Sex advice for Barack

Why Obama should kick abstinence-only programs to the curb.

Published July 24, 2008 7:25PM (EDT)

Politicos are speculating wildly about what a Barack Obama administration might look like. As they hypothesize on how the candidate might handle the war in Iraq or our floundering economy, few have been talking about the way Obama should approach a lower-profile domestic crisis -- abstinence-only sex education. New research by the British government suggests that parents need to talk frankly with children as young as 11 years old about sex. If they wait until teens reach the age of 15, the conversation is unlikely to make any impact. So, with abstinence-only programs widely shown to be misinformed and ineffectual, it's crucial that our next president ensures preteens get realistic, accurate sex education while they're still young.

Fortunately, sex writer Violet Blue -- who is convinced Obama will win the election -- has put together a set of suggestions to help the senator improve the sorry state of sex ed in America. Pointing to promising programs in Australia and the U.K., Blue doesn't mince words. "Kill the abstinence programs. Period," she writes. "Fire the f--- out of anyone with a religious agenda in a position of power in relation to public health. We are a nation of many faiths -- most of which are not being served with this nonsense." Funny how such an irreligious statement makes me want to scream, "Amen to that!"

Blue's sane, practical guidelines include creating age-appropriate sex and relationship programs for kids as young as 5, requiring that schools hire federally funded teen sex ed counselors, and disseminating "practical information about reproduction (including a woman's right to choose and male responsibilities of parenthood), contraception, STDs and STIs, sexual pleasure, masturbation, consent, homosexuality, sexual tolerance, and gender identity." My favorite suggestion of all is that Obama put together a task force to develop educational programs on current sex issues like "the Gardasil vaccination (HPV shot), presentations on transgender issues, workshops on sexual consent, rape prevention and self-defense for girls, age-appropriate sex ed books, religious faith and sexuality, and sexual questions around -- yes -- political scandals." As wonderful as that would be for 'tweens, I know plenty of adults who would be happy to sit in on those lessons, too.

By Judy Berman

Judy Berman is a writer and editor in Brooklyn. She is a regular contributor to Salon's Broadsheet.

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