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Monday, July 23, 2007

Obama: Courageous on early childhood sex-ed

It's unfortunate that Obama's support for age-appropriate sex education as early as kindergarten requires the use of the word 'courageous.' But hey, that's presidential politics and his position is courageous.

Laura Berman, a reporter for The Chicago Sun-Times, filed this piece today about Barack Obama's policy positions on sexuality education. The article begins...

If you are like most parents, nothing makes you more uncomfortable than sex questions from your children. The proverbial question, "Mommy, where do babies come from?" has most parents heading for the hills , or turning to the tried-and-true "From the stork" response.

Yes, absolutely true. Parents are probably the most difficult constituency to bring to the table regarding comprehensive age-appropriate sexuality education -- they just can't seem to get over the embarrassment of, *gasp*, admitting that sex happens and, *gasp gasp*, it can be pleasurable! It's no wonder, then, that children are 'grossed out' by thoughts of their parents' sexual lives. Gil Herdt, the director of the Center, posted a blog a while back about this exact subject.

Leaving parental frustration aside, it is true that keeping our children in the dark about sexuality makes it harder for our children to resist abuse and talk openly about sexuality during experimental teenage years. Obama hopes to change that with the following...

• [Start early and] begin by teaching your children the right names for their anatomy, and then tell them the truth (in the most basic, age-appropriate manner) about where babies really come from.

• Encourage them to ask questions.

• Warn them about "bad" touching, and tell them to come right to you if that situation occurs.

This is a great start. In the content of a presidential campaign, this is a courageous position. But in the context of a society paralyzed by far-right moralizing, sexual shame, and fear, we're going to need a lot more than just sex-ed for kindergarteners to recover from the years of Bush and Co.

Final thought: If anyone has access to other presidential candidates sex-ed plans and would like to comment on them, feel free to send them to me at isaacg [at] sfsu [dot] edu. Also, if you're involved with a campaign this cycle, and would like help from our experts to develop a policy proposal, feel free to get in touch.


  • Senator Obama raises an interesting point. America suffers a frightening national repression and revulsion where human sexuality is concerned. It's miserably demonstrated in America's willingness to leave all discussion and resultant decisions regarding our sexuality to the discretion of the state or some other government authority. This willingness to be so sheltered has cost us the freedom to privately make viable and feasible familial decisions. We have always expected schools to relieve us of the parental responsibility of telling our kids facts of life we're too embarrassed to share. In my estimation, we have allowed our inexplicable fear to negatively stigmatize all things sexual for our kids before properly presenting them the facts about human sexuality, all with the temerity to claim that we're acting in the best interest of the kids. This level of parental dishonesty soon introduces a socially damaging precedence of escalating our children's contempt, derision, suspicion, and distrust of all authority. After all, when they discover that we have been withholding sex education and other important science for procreation and the betterment of the quality of life, both needful in the continuity of the human species on this planet, on what pretext can they establish and value our reliability in other critical situations?

    Kids have questions about sexuality at three and four years old. They aren't exhibiting early signs of perverse demonic possession or destined to be scantly attired pole dancers down at the Itchy Kitty. Their inquiries reflect a natural age-appropriate curiosity bred from their limited observations and experiences as little people in our society. What's more, the rather simple questions they're asking at this point fall under either name or function. "What is this?" "What does it do?" By kindergarten, though, kids are already sick of deceitful adult cowards blowing them off with the incredulous bullcrap about storks leaving babies from heaven in cabbage patches. My own parents' motto was that when we were old enough to ask questions, we are old enough to know answers.

    We pathetically frightened grown-ups need to stop insulting the intelligence of our children. Let adults be the first to grow up and not giggle at the mention of the pee-pee parts like 10 years olds. Kids are inexperienced, but not stupid. Furthermore, in the time it takes the average idiot adult to figure out how to turn his Sony Vaio on, his five year old will have accessed an age appropriate educational site that informs him of the fundamental precedings of human post coital in-utero fertilization, ten seconds before he's ambushed with pop-up advertisements for some natural sexual enhancement supplement from the More Wood Company. Yes, welcome to the 21st century where the questions just got harder. Junior's bound to have thoughts and questions about Spokesman Bob's new swell of confidence.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Jul 23, 11:36:00 AM PDT  

  • Right on! Thanks for commenting.

    By Blogger Isaac, at Mon Jul 23, 11:53:00 AM PDT  

  • Cory Silverberg is the sexuality writer at About.com. His column about parents talking to their children about sex is thorough and phenomenal.


    By Blogger Phalligator, at Tue Jul 24, 10:20:00 AM PDT  

  • Thanks for posting, Phalligator. I read Corey's blog almost everyday!

    By Blogger Isaac, at Tue Jul 24, 03:42:00 PM PDT  

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