“Is the School House the Proper Place to Teach Raw Sex?" Phrasing!!
December 13, 2014 2:36 PM   Subscribe

"Today, most American adults can call up some memory of sex ed in their school, whether it was watching corny menstruation movies or seeing their school nurse demonstrate putting a condom on a banana. The movies, in particular, tend to stick in our minds. Screening films at school to teach kids how babies are made has always been a touchy issue, particularly for people who fear such knowledge will steer their children toward sexual behavior. But sex education actually has its roots in moralizing: American sex-ed films emerged from concerns that social morals and the family structure were breaking down." — Slut-Shaming, Eugenics, and Donald Duck: The Scandalous History of Sex-Ed Movies
posted by Room 641-A (44 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite


 
Ten years later, and I still can't get over the fact that my high school sex-ed teacher was a virgin in her mid-forties.
posted by oceanjesse at 2:39 PM on December 13, 2014


I saw a Ron Jeremy porno on VHS before the public school ever mentioned sex to me.
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 2:46 PM on December 13, 2014 [5 favorites]


In Seattle in the late seventies it was quite clinical. You went into Health class, which you had to take in order to graduate, the film projector was there [the old kind that went click click click click] and the blinds were drawn so you could see what was projected onto the big drop down screen at the front of the class as was typical for any class that was showing a film.

Then there was a woman on a table with the camera looking toward her birth canal. It was narrated in that voice, not a paticular voice but that seventies film narrator voice that they used for every subject from history to biology.

And then she gave birth. From dilation to water breaking to baby to placenta.
posted by vapidave at 3:25 PM on December 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


Earlier this year, Dangerous Minds posted about Am I Normal? - a sex ed film. I fired up the clip hoping beyond hope it was the same film we had, with the kid telling an urban legend about a dick that grew so long and got so hard that it snapped or something.

I was not disappointed. Look at that 70s bullshit. And I had to watch this in 1989!
posted by symbioid at 3:37 PM on December 13, 2014 [9 favorites]


I saw a Ron Jeremy porno on VHS before the public school ever mentioned sex to me.

oh yeah, well, I read "120 Days of Sodom" before I ever saw the inside of a sex-ed class!

University libraries are wonderlands of knowledge.
posted by ennui.bz at 3:41 PM on December 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


Chancres, nothing but chancres.
posted by benito.strauss at 4:33 PM on December 13, 2014 [4 favorites]


I always laugh at the idea that knowledge about sex would somehow drive people towards sexual activity. Believe me, nothing takes the allure out of sex quite like learning about the mechanics of it. The "eww" factor alone ought to keep them virgins until their late teens at least.

As an aside, this post was particularly hard to type because my phone seems to not want to autocomplete the words "sex", "sexual", or "virgins" properly.
posted by surazal at 4:46 PM on December 13, 2014 [4 favorites]


Remember. It's menstrooo-ation.
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:01 PM on December 13, 2014 [3 favorites]


I advise every (cis/straight) skinny, pimply, nerdy, adolescent boy to read 'Our Bodies, Ourselves', 'Delta of Venus', and 'The Joy of Sex' before the age of sixteen. Compound interest, yo.
posted by j_curiouser at 5:07 PM on December 13, 2014


We weren't shown the Disney movie in LA in 1980, but we were given the Kimberly-Clark booklet with the accompanying pictures.

7th grade health class was mostly about plumbing.

10th graders had to bring back a signed card, but no one did. I was subscribing to Ms.by then and had also read Judy Blume and Norma Klein.
posted by brujita at 5:10 PM on December 13, 2014


Earlier this year, Dangerous Minds posted about Am I Normal?

OMGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG we watched that too! The lions at the zoo probably were the most giggle-inducing moment for us. Well, that and the kid asking for a book on "the male penis" (as opposed to . . .?).

