A Slate Care and Feeding parenting advice columnist has responded to a stepmother who is trying to figure out how to buy her 13-year-old stepdaughter a vibrator without causing too many ripples in the family.
What are the details?
Inquiring about her 13-year-old stepdaughter, the woman — "Nervous in NY" — writes, "She lives with her mom and grandma in another state but spends the summers with us. Over the last few years, she and I have become close. I try to always be open and accepting with my children. She came to me first to share that she is bisexual, and I'm the one she comes to and asks if she can dye her hair, get a piercing, etc."
She points out that when the unnamed child asks her for things like piercings, she complies, but only with the permission of her biological parents.
"Today," Nervous writes, "she sent me a link to a vibrator and asked if I could buy it for her. She said she didn't feel comfortable asking anyone else. They would freak out."
The stepmother says that she naturally doesn't mind buying the impressionable 13-year-old the sex toy in question, and says she wants to be "sex-positive" to set a good example for the child.
However, she says she worries about how the child's mother would react to her daughter receiving such a gift.
"Her mom and I already have a strained relationship," she notes. "I don't want to make things worse. Would I be crossing a line here?"
The columnist, Jamilah Lemieux, responds by telling Nervous that the situation is "tricky," and that she wants to tell the stepmom to just "do it," and to "ask forgiveness later as opposed to asking for permission that you know you won't get now."
"However," she writes, "13-year-olds are notoriously irresponsible, and in all likelihood she'll leave the thing out and have to answer for where it came from. You wouldn't want to have her in a position to lie about you buying it, and in any case, consider how bad 'This adult purchased a sex toy for my child' can sound under, well, most circumstances."
Lemieux advises that the stepmom could perhaps take the child to a drugstore or novelty store and do some "turning your head the other way" while the teen makes the purchase for herself.
Almost as a side note, Lemieux suggests that the woman have a discussion with the child's father about the appropriateness of such a gift.
"If you do decide to sent the vibrator, I'd suggest making a little care package with a book about adolescent sexual health, a journal, maybe some PMS treats," she writes. "Whatever you decide, just be sensitive that your partner's ex might not simply feel slighted or angry, but that she could use a sex toy purchase as evidence of inappropriate behavior toward her child."