Where have you gone, Joycelyn Elders? We’re still afraid of talking to our kids about masturbation

When I met with mama- and sex blogger Anne Sabo back in January, I asked her if she knew much about the sex education programs at Northfield area schools, and more specifically, whether educators were allowed to talk to kids about masturbation.  She didn’t know but promised to find out.

Her blog post is now up: Talk with Your Kids about Masturbation. It’s primarily aimed at parents but she also includes a section in her post about the National Sexuality Education Standards that were just released in January.

National Sexuality Education Standards 2012New national minimum standards for sex education curriculum are not going to remedy the situation. These non-binding recommendations were recently released to states and school districts in an effort to encourage age-appropriate discussions about sex, bullying and healthy relationships. Though this may seem a positive measure, the recommendations reflect the disappointingly low level of quality sex education we have arrived at today after decades of funding and promoting abstinence-only programs, though abstinence-only programs have proven highly ineffective. The standards really do capture a bare minimum.

Anne didn’t include Northfield-specific sex ed info in her blog post since that blog has a wider audience. But she’s agreed to attach a comment here on what she’s found out.

For those of you wondering about Joycelyn Elders, she was appointed Surgeon General in 1993 by President Bill Clinton. The Wikipedia entry says:

633px-Joycelyn_Elders_official_photo_portraitIn 1994, she was invited to speak at a United Nations conference on AIDS. She was asked whether it would be appropriate to promote masturbation as a means of preventing young people from engaging in riskier forms of sexual activity, and she replied, “I think that it is part of human sexuality, and perhaps it should be taught.”

Ironically, Mr. Clinton fired her.

Anne’s blog post includes this YouTube video, a hilarious scene in an episode from the TV series Weeds in which “uncle Andy gives a lesson in how to masturbate well to one of his nephews.”  For those of you reluctant to watch/listen/click, I’ve included the transcript below the video, courtesy of IMDB:


Alright, listen closely. I’m not going to beat around the bush. Ha ha ha. Your little body’s changing – it’s all good, believe me. Problem now is… every time we jerk the gerkin, we get a lot of unwanted sticky white stuff everywhere, right? Right. So… First order of business – no more socks. They’re expensive, gumming up the works plumming-wise. Now you might be thinking to yourself, “But, Uncle Andy, what do I do with all that pearl jam if I can’t spew it into Mr. Sock?” Glad you asked… You can have a lovely time tugging the tiger under the rain shower head each morning – that eliminates the need for a goo glove. But, the day is long, masturbation’s fun, so unless we want to take 4 or 5 showers every day, we’re gonna need some other options.

So let’s start with the basics. Tissues. Perfectly acceptable backstop for all that Creamy Italian. They can be rough and dry on such soft, sensitive skin and it can stick to your dick head like a fuckin’ band-aid – ouch. From there we move on to more lubricated flack-catchers – specificially, bananas. Step one: Peel the banana. Step two: Slip the peel over your Randy Johnson and start pitching. Now for extra credit, warm up the peel in the microwave. Not too hot! Serious yowza. Also, olive oil, moisturizer, honey, spit, butter, hair conditioner, and Vaseline can all be used for lube. In my opinion, the best lube… is lube. So save your allowance and invest in some soon. Alright, moving on – when you tug your Thomas on the toilet – ffft – shoot right into the bowl. In bed – soft t-shirt, perhaps a downy hand towel of your very own that you don’t mind tossing after tossing. There’s no such thing as polishing the raised scepter of love too much. It reduces stress, it enhances immune function. Also, practice makes perfect. So work on your control now, while you’re a solo artist – you’ll be playing some long, happy duets in the future. Ok – class dismissed.


  1. Griff Wigley said:

    As I departed GBM this morning after posting this, I told a friend about it and he made a wisecrack about masturbation causing blindness. It occurred to me that in my case, my eyesight is as good as ever but my hearing continues to decline, so maybe…

    March 26, 2012
  2. Anne G. Sabo said:

    Since I met with Griff back in January, I’ve found out quite a bit about the level and content of the sex education courses taught in Northfield’s public schools. Essentially, the fact that we cannot count on public schools for teaching our kids well about sex is the case also for our community. As in most public schools, the focus is definitely on what sex educator, author, and minister Debra W. Haffner (whom I quote in my post) describes as “disaster prevention and organ recitals.” After briefly introducing the topic of puberty in 4th, 5th, and 6th grades Health (in 6th grade, “Healthy Relationships,” reproductive systems, STIs, and sexual abuse are also introduced), the focus in the Human Sexuality unit of Health in 8th and 10th grades is on STIs and violence prevention, and on abstinence advocacy, though abstinence programs have proven highly ineffective. Masturbation is not addressed in the district’s curriculum map as a safe option to intercourse, nor does there appear to be any room for it in the classroom. Masturbation may be defined, but not further addressed due to the narrow focus of the sex education curriculum.