Also, before that video, I had never heard the urban legend that masturbation makes hair grow on your hands, so that was an interesting introduction.
posted by chainsofreedom at 5:26 PM on December 13, 2014 [4 favorites]


Also, we watched "Am I Normal" in middle school (8th grade, if I recall correctly), which would have been 1997.
posted by chainsofreedom at 5:28 PM on December 13, 2014 [3 favorites]


At my Catholic high school (in New Orleans the parochial school system has a longstanding reputation for giving the best secular educations, and my Baptist parents sent me there eagerly) we did not get the film. Instead we had a set of printed notes and a class conducted by a Catholic brother who reminded us on the first day that before he took his vows he had been in the Navy, and that it was not possible for us to shock him. That promise proved out on multiple occasions.
posted by localroger at 5:44 PM on December 13, 2014 [7 favorites]


My mother was progressive and carefully explained sex to me well ahead of the rest of the kids in school, which was a problem, given my in-built mania to tell everyone around me about cool things I'd learned.

Mind you, I was not clear on the idea that sperm cells had to be delivered in a liquid medium, and I explained, very earnestly, that sperm was microscopic, like bacteria and viruses, and just leaked out of boys in a cloud that could impregnate any unlucky girl in the vicinity of a particularly potent boy. My breathless retelling of this conception misconception led to a very brief mass hysteria in my class involving girls fleeing boys as if they were surrounded by swarms of yellowjackets, complete with sudden darting changes of direction and wild fanning.

"What on earth are you doing, Miss Wassman?" asked our teacher of one of the gesticulating ladies.

"I don't wanna have a baby!"

"You what?"

"I don't wanna have a baby! There's sperm everywhere!"

"What?"

"Joe Wall said—"

"—Oh, did he now? Mister Wall, can I have a word with you?"

And I was disabused of my errant notion.

Mind you, even when we got to sexual education, it was meaningless to me, because my biggest question about sex back then was "Why won't it go in like the Penthouse letter said?" to which the answer, back in 1979, was because you needed to use Vaseline. I'm a thoughtful curator of my own life, which is why the very jar I used in '79, after a careful cleaning, is where I keep my prophylactics to this day.

Proper sex education would have prevented a lot of near-death experiences in my early ventures into same sex activity, because had I known that blowjobs do not actually involve blowing, I might have not extrapolated the theory that blowjobs were pleasurable because of air passing through one's urethra. In fact, I would have almost certainly realized that threading a coffee stirrer straw up my friend's urethra, taking a giant breath, and blowing wildly into his penis through that straw would have produced an unpleasant situation rather than gales of orgasmic delight.

"Did it stop hurting?" I asked the next day.

"Yeah, but it bubbled like 7UP when I peed."

Information is a light, a light, in the darkness of everybody's life.
posted by sonascope at 6:12 PM on December 13, 2014 [98 favorites]


Mid-late 1960's, our old county fair screened random Disney shorts for us kids all afternoon on a makeshift little film space set up on the stage of the reception hall. Later in the day, a full audience of teenagers suddenly appeared, and the projectionist pulled the curtains closed. "This is just for the teenagers," he said. I went off to look at other things.
posted by ovvl at 6:17 PM on December 13, 2014


What upsets me, in retrospect, about the sex-ed class we had was that their approach was basically 'well obviously you're going to have sex with someone, so here's what you have to be careful about', which quite heavily contributed to the sense of alienation in someone like myself who didn't have anyone.
posted by Anything at 6:19 PM on December 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


Ten years later, and I still can't get over the fact that my high school sex-ed teacher was a virgin in her mid-forties.

Perhaps she was playing a Get Out of Embarrassing Questions Free card. Think of the teachers! Won't someone think of the teachers? Also: localroger's ex-Navy monk FTW.
posted by feral_goldfish at 6:38 PM on December 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


It was narrated in that voice, not a particular voice but that seventies film narrator voice that they used for every subject from history to biology.

DON'T DATE ROBOTS!
posted by Greg_Ace at 6:44 PM on December 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


Nice shout-out to the Our Whole Lives UU program at the end, which is a major reason I am happy to raise my kid UU. I mean, we're in Texas, Lord knows what kind of bullshit he would be hearing otherwise. (I mean, yes, we are doing our best to provide accurate info, but he already prefers to discuss such things with non-parent adults. I need to be sure they aren't "masturbation makes Jesus cry" types).

