Our Erogenous Zones: The Bizarre World of Sex Education

It may come as a surprise to parents, as it did to me, that the contemporary sex education movement does not focus primarily on the biological aspects of sex. The movement’s leaders and disciples are not biologists but mainly psychologists, sociologists, and “health educators.” Their principal concerns are less with the physiology of procreation and inheritance than with “sexuality,” a very broad field of interest running the gamut from personal hygiene to the population question, but largely concerned with attitudes and “values clarification” rather than with biological facts.

Thus, though the new sex programs are rather thin on biological data, they do not skimp on the various techniques of sexual activity. From instruction in “French” kissing to the details of female masturbation, the information is vivid and leaves nothing to the imagination. The curriculum guide for the seventh and eighth grades in my city of Arcata, in Humboldt County, California, specified that “the student will develop an understanding of masturbation,” will view films on masturbation, will “learn the four philosophies of masturbation — traditional, religious, neutral, radical — by participating in a class debate,” and will demonstrate his understanding by a “pre-test” and a “post-test” on the subject.

According to a Planned Parenthood pamphlet, “The Perils of Puberty,” recommended by my county health department for local high school use, “If you feel sexy, for heaven’s sake, admit it to yourself. If the feeling and tension bother you, you can masturbate. Masturbation cannot hurt you and it will make you feel more relaxed.”

Homosexuality, receives similarly thorough and sympathetic treatment in the new sex curriculum. In an article on “Sex and Adolescence, Its Meaning and Its Future,” reprinted from Adolescence and distributed to high school teachers by Planned Parenthood, author James W. Maddock stresses that “we must finish the contemporary sex revolution. . . .our society must strive to sanction and support various forms of intimacy between members of the same sex.”

The sex-curriculum guide for elementary schools in my city specifies that children will “develop an understanding of homosexuality,” “learn the vocabulary and social fads” relating to it, “study the theories concerning it,” view films and engage in role playing about homosexuality, and take a test on it. The teaching stresses the sociological, rather than the biological, nature of sex “roles.” A suggested class outline distributed to teachers by Planned Parenthood emphasizes the “cultural basis of sex . . . how we learn society’s defined sex roles.”

Another noteworthy feature of the contemporary sex-education movement is its emphasis on separate individual sexual gratification, rather than on sex as an interpersonal act. Thus authors John Burt and Linda Meeks, in their Education for Sexuality (1975), a commonly-used text for teachers of sex education, describe coitus briefly but dwell for several pages on the “four phases of sexual response” of the separate individuals concerned. They liken sexual response to an individual’s “jumping off a diving board.”

To most persons first encountering the new “sexuality” instruction, probably its most striking feature is its precocious intensity. In a “sexuality” course for teachers, given by my county health department, I heard the instructor deplore the fact that so many otherwise well-informed girls and women “have never been told anything about masturbation” and “don’t even know they have a clitoris.” The Burt and Meeks kindergarten-through-twelfth grade model curriculum begins with a mixed-group “bathroom tour” in the first grade accompanied by the naming and explanation of the male and female genital parts. Children receive detailed instruction in male and female genital anatomy and human sexual intercourse in the fourth grade. Moreover, proponents of the new sex programs want them to be compulsory for all students from kindergarten through at least two years of high school.

Here in California, state law still permits parents to keep their children out of sex classes by written request. Parents report, however, that they receive so little information about the instruction that they are unable to send in the proper request at the right times. And whereas for most school activities requiring parental permission, a signed permission slip is necessary, the law allows a child to receive sex instruction unless his parents specifically request that he not receive it.

The “intention-changing” techniques of sex-ed programs are worthy of note. Rather than having the class register opinions by merely raising hands or casting ballots, the teachers of a sexuality class that I attended asked students holding various views to move to designated places in the room. Holders of minority opinions thus found themselves conspicuously isolated.

With subject matter varying between the coyly sentimental and the grossly explicit, most class activities consist of seemingly innocuous, but clearly directional, mental-conditioning “exercises.” Thus the Burt and Meeks teaching unit on homosexuality begins by having students discuss the changes which have occurred in male and female roles. Students then decide whether these changes have been beneficial for society. After this, they “role play” the parts of effeminate men and masculine women, and then they “collect magazine articles. . . and pictures of famous persons who possess attributes of the opposite sex.” The unit ends with a vocabulary list of such words as fellatio and cunnilingus. A similar progression can be observed in all elements of the “sexuality” teaching.

By the time children are in the seventh grade, they will begin to review: ovulation, intercourse, fertilization, anatomy (including ovaries, Fallopian tubes, uterus, vagina, hymen, labia, clitoris, scrotum, penis, testes, prostate, Cowper’s glands), erection, ejaculation, orgasm, genetics, embryonic development, the several stages of birth, breast-feeding, and birth control.

