Shockingly awful sex ed commercial

So there I was, riding an exuberant Obama high after his inspirational speech on health care reform (if you weren’t fortunate enough to see it, here‘s what the NYT had to say) when I encountered this advertisement, linked from the Harpyness. And oh, did it kill my buzz. The ad was from Obama’s Department of Health and Human Services, and it reassured parents that even though they may be nervous saying “penis” or “vagina” in front of their child, never fear – they don’t have to talk about “the parts.”

I don’t know where to get started with this ad. First of all, it’s encouraging parents to assume that just because they’re uncomfortable talking about basic human anatomy, their kids aren’t “ready” to hear about sex. And even if you can bring yourself to mutter the s-word aloud in the presence of children, don’t worry – you can give them little enough information that they’ll just intuit everything they need. Because after all, isn’t that how we learn – by osmosis? Talking about stuff is so passe.

The one thing those kids are going to absorb quickly is that this is a topic riddled with shame, and they’ll be even less comfortable talking to their parents if they do decide to have sex. The Health and Human Services website designed to help parents talk to their children about sex has some gems in it too. Apparently, sexually active teenage girls (but not boys) should be screened for depression (because we all know that oxytocin can kick in at any stage of life). There was also this shockingly offensive tidbit: “Children do better in homes headed by a married mother and father.”

Needless to say, I am very disappointed in this move by the Obama administration. I thought we had left this regressive behavior behind when Bush left the White House. Or maybe I’m wrong, and we’d all be better off if we just didn’t talk about “the parts.”

4 thoughts on “Shockingly awful sex ed commercial”

  1. "Children do better in homes headed by a married mother and father."

    That's just a plain statement of fact. Are we supposed to pretend otherwise just because you find it offensive?

    By the way, the full quotation from the web site is a little more nuanced than your edited version:

    "In general, children – and adults – do better in homes headed by a married mother and father. That's in general, or on average. There are countless single men and women doing a wonderful job raising children, and their children do very well."

  2. Right, but it still doesn't leave room for gay couples – who are not permitted, in most states, to get married. And it absolutely isn't a statement of fact – the child's wellbeing has much more to do with the degree of conflict and quality of relationship between the parents than whether the parents have a marriage certificate. For example, is it better for people who have a high-conflict relationship to refrain from divorcing for the "sake of the children"?

  3. Commentors elsewhere have suggested that this ad is coming out of abstinence dollars left-over from the last administration. We can only hope!

  4. Children's well being has a lot to do with stability, and marriages are usually more stable than other kinds of relationship. Of course, there are exceptions, but this is a statement about what is probable rather than a statement about what is possible. If you want someone to be successful, it just makes sense to point out to them the course of action that has the highest probability of success.

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