I'm very adamant on this kind of thing mostly because I got the Kotex menstruation film, a question from my mom as to whether I knew how babies were made (I did in general terms, but I was still pretty ignorant) and nothing else. Until I saw one, I thought penises were long fleshy tubes of uniform width that raised and lowered like levers, had no idea about shrinkage, or that they varied from person to person, could curve, or that testicles were often uneven and not really round, etc. etc. I saw Greek statues of naked men and wondered why they carved such small penises on them. But could certainly not ask anyone.

It took years for me to connect the words "orgasm" and "masturbation" with the sensation I had been furtively giving myself since puberty. And then I felt guilty about it.

My kid lives on a different planet thanks to the internet, even if I didn't take any effort to make sure he has good information. But then, Googling anything sex-related is going to make it hard to find facts in all the porn. So parents still have to take initiative.
posted by emjaybee at 7:56 PM on December 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


Anything: their approach was basically 'well obviously you're going to have sex with someone, so here's what you have to be careful about'

A chance to link to one of my favorite Onion articles!
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 9:03 PM on December 13, 2014 [5 favorites]


my phone seems to not want to autocomplete the words "sex", "sexual", or "virgins" properly.

For reasons that I can only presume are caused by a desire to prevent embarrassing autocorrect failures, both recent versions of Android and iOS refuse to autocomplete certain words by default. The list of words that they won't correct to is pretty interesting in itself, as it's far more than just George Carlin's Seven Words.

Google's list is publicly available, although I am not convinced that is complete. Lots of legitimate anatomical words appear on it, as well as words that I think are more fair to describe as 'profanities'.

Having a conversation about sex when the underlying technology actively conspires to prevent that conversation is going to be an interesting challenge for the future.

At least on Android, it is pretty straightforward to disable.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:26 PM on December 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


The problem with being both queer and having gone to about 11 different public and private schools for grades 6-12, is I don't recall any sex ed at all. The Joy Of Sex hardback, ahem, was in the den bookshelves along with the Jewish and Whole Earth Catalogs and Our Bodies Our Selves - they were all similar oversize trade paperback size. I read them all the same way, too - hoovering up random info that I would make sense of long after the fact.
I didn't see The Joy of Lesbian Sex until I was well into college, where I mostly recall entries on Toe Fucking (apparently dykes did that; I haven't seen it yet 30+ years later) and SM (apparently dykes did NOT do such oppressive things; I had all ready been doing so for about 5 years).
posted by Dreidl at 10:39 PM on December 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


I got my hands on a copy of The People's Almanac around 6th grade. If you're not familiar, it's a huge tome published in the 70's with a ton of interesting tidbits, including a chapter on sex which was very informative. In 8th grade we watched the birth video, then in high school, after hearing people who'd taken the class with a different teacher describe the fairly comprehensive sex ed our health class was supposed to include, my instructor simply closed the door, explained that he wasn't comfortable talking about sex in front of teenagers, told us not to do it til we were married, and then opened the door and moved on to the following section of the book. Unbelievable that the best sex ed I got growing up was from a 20 year old book written by the guy who later went on to found AllGov.com.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:06 PM on December 13, 2014


Michigan's next gen won't have this problem... they no longe get ANY sex ed at all. No budget, new (read: even more, even harder) teaching standards. Health class used to be every year, now only in small chunks where "it fits."
I predict a lot wave of teen pregnancies in about 4 more years.
posted by beckybakeroo at 1:08 AM on December 14, 2014


Sex ed for me in 7th grade involved watching a video where some woman solemnly informed us that masturbation was morally equivalent to prostitution because both were abuses of your body before God. Not exaggerating.
posted by en forme de poire at 4:05 AM on December 14, 2014


You'd think in the liberal, free spirited Netherlands sex ed would be better, but thanks to our wonderful compromised (in both senses) school system, growing up in the bible belt and going to a nominally Christian school meant it was reduced to one hour with an embarassed and largely clueless biology teacher. Thank god for porn.
posted by MartinWisse at 5:09 AM on December 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