The curriculum in my city provides for seventh and eighth grade children to spend one-fifth of the school day for four weeks each year in “sexuality” instruction. During this time they are to review the above subjects and also take up new material on contraception, venereal disease, the “effects of overpopulation,” the “need for mature and responsible decisions regarding population stabilization,” homosexuality, masturbation, the “intelligent choice of a sexual lifestyle,” genetics, and abortion. They receive information about the legality and safety of abortion and the “services” available to them (i.e., the availability of abortion through the county health department or Planned Parenthood to any girl without her parents’ consent or knowledge).

The teaching methods are as intense as the subject matter. The curriculum guide drawn up for a school in Ferndale, California, suggests that high school students work as boy-girl pairs on “physiology definition sheets” in which they define “foreplay,” “erection,” “ejaculation,” and similar terms. Whether or not students are satisfied with their “size of sex organs” is suggested as a topic of class discussion in this curriculum.

The teacher of a “sexuality” class that I attended distributed instructions for “Group Drawing of Female and Male Reproductive Anatomy,” in which high school students are to “break up into groups of four to six persons, with men and women in each group.” Each group then makes a drawing of the male and female reproductive organs and genitals, including the penis, scrotum, testes, vagina, clitoris, cervix, labia, and other parts. When the groups have finished, the teacher instructs them to check their drawings against accurate ones which she projects on the wall to “correct them” and to “talk about inaccuracies.”

This enthusiastic pursuit of “self-awareness” in an “open atmosphere” extends to all aspects of sex education, including the programs for the mentally retarded. In their Sex Education for the Developmentally Disabled (1973), Henry L. Fischer, Marilyn J. Krajicek, and William A. Borthick present explicit drawings of men and women masturbating and tell the teacher to elicit discussion by using four letter words. The authors admit that the parents may have an “underlying fear that such talk about sex will create uncontrollable overstimulation” but dismiss these concerns as exaggerated.

In evaluating matern “education for sexuality,” one natural question is, Is it worth it? Numerous agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services channel millions of dollars into sex-education programs. Every hour, every day spent on sex education is time not spent on other school subjects. What returns can we expect from this huge investment?

Large benefits can justify a costly program. Perhaps intensive sex education will reduce venereal disease or births to unwed mothers. There is, however, no evidence of any such results. In a recent pamphlet, “What Parents Should Know About Sex Education in the Schools,” the National Education Association admits that “While many feel that sex education programs are necessary to halt the spread of venereal disease and the rise in the birth rate of illegitimate children, there is as yet only meager evidence that such programs reduce the incidence of these phenomena.”

In her study Illegitimacy (1975), Shirley Hartley noted that in Sweden — where sex education became compulsory in 1956 — the illegitimacy rate (the number of illegitimate births per thousand females of childbearing age), which had been declining, subsequently rose for every age group except the older group, which did not receive the special sex education. By the late 1970s Swedish births out of wedlock amounted to 31 percent of all births, the highest proportion in Europe, and two-and-a-half times as high as in the United States.

Proponents of sex education are aware of these facts. They accordingly deny that sex education should be expected to reduce illegitimacy or venereal disease (though they often cite these phenomena as “proof” of the need for sex education). They claim instead that its purposes are loftily intangible: “to indicate the immense possibilities for human fulfillment that human sexuality offers,” according to Dr. Mary Calderone, quoted in the Humboldt County Family Planning News of fall 1977. The superintendent of schools in my city rapturously described how the sex program would “dispel ignorance.”

In a “Speech to Introduce Sex Education to the Community,” authors Burt and Meeks promise that sex education is “education for love” which “will enable the individual to evaluate and effectively handle the consequences of his sexual behavior.” Perhaps the summit of foggy aspirations is reached in Humboldt County curriculum guides which promise that sex education will “develop a spiral of learning experiences to establish sexuality as an entity within healthy interpersonal relationships” — suggesting that, whatever else it may do, sex education will not advance the cause of literacy.

However, just in case the public is not as enthusiastic as the sex education promoters, there are instructions for ramming the programs through. “Pack the board room with your supporters,” advises Planned Parenthood of Alameda-San Francisco in its pamphlet Creating a Climate of Support for Sex Education, and “avoid public encounter…with the opposition.”

The ethics behind “sexuality” education seem simple: “Stress what is right for the individual,” advises the curriculum guide for seventh and eighth graders in my city. In making an “Intelligent Choice of Sexual Lifestyle,” the seventh grader is advised to set for himself a purely “personal standard of sexual behavior.” No religious views, no community moral standards are to deflect him from his overriding purposes of self-discovery, self-assertion, and self-gratification.

Carrying out these themes are a host of books targeted at junior high and high school students. In Values, Rights and the New Morality (Prentice Hall, 1977), Jack L. Nelson advises high school students that much of previous history has consisted of sexual inhibitions imposed by the Catholic Church and similarly repressive institutions. He urges them to make up their own mind — under the guidance of their teachers, of course — about sexual morality, pornography, sex education itself, abortion, and euthanasia.

