Ralph the penis and ’70s sex ed

newsreview.com

By Deidre Pike
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12.09.10

Without Judy Blume’s books for young adults, my sex education would have consisted of one awkward, all-girl viewing of a menstruation filmstrip in sixth grade. (Filmstrip. Think stone-age Powerpoint.)

The first Blume title that Dad brought home was Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret. The book probed religion in ways that felt heretical. Margaret bought a bra and learned about sanitary napkins.

My parents might not have approved. But they didn’t read it. So I kept reading. I learned what (a middle-aged woman author thinks) teen boys think about in Then Again, Maybe I Won’t. I related to the pain of the outcast in Blubber.

Most instructive was Blume’s Forever, in which 17-year-old Katherine loses her virginity, learns about STDs and acquires birth control pills from Planned Parenthood.

I passed the useful book along to 12-year-old girls who gave it to 13-year-old boys. Someone slipped it back in my locker after the book split in half at page 85: “He led my hand to his penis. ‘Katherine, I’d like you to meet Ralph … ‘Does every penis have a name?’ ‘I can only speak for my own.’”

Adolescent giggles ensued.

That was 1977, in the puritanical midwest. In Nevada, where “sex worker” is a legal career, I’d like to think sex ed has improved.

Not so, say students in Fallon, where schools use an abstinence-only curriculum developed by a conservative religious group. Earlier this year, Fallon students went to the school board to complain that program isn’t working. Teens aren’t just saying no. When “yes” happens, they are unprepared.

“They said ‘We’re still getting pregnant—this isn’t working,’” explains Planned Parenthood Mar Monte public affairs vice president Alison Gaulden. “‘We need something that helps us.’”

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Author: Leslie Carol Botha

Author, publisher, radio talk show host and internationally recognized expert on women's hormone cycles. Social/political activist on Gardasil the HPV vaccine for adolescent girls. Co-author of "Understanding Your Mood, Mind and Hormone Cycle." Honorary advisory board member for the Foundation for the Study of Cycles and member of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research.