There was a high school class where they showed an orgasming vaginal canal and then switched to what looked like another shot of a lady having fun. Then there was singing! One of my friends was all, 'they set it to music!' and then the voice over is all, 'like the larynx" and then went on to make some point about vibrating body parts. The phrase "like the larynx" was bandied about amongst this friend set for quite a while.
posted by angrycat at 5:45 AM on December 14, 2014 [6 favorites]


I got sex ed class three times. Once in Catholic school from a purportedly virgin priest (with the girls getting their info from a nun), which was a total zoo of us boys asking the grossest and most offensive questions they could imagine and the poor priest doing his best to field everything with dignity. To his eternal credit (and probably at some risk if the bishop had known) his advice boiled down to "if you are going to sin, be safe" and with some accurate and graphic information about how to be safe.

Then there was a sex ed class in public school. This was before the days of abstinence education, but either the teacher was an early adopter or was just uncomfortable with the topic, because even for the guys it was pretty much just a description of menstruation and then "don't do it," which is effectively the same thing as my mother had been told in the early 1960s. The menstruation part was done with a film strip and was totally incomprehensible, all weird cut-away drawings with naughty parts removed and that made no sense at all.

I also encountered sex ed in a European highschool; there the whole class was kept together and the teacher didn't say much of anything but instead they put on a long movie that was all about pregnancy; it spent most of the film following a woman through a birth, with an entirely gynecological set of camera angles. I remember how that started with a total shaving, presumably for hygienic purposes, not prurient but that was absolutely novel to all of us, much more so than the birth scene that followed. The interesting part as an American was the focus entirely on pregnancy, without any mention of pleasure -- perhaps that happened the following year, after I had returned home.

When I got to college there were safe sex outreach sessions in the dorms that came down to "wear a condom" plus demonstrations of dental dams that cracked everyone up. They were carefully inclusive that not everyone in the room was going to be having monogamous male/female sexual intercourse, which was good, but there was no mention of consent at all, which wasn't so good. (Consent discussions came entirely from the activists who organized the Take Back the Night marches and similar events, with very little response from the college that I can remember.)
posted by Dip Flash at 5:57 AM on December 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


Mind you, even when we got to sexual education, it was meaningless to me, because my biggest question about sex back then was "Why won't it go in like the Penthouse letter said?" to which the answer, back in 1979, was because you needed to use Vaseline. I'm a thoughtful curator of my own life, which is why the very jar I used in '79, after a careful cleaning, is where I keep my prophylactics to this day.

Hopefully you weren't/aren't mixing the two or you have another errant notion to be disabused of.

I grew up with Laboratory Medicine as my bathroom reading material, had an outdated copy of the PDR sitting on the shelf, and had about every two year old medical book you could imagine (my mother was a medical technologist and she'd take home last year's references). I also had a perverted hippy uncle living in the basement who had a fine collection of Playboy, Penthouse, and Omni (and I had a library card), so sex was never much of a mystery to me.

As a senior in high school we had to have a sex ed class. I was in a new district and my previous one practiced "age appropriate" sex education, so I'd had it since like second grade, but this district was much more conservative ("Are you Irish Catholic or Roman Catholic?"), so sex ed was rudimentary and reserved for seniors.

The phys. ed. teacher (why not science?) was demonstrating the use of a condom on a banana and I laughed. She said she thought it was sad I thought it was funny. I said I thought it was sad she didn't, and I was kicked out of the class. The principal asked me if I thought I knew everything there was to know about sex. I responded with "I know enough to get by." So he suggested I take the final and whatever I got on that would be my grade and I could spend the time I's normally spend in sex ed in the library.

I'm certain he didn't expect it to go this way, but on 100 questions I missed two. I still remember them. Paraphrase:
  1. Is a woman's an acidic or base environment?
  2. What is a woman's first menstruation called?
I got my A and spent the rest of the semester in the library as my reward.
posted by cjorgensen at 9:20 AM on December 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


I get the first question's omitted word is just a typo, but I'm very amused at the way it reads without it.

Womans is an acidic environment!
posted by winna at 11:48 AM on December 14, 2014 [3 favorites]


The back of the 1960 “Growing Up and Loving It!” pamphlet encourages girls to buy Teen-Age by Modess sanitary napkins and “Princess” Vee-Form belts.