Despite the billing as “education for love,” love itself is thoroughly debunked in the new programs. Sex is something with which one feels “comfortable,” in the new view. A “sexuality” teacher whose class I attended guided her students through a lengthy list of “reasons why young people have sex” (“they want to prove their masculinity or femininity,” “everybody else is doing it,” etc.) without once mentioning love or marriage.

“Romantic love,” as portrayed in Romeo and Juliet, is an especially dangerous illusion, according to the new sex cult. It offers instead, “rational love,” which, according to University of Washington psychologist Nathan Wagner in his film Human Sexuality, can surmount the romantic impulse by envisioning the beloved sitting on the toilet passing wind while nose-picking and scratching.

Though it rejects traditional moral values, the new teaching is far from value-free. The new ethic, embraced and taught with all the fervor of the New England preaching traditions, is “responsible sex” — i.e., sex without parenthood, except under rigidly circumscribed conditions and in extremely limited numbers. Indeed, according to the Humboldt County Family Planning News, which is distributed to teachers, it is good to realize that one may not be “parent material” and to forego parenthood entirely. If people insist on having children, the News advises that there are “practical advantages to the one-child family,” including “marital fulfillment,” “lessened pressures from population growth,” and “freedom to organize family activities without conflicts among children.”

One school curriculum guide in my county carries out these themes by asking children to decide whether they are “parent material” by discussing “the problems that would be eliminated if I were an only child” and by lengthy discussions of family “conflicts” and “sibling rivalry.” The guide offers a list of “reasons for having children,” including the “desire to prove your femininity or masculinity (I can do it!),” “to make up for your own unhappy childhood,” “to get back at your parents,” and other motives suggesting that persons who want children must, at least, be socially inadequate and, more probably, psychologically deranged.

The literature stresses how difficult it is to raise children and how unattractive they are: “Babies are not sweet little things. They wet and dirty themselves, they get sick, they’re very expensive to take care of,” warns one Planned Parenthood pamphlet distributed for student use. One local curriculum guide warns that “It is estimated that it takes $70,000 to $100,000 (not including mother’s loss of income) to raise a child these days,” that “babies need attention and care 24 hours a day,” and that they often spoil marriages by making their fathers “jealous” and rendering their mothers “depleted.”

But, above all, babies add numbers to the population. Though modern sex education claims to relieve students from all anxiety regarding any means of sexual expression, it imposes its own burden of guilt: Those who add to the population “explosion” are guilty of an unforgivable sin. Fully one-quarter of Burt and Meeks’ “Speech” is concerned with the “major problem of our times” — the population “explosion.” The speech states the so-called “explosion” is responsible for unemployment, pollution, poverty, and starvation. The speech tells the listeners they have already “encountered the problem” on a personal basis while “attempting to get a bowling alley,” “waiting your turn to play golf,” and “looking for a place to hunt, fish, or camp.”

Not content with thus playing upon middle-class impatience at waiting in line for any reason, the authors erroneously claim that “world population is increasing at a rate of 2 percent a year whereas the food supply is increasing at a rate of 1 percent a year.” (In fact, the world food supply in the period since World War II has increased substantially faster than population, and per-capita food supplies are now at their all-time highs, despite attempts by several countries to curtail production.) The speech threatens that unless the so-called “population explosion” is brought under control, average world food intake will decline to mass-starvation levels by the year 2000.

The question of the degree to which schools should be concerned with “values clarification” is a thorny one. Schools have traditionally been entrusted with the task of “molding character,” but this responsibility offers as well an opportunity for ideologues to propagandize. Clearly, the sex lobby is making every effort to use the schools to mold minds in the direction of a new morality which claims that though sex should be freely and widely enjoyed, the principal human responsibility is to limit human numbers.

Certainly, at the very least, parents have the right to demand that the schools not be used to induce guilt in children and young people for aspiring to become parents. As an immediate practical recommendation for sex education, the advice of a citizen’s group in Humboldt County may have been as good as any It recommends that sex be taught as a biological science, with the permission of parents, and that the teaching of values be regarded as a family responsibility primarily, with the schools teaching “respect for the traditional moral values shared by most groups in our society.”

The objectionable feature of the programs now being promoted by Planned Parenthood, the public health establishment, and other members of the sex lobby is not that they teach sex but that they do it so badly, replacing good biological instruction with ten to twelve years of compulsory “consciousness raising” and psychosexual therapy, and using the public schools to advance their own peculiar worldview. One can only hope that not only biological science, but education itself can withstand the assault.


  • Jacqueline Kasun

    Dr. Jacqueline Kasun was a professor of economics at Humboldt State University in Arcata, California. Her writings have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Public Interest, The American Spectator, The Christian Science Monitor, and other publications, as well as in professional journals. Jacqueline R. Kasun is the author of The War Against Population (Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1998). She passed away in 2009.

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