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Sex Education . Victoria Engros, Rainey Ferdinand, Isabel Kagan and Maria Lopez. An Overview. Mini Quiz History of Sex Education History of Menstrual Education Sex Education Laws in the United States Teen Pregnancy in the United States Discussion Questions. Quiz.

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sex education

Sex Education

Victoria Engros, Rainey Ferdinand, Isabel Kagan and Maria Lopez

an overview
An Overview

Mini Quiz

History of Sex Education

History of Menstrual Education

Sex Education Laws in the United States

Teen Pregnancy in the United States

Discussion Questions

  • Can a woman get pregnant while on her period?
  • Can a woman get pregnant before she gets her first period?
  • What is the average age American teenagers lose their virginity?
  • How many states require parental notification to obtain contraceptives?
  • Can a woman get pregnant from anal sex?
earliest forms of sex education
Earliest forms of sex education
  • Prior to the twentieth century, given the expectation that girls would remain chaste until their wedding night, sex education for them did not seem pressing until the eve of matrimony, when their mothers were supposed to sit them down and explain sex and reproduction.
  • In 1940, the U.S. Public Health Service strongly advocated sexuality education in the schools, labeling it an "urgent need."
  • In 1955, the American Medical Association, in conjunction with the NEA, published five pamphlets that were commonly referred to as "the sex education series" for schools.
  • In the 60s-80s, Sex education programs were described by the Christian Crusade and other conservative groups as "smut" and "raw sex." The John Birch Society termed the effort to teach about sexuality "a filthy Communist plot." Phyllis Schlafly, leader of the far-right Eagle Forum, argued that sexuality education resulted in an increase in sexual activity among teens.
menstrual education
Menstrual Education
  • Puberty education to inform kids about their changing bodies
  • Format
    • Boys and girls are separated
    • Video is shown, followed by question and answer session
    • Girls are given pamphlets and free samples of products
  • Manufacturers of menstruation products produce every menstrual education pamphlet
  • Menstrual education pamphlets’ construction of the “ideal menstruator”
  • Dacia Charlesworth presents these constructions as paradoxical
    • Menstruation as Significant, yet Trivial
    • Menstruation as Natural and Normal, yet Secret
  • Two types of narratives
    • Scientific narrative: explains the menstrual cycle (detached and impersonal language, i.e. an egg, the uterus, the fallopian tube)
    • Cultural narrative: focuses on lived experiences of the menstruator (personal language, i.e. you will bleed)

Menstruation as Significant

  • “…menarche is constructed as a significant event that serves as the primary measure by which girls may consider themselves “mature” or “grown-up” (Charlesworth 14)
  • Cultural narrative that focuses on menarche as a cause for celebration

Very Personally Yours, 1, 1948

yet trivial
…yet Trivial
  • “…she must not think of her period as unusual or special” (Charlesworth 14)
  • Insisting that it’s a normal event
  • Although this is positive, it negates the apparently “miraculous” nature discussed earlier

Very Personally Yours, 9, 1948


Devalue the significance by insisting it is routine part of their lives (i.e. like the digestive process)

  • “…readers’ understanding of the menstrual cycle is privileged over the bodily experience of menstruating” (Charlesworth 15)
  • Emphasis on the mind/body split—bodily process is important to understand but should not be thought about in everyday life
  • Something that happens to women, suggesting it is separate from readers bodies

Very Personally Yours, 5, 1948

menstruation as natural and normal yet secret
Menstruation as Natural and Normal Yet Secret

“Readers might wonder why secrecy and silence should surround a natural and normal process.” (Charlesworth 17)

Pamphlets also provide instructions for covering up if girls are “caught”

This strengthens the shame associated with being a menstruator in our culture

You’re a Lady Now, 4, 1959


Female Adolescence in Horror Movies

  • These films threaten to reduce girls to mere expressions of their biological essence
  • Forging their identity in relation to their emerging sexuality

Charlesworth’s article

  • Pamphlets emphasize the mind/body split and argue that this bodily process is important to understand
  • But should be kept secret

Female Adolescence in Horror Films

Audrey Rose, 1977

Carrie, 1976

  • At age 11, Ivy starts having disturbing nightmares
  • Elliot Hoover believes that dead daughter is reincarnated in Ivy

The Fury, 1978

  • Opens with locker room shower scene
  • Carrie discovers she has gotten her first period
  • Her classmates throw tampons and pads at her
  • At that moment, Carrie realizes her telekinetic power (when she screams and snaps a light bulb)
  • Gillian, a teenage girl, discovers she has special powers
  • Other people suffer bleeding when they touch her
  • Symptoms of possession become extreme with the physical launch of puberty, suggesting a link between sexual maturation and susceptibility to the supernatural
  • Possession as a compelling metaphor for female adolescence

- Lycanthropy (the transformation of a human being into a wolf) as a representation of experience of first menstruation

- Ginger suffers a werewolf attack shortly after her first period that subsequently changes her into a werewolf (rather than becoming possessed by demons, she becomes a monster)

Show clip from beginning of the film (26:25)

- Double meanings of Ginger’s physical changes, from suddenly robust body hair to painful cramps and connection with menstrual and lunar cycles

Ginger Snaps, 2000

sex education laws
Sex Education Laws
  • Sex education laws tend to vary depending on the state. Because are there no federal laws mandating exactly what should be taught in sex education, each state is free to have its own set of regulations.
  • Thirty-eight states (plus Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands) have laws pertaining to sex education.
  • The majority of the states allow parents to exempt out of instruction.
abstinence only in the states
“Abstinence Only” in the States
  • 86% percent of public school districts with a policy to teach sex education require that abstinence be promoted.
  • Around 35% require abstinence to be taught as the only option for unmarried people and either prohibit or limit discussion of contraceptives.
  • The other 51% have a policy to teach abstinence as the preferred option for teens and permit discussion of contraception as an effective means of preventing pregnancy and STIs
  • More than half of the districts in the South with a policy to teach sex education have an abstinence-only policy, compared with one in five of such districts in the Northeast.
  • Sex Education in "Mean Girls"
the government abstinence only
The Government & “Abstinence Only”
  • There are three federal programs dedicated to funding abstinence only education. In 2006, the total funding for these programs was $176 million
  • Federal law established an eight-point definition of “abstinence-only education” that requires programs to teach that sexual activity outside of marriage is wrong and harmful—for people of any age. The law also prohibits programs from advocating contraceptive use or discussing contraceptive methods except to emphasize their failure rates.
other forms of sex education
Other Forms of Sex Education
  • It is worth noting that formal sex education has never held a monopoly on sexual information. Much to the distress of sex educators, young people do not simply memorize their school lessons and apply them perfectly. They have always cobbled together their own understanding of their (and others') bodies out of their personal experiences and an accidental agglomeration of "official" sex education, parental teaching, playground mythology, popular culture, and even pornography.
teen pregnancy
Teen Pregnancy

Teen Pregnancy Outcomes in the United States

  • What was your sex education like?
  • Should parents be able to exempt their children from sex education?
  • Should there be federal laws on sex education, or should each state be able to create its own laws?
  • Do you think that films like Juno portray the right message about teen pregnancy?
  • How does sex/puberty education contribute to gendering?
  • Is the phenomenon of teen pregnancy a symptom of inadequate sex education?