Conversation or a nice rack?

Tips from abstinence-only sex education programs.

Published December 12, 2005 2:40PM (EST)

This is one of those items that makes Broadsheet incredibly frustrated -- because we didn't write it first, we can't reprint it in its entirety, and because as funny as it is, it's not at all funny.

Last week, Harper's Index posted excerpts from teaching materials for federally funded high school abstinence programs that were originally printed in Harper's earlier this year. The Harper's headline is "Blue Balls for the Red States," and the magazine notes that the Bush administration is providing $167 million for abstinence-only sex education programs this year.

Below are just three of the most toe-curling pieces of information being transmitted to students across the country. Do yourself a favor and check out the whole Harper's feature.

First, a parable:

"Deep inside every man is a knight in shining armor, ready to rescue a maiden and slay a dragon. When a man feels trusted, he is free to be the strong, protecting man he longs to be.

"Imagine a knight traveling through the countryside. He hears a princess in distress and rushes gallantly to slay the dragon. The princess calls out, 'I think this noose will work better!' and throws him a rope. As she tells him how to use the noose, the knight obliges her and kills the dragon. Everyone is happy, except the knight, who doesn't feel like a hero. He is depressed and feels unsure of himself. He would have preferred to use his own sword.

"The knight goes on another trip. The princess reminds him to take the noose. The knight hears another maiden in distress. He remembers how he used to feel before he met the princess; with a surge of confidence, he slays the dragon with his sword. All the townspeople rejoice, and the knight is a hero. He never returned to the princess. Instead, he lived happily ever after in the village, and eventually married the maiden -- but only after making sure she knew nothing about nooses.

"Moral of the story: Occasional assistance may be all right, but too much will lessen a man's confidence or even turn him away from his princess."

Then there's this sharp insight into the gender divide:

"5 Major Needs of Women: Affection, Conversation, Honesty and Openness, Financial Support, Family Commitment

"5 Major Needs of Men: Sexual Fulfillment, Recreational Companionship, Physical Attractiveness, Admiration, Domestic Support

And some thoughts on procreation:

"At conception, the baby comes into being. About the sixth to tenth day after conception, when the baby is no bigger than this dot (.), the baby snuggles into the soft nest in the lining of the mother's uterus."

It is then, when the baby has gotten all comfy, with the remote and a steaming mug of cocoa, that he or she leans back into the down comforter of the womb and considers whether to become a person who will seek out "affection" or "admiration," "financial support" or "domestic support," "conversation" or "a great rack."

By Rebecca Traister

Rebecca Traister writes for Salon. She is the author of "Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women" (Free Press). Follow @rtraister on Twitter.

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