but has been asking questions in that area, I would suggest the book, given discretely, and a few choice websites.

Let her set the pace and the speed of her education, too much too soon is just as bad as never enough. If she feels comfortable she'll ask all her questions in her own time, if she doesn't feel comfortable she'll never ask and she'll be ashamed to do independent research.

I think it is inappropriate to just hand her a vibrator, un-requested. Finding out how things work and what works for you is an individual experience and she may be curious about certain types of stimuli she would never feel comfortable asking about to an aunt or her mother. So even if she did feel comfortable enough to request advice or assistance in acquiring one, do the gift card let her pick her own and for pete's sake don't make a big thing about it. It's just sex, everyone does it... don't throw her an embarrassing "Now you are a woman" party or send her a card about it.

Making any sort of big deal about it is going to make it uncomfortable, even if the big deal is meant to be a positive thing.

Also an argument could be made that penetration is not the be all end all of sex, so why a dildo? she'll have more fun with a vibe. And if you make a big deal about how beautiful and wonderful becoming a woman is and how "special" this is, she will be both disappointing and disappointed when she actually gets in bed with another human being and finds out sex doesn't actually make people love you or make unicorns fly out of anyone's ass.

It's just sex, everyone does it, it's fun, it can occasionally make little people, But it's not going to make a relationship solid, lasting or indeed still exist in the morning. It's not the foundation. So no matter what you end up getting her, make sure she is spending some energy becoming a well rounded person, that someone will eventually want to spend a significant portion of time with. Make sure she grows up smart and strong and healthy. Make sure she knows how to love and care for herself. This stuff is all more important to her future happiness than her "cool aunt" getting her a dildo.
99
She's 14, she apparently has grown up in an atmosphere where sex is a healthy natural thing she is expected to be curious about.

I can guarantee you she's already figured out manual play on her own.

BUT unless she asked her aunt for help with acquiring a toy, I don't see a non awkward solution happening. If she did ask, then I would go with the prepaid gift card to good vibrations or some such and let her explore on her own.

If she didn't ask directly but has been asking questions in that area, I would suggest the book, given discretely, and a few choice websites.

Let her set the pace and the speed of her education, too much too soon is just as bad as never enough. If she feels comfortable she'll ask all her questions in her own time, if she doesn't feel comfortable she'll never ask and she'll be ashamed to do independent research.

I think it is inappropriate to just hand her a vibrator, un-requested. Finding out how things work and what works for you is an individual experience and she may be curious about certain types of stimuli she would never feel comfortable asking about to an aunt or her mother. So even if she did feel comfortable enough to request advice or assistance in acquiring one, do the gift card let her pick her own and for pete's sake don't make a big thing about it. It's just sex, everyone does it... don't throw her an embarrassing "Now you are a woman" party or send her a card about it.

Making any sort of big deal about it is going to make it uncomfortable, even if the big deal is meant to be a positive thing.

Also an argument could be made that penetration is not the be all end all of sex, so why a dildo? she'll have more fun with a vibe. And if you make a big deal about how beautiful and wonderful becoming a woman is and how "special" this is, she will be both disappointing and disappointed when she actually gets in bed with another human being and finds out sex doesn't actually make people love you or make unicorns fly out of anyone's ass.

It's just sex, everyone does it, it's fun, it can occasionally make little people, But it's not going to make a relationship solid, lasting or indeed still exist in the morning. It's not the foundation. So no matter what you end up getting her, make sure she is spending some energy becoming a well rounded person, that someone will eventually want to spend a significant portion of time with. Make sure she grows up smart and strong and healthy. Make sure she knows how to love and care for herself. This stuff is all more important to her future happiness than her "cool aunt" getting her a dildo.
100
You can tell a teen, don't use inanimate objects to experiment, wait till you're 18 to buy toys, but that doesn't mean they'll listen.

Yes, well, good thing I never suggested telling a teen that, then, isn't it? I simply said there's no reason to assume they need toys straight off the bat. Part of sex-positivity is letting people figure out their OWN needs rather than shunting them into a path you assume is right. The books mentioned will have plenty of information about toys (commercial or improvised), toy safety, and masturbation styles. Let her figure it out from there.
101
I started masturbating when I was 10 years old. By 14, I would have really loved to get a vibrator. It would have saved me a lot of soreness as I was often doing it 2-3 times a day and fingers (sometimes towels for more friction) made me raw at times. A vibrator would have made it much much more enjoyable.

WTT, if you have a good relationship with your niece, I say go for it. It may cause minor mortification, but speaking from my point of view, a minor amount of weirdness would be totally worth actually having a vibrator on hand at that age.
102
@Elvishswimmer: would lube have helped? I remember natural lubrication being more erratic for me then than it was later in my teens (not that it can't be erratic at any age). (and yeah, I meant erratic, though erotic kinda works too)
103
kl;
104
Allow me to chime in on the side of those folks begging LW1 not to be dissuaded by the negative comments. I am a 24-year-old female and I think the proposed plan sounds bloody perfect!

Personally I was an extreme late-bloomer. At 14 I would have had absolutely zero interest in a vibe or didlo. I would have been mortified at the very thought of receiving such a gift. But in X number of years when I was finally ready, having something in a shoebox in the back of my closet would have made the early days much less fraught.