Alifa Watkins

Newsflash America: Denying Teen Sex Doesn’t Make It Go Away (Part 1)

Also in Spanish


Amy Schalet, author of “Not Under My Roof: Parents, Teens, and the Culture of Sex” (University of Chicago Press, November 2011), states that denial is the real problem for American parents when it comes to teen sex.

. . . But talking to teens about sex does curtail unwanted teenage pregnancy

Amy Schalet, an assistant professor of Sociology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst originally from the Netherlands, urges American parents to stop denying that teens have premarital sex or participate in other sexual activities. Once parents accept that teens have sex, and teenage sexual development is normal, then parents and children will be able to have open relationships. Also, teens will see their parents as available resources when they start exploring their sexuality and develop sexual morals. “Adolescents,” according to Schalet in an interview, “still need their parents as support, to help sort out what are healthy relationships, to take precautions against the risks of sex, and deal with experiences of first love.”

But most parents do want to talk and be resources for their children. However, only expressing concerns and warning against the dangers of sex are not the way to foster trust and openness in any relationship, making it difficult for teens to confide in them. Therefore, a culture of “sneaking around” is established where teens hide their sexual activities from their parents, which never ends well for either teens or their parents.

Americans view teen sexuality as merely a storm of hormones, generating the expectation that teens can’t actually have sex in the context of loving relationships. Schalet says that this can lead to the psychic burden of being split between being a “good” child and a sexual being: a phenomenon that does not happen as readily in the Netherlands.

In the Netherlands, Dutch families, the educational system, and the health care system go through the process of “normalizing” teenage sexual development: young people are encouraged to “self-regulate,” or refrain from sex before they are ready. But Dutch and Americans have severely different ideas to when teens are ready to have sex.

Most Dutch parents agree that teens are not ready for sex before the age 16 and that sex should occur in steady relationships in which both teens are in love and use precautions. Moreover, Dutch parents don’t want teenage sex to be a secret: they want to stay connected with their teens and be able to exercise influence and provide support, which includes providing teens with contraceptives.

For example, Dutch parents allow their older teens to have sleepovers with their partners, knowing full well that sex might occur. The conditions for the sleepover are generally that (again) the teens are in a steady relationship, are in love, and the parents have met or are familiar the partner (showing how Dutch parents, like their American counterparts, do not particularly want their teens to have “one night stands” or “hook ups,” for these pose greater threats to sexual health through STD/STIs transmission). On the other hand, Americans believe teens will never be ready for sex and expect youth to abstain from sex until marriage.

But why are parents in America so reluctant to speak with their children about sex when the Dutch aren’t?

Find out in “Newsflash America: Denying Teen Sex Doesn’t Make It Go Away PART 2 coming soon!

Tags: Teen sex, The Netherlands, Parents, teenage pregnancy, teenage sexual development, sexually transmitted diseases, abstinence


Caption: The Dutch acknowledge that children grow up to become sexual beings way before marriage. Therefore, parents and educators do all they can to help prepare teens to be sexually responsible and healthy when they are ready and decide to become sexually active.

Creative Commons Image by: FaceMePLS


Gateway Sexual Activity: Fact or Fiction?

Spurred by a classroom demonstration involving a sex toy, Tennessee recently enacted a pro-abstinence sex education law that is among the strictest in the nation, which includes bans educators from promoting “gateway sexual activity.”

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam signed this “no holding-hands” bill, as critics have labeled it, into law in May. According to drafters of the bill, HB 3621/ SB 3310, this so-called “gateway sexual activity” includes any discussion of “intentional touching of the primary genital area, groin, inner thigh, buttock or breast of a human being.”

Governor Bill Haslam in “Tennessee’s Civil War on Comprehensive Sex Education and Teen Sexuality”

Let’s see what some of the topics this narrow definition excludes from sex education: oral sex, masturbation, mutual masturbation, breastfeeding, anal sex, menstruation, genital anatomy, pap smears, and well… sex in general. With all these topics banned, sex education in Tennessee will be anything but valuable, reliable sex education, so in other words, abstinence-only education. But without these topics, will students even learn what they are supposed to be abstaining from? Probably not.

Moreover, sex education classes will be required to “exclusively and emphatically promote sexual risk avoidance through abstinence, regardless of a student’s current or prior sexual experience.” Glad to know legislators at least recognize that they are consciously discriminating against 70% of the teen population who have had premarital intercourse by the age of 19.

But the evidence shows that the more we teach teens about sex, the more likely they will have sex, right?

WRONG. Evidence shows that comprehensive sex education programs that provide information about abstinence and effective use of contraception can help delay the start of sexual activity and increase condom use among sexually active teens. Therefore, banning the teaching of “gateway sexual activity” is fallacious (some may say felonious) because it is  in direct opposition to students’ right to medically accurate, safe, and reliable sex education.

Even more outrageous is the fact that the discussion of whether the law would help reduce Tennessee’s high teenage pregnancy rate was absent from the debate in the Legislature. This law was simply an irrational response to a disgruntled parent’s comment after he found out an anti-AIDS group had visited his daughter’s class and demonstrated safe oral sex with a sex toy and condom: “When you start bringing sex toys in, at a point you’re stimulating kids to have sex.” Because demonstrating how to put a condom on a realistic phallus, rather than a banana, is going to turn his daughter into a sex-craved “slut.” Under this law, such classroom visitors and educators can be fined $500 by parents for teaching their kids how to protect properly themselves from STDs and HIV!