I seem to recall the pamphlets my female classmates got in grade 6 (c.1993) were sponsored by Tampax or Always or something, so I don't imagine much has changed there, aside from the belts.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:42 PM on December 14, 2014


I just wish someone would have made a deliberate point of telling us that we might not even notice our first period starting, with a reminder that dried blood is brownish. Even if most girls know this intellectually, there's nothing like going to pee and looking down at a pool of scary brownish...Moooooooooooooom!!!!
posted by Room 641-A at 2:20 PM on December 14, 2014 [3 favorites]


oh yeah, well, I read "120 Days of Sodom" before I ever saw the inside of a sex-ed class!

I was shown the movie by an older person when I was about 16. It was pretty informative.
posted by RustyBrooks at 5:42 PM on December 14, 2014


1. Acidic
2. Menarche

I learned neither of these things in a sex-ed classroom . . . Or any classroom.
posted by chainsofreedom at 6:04 PM on December 14, 2014


I only know vaginas are mildly acidic because I just learned that healthy vaginas tend to have friendly lactobacilli (which both make lactic acid and prefer a mildly acidic pH). But I learned that as a postdoc, or as I like to say sometimes, in the 25th grade!
posted by en forme de poire at 12:21 AM on December 15, 2014


(and in journal club, not sex ed)
posted by en forme de poire at 1:01 AM on December 15, 2014


I knew that spermatic leatherjackets story was going to be sonascope.
posted by glasseyes at 5:20 AM on December 15, 2014


Oh! and the rest *hides eyes*
posted by glasseyes at 5:22 AM on December 15, 2014


Spermatic leather jackets is my new Metallica cover band.
posted by dejah420 at 5:23 AM on December 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


I have only two memories of school-sponsored sex education. The first was a movie in 5th or 6th grade (ca. 1983), attended by children and parents in the elementary school auditorium. All I remember is a giant penis on the screen and giggling loudly with my best friend between our (probably mortified) parents. Flash forward to high school (ca. 1988) with a presentation of the Silent Scream (yes, in a public school) and a small fetus model being passed around.
posted by ElleElle at 10:30 AM on December 15, 2014


blowjobs do not actually involve blowing

I cannot wait for the next "What are some typical rookie mistakes?" question.
posted by Room 641-A at 7:23 AM on December 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


sonascope: "I would have almost certainly realized that threading a coffee stirrer straw up my friend's urethra, taking a giant breath, and blowing wildly into his penis through that straw would have produced an unpleasant situation rather than gales of orgasmic delight."

Ow. no. just. no.
posted by symbioid at 9:22 AM on December 16, 2014


Michigan's next gen won't have this problem... they no longe get ANY sex ed at all. No budget, new (read: even more, even harder) teaching standards. Health class used to be every year, now only in small chunks where "it fits."
I predict a lot wave of teen pregnancies in about 4 more years.


This is pretty much how it was in my West Virginia public education (graduated in 2005; perhaps it's changed).

We had one year, one semester, and one afternoon of health class. An afternoon in 5th grade when we watched a video on AIDS, with people dressed up in costumes representing blood cells and the virus. A semester during 8th grade, where we once watched a sex-ed-ish video. A thermal image of an erection forming was shown, but the part that showed a sperm going towards an egg was fast-forwarded over, as well as the part about menstruation. (And I recall the video just being a Discovery Channel show...) And one year during high school. Sex ed was probably supposed to be covered somewhat in the high school class, but my teacher was a strict Catholic and decided she wasn't required to teach it. We had a quiz on the names of the various bits and parts, and that was it.

And, yes, there were many, many pregnancies in my jr. high and high schools.
posted by Maladroid at 9:25 AM on December 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


1) My mom was super Christian/conservative, and I think in 3rd grade, she passed my teacher a note asking I be set out in case there was any "sex" talk. I was the only child who didn't get that.

2) My mom taught me about sex when I was 5, so I already knew that shit anyways.

3) Did anyone ever have any... delusions, or... umm... fantasies... that sex ed was basically a live-sex show? Cuz, I kinda did and thought that would be hot.
posted by symbioid at 9:29 AM on December 16, 2014


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