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The Sex Education of Our Nation’s Children: Since the Sexual Revolution

The Sex Education of Our Nation’s Children (full series)
The First Formal Sex Ed | Since the Sexual Revolution
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Since the Sexual Revolution

Then came the 1960s and the Sexual Revolution. Many attribute the Sexual Revolution to the birth control pill approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1960. Some states banned the pill entirely or made it illegal for single women to purchase, but by 1972, the Supreme Court ruled that prohibiting the sale of contraceptives to unmarried women was unconstitutional. At the same time, attitudes about sex changed. Sex was no longer culturally tied to marriage and children.

With this change, a new organization was formed to tackle sexual health and education in America. Mary S. Calderone, the medical director of Planned Parenthood of America, co-founded the Sex Information and Education Council (SEICUS) in 1964. SEICUS had a mission of moving America away from the Family Life focus of sex education of the past. They asserted that “sex is not just something you do in marriage, in a bed, in the dark, in one position. Sex is what it means to be a man or woman.” This was the first time the nation had been introduced to comprehensive sex education programs in our public high schools. The type of sex education promoted by SEICUS included content on gays, lesbians, and masturbation.

Another proponent of comprehensive sex education during the time was Lester A Kendell, who wanted the nation’s sex education programs to move away from the idea that premarital sex was harmful to society or individuals. He explained, “The purpose of sex education is not primarily to control and suppress sex expression, as in the past, but to indicate the immense possibilities for human fulfillment that human sexuality offers.” You can see how this mindset would lead to a focus on pleasure-based sex education, perhaps something fine for classes given to adults but wholly inappropriate for instruction to children.

SEICUS produced study guides on sex education, masturbation, and homosexuality with funding from the Office of Education at the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. With the wide distribution of its guides, SIECUS received requests from schools to help with their sex education programs. The Family Life Education programs, as proclaimed by the sexual progressives, were deemed insufficient to meet the educational needs of the rapidly changing sex lives of the American people. Or were the times really changing as quickly as we have been told?

If you look at the statistics from the time of the Sexual Revolution, the mindset of Americans was still pretty tame. It turns out not everyone was a free-love hippie. Of married women, 21 percent had no premarital sex, and 43 percent of women had only one premarital sex partner—their future husband. Even as late as the 1980s, over half of women had only one partner before walking down the aisle. Compare this to 2010, where only 5 percent of new brides are virgins. It’s all relative. At the time, the Sexual Revolution seemed wild, but in comparison, today, it was PG. Regardless, sex education organizations like SEICUS found their angle to get into the schools and promote their loose view of sex to those under 18.

Source: Nicholas H. Wolfinger, “Counterintuitive Trends in the Link Between Premarital Sex and Marital Stability,” Institute for Family Studies, June 6, 2016,


By the 1980s, around half the states in America adopted comprehensive sex education curricula, while the rest continued to teach Family Life Education classes emphasizing abstinence before marriage. But in the mid-1980s, the deadly AIDS epidemic fundamentally changed how America viewed sex. With an almost 100 percent fatal rate at the time, both sides of the sex education debates blamed each other. Those in favor of more abstinence-centered programs believed that the AIDS epidemic was caused by the overall moral decline of society and the sanctioning of permissive attitudes toward sex by those favoring comprehensive sex education programs. Organizations like SEICUS used the AIDS epidemic to justify the need for more information on homosexual relationships to be taught in our schools. In 1986, U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop pushed for comprehensive sex education in our nation’s public schools. “There is no doubt that we need sex education in our schools, and it includes information on heterosexual and homosexual relationships,” Koop wrote in his report. “The need is critical, and the price of neglect is high.”

But was the need critical? Yes, the AIDS epidemic was scary and certainly made the headlines, but the realistic chance for an American to contract and then die from AIDS in the 1980s was around 0.0002 percent. Nevertheless, AIDS deaths were the tragic excuse needed to get more instruction in our sex education programs about homosexual sex and a general push toward comprehensive sex ed.

Fast forwarding to today, some organizations are pushing for more pleasure-based sex education, completely obliterating the lines of what most sane people would consider appropriate to talk about with children. Consider that the National Education Association’s LGBTQ caucus recommends the Queering Sex Education Teen Guide. The guide asserts:

We recognize the need for an alternative sex education resource. It’s not okay that gaps are being left and our sexual experiences are being ignored: there’s so much opportunity in the queer world, and that includes queer sex. Penis and vagina is one kind of sex, but it’s not the only kind of sex! This information should not only be available but celebrated. We want to re-frame the sex that we have and the sex that we want to have as something positive. We want to see the kind of sex we have and want to have reflected in the curriculum. It’s needed.

The guide recommends that students be taught about fisting, rimming, bondage, and sadomasochism. They also have a resource video produced by Planned Parenthood of Toronto to teach students about all those acts. This is just one example of the push for pleasure-based sex education in our schools. The point is that putting a condom on a banana was PG-13, but now they want sex education to be NC-17. America, this is not a joke. This is really happening.

In the next installment, sex education has become increasingly graphic and “weird.”

Kali Fontanilla

Kali is serving as CRC’s Senior fellow, particularly focusing on topics related to K-12 public education. She has 15 years of experience as a credentialed educator working in public and…
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