    Northfield High School teacher Kim Slegers is one of the main teachers in 10th grade Health where Human Sexuality is included among several other units such as Mental Health; Fitness and Nutrition; Chemical Health; CPR and First Aid; Diseases and Disorders; and Communication and Decision Making. “There’s just not enough time,” explained Slegers when I interviewed her about what she includes in the Human Sexuality unit of her class. Another constraint Slegers pointed out to me, limiting what she can focus on in her classroom, are the “Essential Learnings;” focus guidelines set jointly by each subject’s teachers after considering state and national standards as reflected in the district’s curriculum framework.

    Like Haffner, Slegers refers students and parents to external resources, be they books, websites, or centers and organizations, and encourages parents to explore these together with their children. “To learn with your child; what a great opportunity,” added Slegers.

    March 26, 2012
  3. kiffi summa said:

    Anne: what do you think about the DARE program? Is the parallel of the quality (NF continues to use although widely discredited as to effectiveness) of the DARE program useful to consider, although Dare has a different subject matter?

    I guess what I’m getting at here is a reticence to deal effectively with serious subjects that are difficult to handle between school’s responsibilities, and widely differing parental social values and interest in having the schools involved.

    I will fall on the side of teaching provable science, or medical knowledge, every time.

    March 26, 2012
  4. Griff Wigley said:

    Kiffi, I’m working on a blog post about DARE so I’d like to keep this message thread focused on sex ed. Thanks for the nudge!

    March 26, 2012
  5. Griff Wigley said:

    I should have included a reference to this in the blog post: Chuck Berry’s only #1 single, My Ding-a-Ling. Forty years ago and it’s still, um, a touchy issue.

    This here song, it ain’t too sad
    Cutest little song you ever had
    Those of you, who will not sing
    You must be playing with your own ding a ling

    Complete lyrics here.

    Original video:


    March 26, 2012
  6. Griff Wigley said:

    Anne, thanks much for the update on the Northfield High School’s program. I can understand why they’re limited in what can be taught/said.

    Do you know of any public high schools in Minnesota or other states that have a bolder approach, and is there any recent research to support its effective ness?

    March 27, 2012
  7. mike paulsen said:

    The UUFN and UCC offered a program several years ago using the ‘Our Whole Lives‘ curriculum. I don’t know if that’s a regularly scheduled offering, though.

    March 27, 2012
  8. David Beimers said:

    The UCC hasn’t offered this since ’08 or ’09, I believe. First UCC is currently without a trained facilitator in the curriculum. Hopefully, that will change in the next year or two.

    March 27, 2012
  9. Anne G. Sabo said:

    Griff, I’m not sure about schools in Minnesota; Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty was opposed to comprehensive sex ed, in 2010 forgoing federal money available for comprehensive sex education in exchange for expensive abstinence-education funds. Sex education hasn’t really been a topic for Gov. Mark Dayton since he took office, as far as I know. (The Minnesota Independent has kept track of the latest stories regarding the efforts to get comprehensive sex ed here.)

    But yes, there are other states that have a bolder approach, and there is recent research to support its effectiveness. In fact, numerous studies have repeatedly found that comprehensive sex education programs are more successful in reducing teen pregnancies, risky sexual behavior, unprotected sex, and STDs than abstinence-only programs.

    Oregon has been a leader in the field of sexuality education, and progress has been made in other states too (see this 2009 overview from SIECUS). As an example: “California saw the steepest decline in their teen pregnancy rate between 1992 and 2005 (52% decline versus a national decline of 37%) and is the only state that never accepted federal abstinence-only-until-marriage funding from the failed Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage program. The state had ended its own experiment with ineffective abstinence-only-until-marriage programs in the mid-1990s, shifting its resources to comprehensive sex education programs.”

    The New York Times recently did a feature on a comprehensive sex education course offered as an elective for High School seniors at the private Friends’ Central School on Philadelphia’s affluent Main Line: Teaching Good Sex

    March 28, 2012
  10. Anne G. Sabo said:

    This is new, discouraging news: Sex Ed Becoming Less Prevalent in Grades 6-12. “Regardless, parents can and should play an important part in educating their children about their values.” Yes, but we also need to push against this negative trend and towards more comprehensive sex ed across the nation. But I do agree with Laura Lindberg, PhD, a senior research associate at the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health research and policy organization based in New York City:

    “Whether a school provides sexual education or not, it is always important for parents to be self educators and share their personal values about sex and sexuality.”

    April 6, 2012
  11. Griff Wigley said:

    Feb. 27 Salon: 38 years of self-love

    Without Betty Dodson, America would be a lot less good at masturbating. Almost four decades ago, the sex educator, artist and feminist activist self-published her book “Sex for One” under the name “Liberating Masturbation” and began selling it at small feminist bookstores around the country. The book, a guide to pleasuring oneself, caught on like wildfire, teaching a generation of women and men about an act that was still considered shameful to a large cross section of Americans – and utterly mysterious to a huge number of others. It has remained a touchstone.

    83-year-old Dodson still dispenses sex advice on her website, dodsonandross.com, and now Three Rivers Press is issuing “Sex for One” as an e-book for the first time ever. To mark the occasion we called Dodson to talk about how our attitudes toward masturbation have changed since 1974, when her book first appeared.

    April 10, 2012