What I remember of middle school sex ed consists mostly of what the kids told me in the back of the bus (gasp!). When they split the boys and the girls up into groups at school, I was given a “starter kit.” It was a cardboard box full of scary and curious feminine hygiene products. I don’t know what the boys got.
Today on Where We Live, we heard some very similar sentiments about sex education, coming from very different places. (And I’m pretty sure we talked about masturbation more than we ever have on WNPR.) Dan Savage, who joined us to promote his upcoming appearance at the Connecticut Forum, said a lot of schools are NOT teaching sex ed, but rather reproductive biology.
Kids leave those classes knowing how a baby is made, or maybe how to avoid making one, but they don’t really have a sex education. We don’t teach about pleasure. We leave pleasure out of the conversation, when that is almost invariably the reason why people are having sex almost all the times throughout their lives.
Savage said for a lot of kids who aren’t properly educated, internet pornography becomes their sex ed. He also said that we don’t spend nearly enough time focusing on homosexual sex and masturbation. That's not surprising coming from a sex advice columnist in 2013. But Dr. Joycelyn Elders was trying to tell people this back in the 1990s.
Dr. Elders was the first African American Surgeon General, under President Bill Clinton. She now travels the country promoting health equity and teen pregnancy prevention. She was in Hartford last week, and sat down for an interview. Elders was fired from her post as Surgeon General for comments about masturbation, around the topic of AIDS prevention at the UN. Comments that she has no regrets about to this day: “I was asked about whether I would recommend masturbation, and I said … 80 percent of men masturbate, 70-80 percent of women masturbate, and the rest lie.” More audio from Dr. Elders below.
- “Teaching Good Sex” - New York Times Magazine
- “Teen Sex: Is Denial the Real Problem for American Parents?” - Washington Post
- “Kids are Learning Sex from Porn” - Slate