Can you image what would happen if that 70% of the teen population who have had premarital sex used condoms or another form of birth control every time they were sexually active? Can you imagine the positive sexual health outcomes if all teens used condoms the first time they had sex? I can. But these fantasies will only become reality if schools continue to move towards comprehensive sex education, not away from it like Governor Bill Haslam is taking Tennessee’s schools and certain Mississippi school districts.

Creative Commons Image by: Flickr


Carrying Condoms Not Only Makes You A Slut, but also a Prostitute

Initiatives in New York, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C., allow the police to search and arrest women carrying three or more condoms late at night under prostitution charges.

So a woman carrying a few condoms can be arrested under the suspicion of being a prostitute? Does this profiling sound familiar? It’s just like the stigmatization that teen girls who carry even one condom receive from their peers whether or not she planned to use it: if a girl carries condoms, she’s automatically a “slut.” This is called “slut shamming,” or as a 13-year-old girl describes it in her video, Slut Shamming and Why it’s Wrong, “the act of degrading or mocking a woman because she dresses in tight or revealing clothing, enjoys sex, has a lot of sex, or is rumored to be sexually active.” Furthermore, slut shaming makes a woman or girl feel guilty or inferior for being sexually active, having multiple sex partners, or acting or dressing in a way that is deemed excessively sexual.

You might recall a popular example of slut shamming in recent media when Rush Limbaugh called Sandra Fluke a slut and a prostitute on air for advocating for contraception coverage and women’s health. This type of unwarranted labeling steers teen girls away from carrying condoms to avoid being labeled a “slut.” Likewise, these initiatives will steer women, sex worker or not, away from carrying condoms to avoid being labeled a prostitute and arrested. In the case of actual sex workers, trying to protect themselves from arrest forces them to participate in unprotected sex, increasing the spread of STD/STIs among sex workers, their clients, and the general public at large.

How can we fight gender discrimination and the stigmatization of teen girls carrying condoms when the government is legally allowed to do the same to women carrying condoms? How can we encourage our female youth to protect their sexual health while condemning the sexuality of women sex workers and dooming their sexual health? How can we convince boys that slut shaming is wrong when it is legal? These laws are asinine and need to be stopped. If a 13-year-old knows better, then there is no excuse for the government and the police department to support this type of sexist profiling.

Activists at the SlutWalk NYC in October 2011. SlutWalk is a worldwide movement, originating in Toronto Canada, working to challenge mindsets and stereotypes of American society that blames the victim or survivor in sexual assault cases and slut shaming.


Slutwalks are taking place all over the world for the second year to address these specious attacks on sexual freedom at the grassroots, including tomorrow in D.C.

Creative Commons Image by: David Shankbone



Why Should Men Control Women’s Sexual Health? It’s Time for Women and Girls to “Take Control”

Philadelphia teens, no matter what gender, need to truly understand that condoms are one of the best ways to prevent the spread of STDs and that stereotypes should NOT keep them from protecting their sexual health.

The Philadelphia Health Department launches a safe sex campaign called “She Takes Control” that promotes female empowerment and responsibility by encouraging female youth to carry condoms. Pennsylvania is one of the many states in the U.S. that suffers from high rates of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) among teenagers — they are as much as five times the national average. STDs are increasingly prevalent in Philadelphia and Philadelphia County, with 1 out of 3 youth getting an STD during their teen years. In fact, PA ranked seventh highest among the 50 states in 2008 for AIDS cases. While many states and cities focus on sex education in public schools as solutions to STDs and unwanted teenage pregnancies, the Philadelphia Health Department (PHD) decided to take a separate route: a safe sex campaign targeting young females.

The new campaign, “She Takes Control,” follows an earlier campaign, “Take Control Philly,” launched last April. The later program gives free condoms to teenagers between the ages of 11 and 19 through 160 distributions sites and a mail-order program. However, only 22% of the mail orders came from females. According to Dr. Caroline Johnson, director of the Department of Public Health’s Division of Disease Control, this disparity was because “Adolescent boys were much more interested and accepting of these condoms.”

Why were boys more receptive than girls? Well, that is because of the stereotype of carrying condoms means that someone is loose or sexually promiscuous, especially when it comes to females. Generally, American youth find males who carry condoms to be much more acceptable than females who carry condoms, labeling the males as “studs” and the females as “sluts.”  Unfortunately, society has taught youth that it is okay for males to be sexually promiscuous as a demonstration of their manhood, while women are supposed to fight back the advances of males and remain “pure” and “innocent.” Many describe this attitude as the “sexual double standard.”

This attitude is what “She Takes Control” is trying to counter. It is already bad enough that only 60% of Philadelphia boys are using condoms the first time they have sex, 20% lower than that national average. With the new campaign providing free condoms, and its website listing info because of stereotypes, fear, or stigma. For in the end, the ridicule of having an STD or becoming a teenage mother is far worse than being teased for carrying a condom and being a sexually responsible individual.

With the campaign providing free condoms and its website listing information about STDs (how to use condoms, where to get condoms, and about testing and treatments), and offering resources for parents about how to talk to their kids about sex, hopefully Philadelphia will see an increase in female youth carrying condoms and taking control of their sexual health. Women and girls should NOT depend on their male partners to carry condoms. Nor should they let men or boys decide the fate of their sexual health through unprotected sex by trusting that these guys get tested regularly and are free of any STDs. All teens need to respect their bodies and take care of their sexual health, regardless of what others might think of them, or their sexual health, regardless of what others might think of them, or because of stereotypes, fear, or stigma. For in the end, the ridicule of having an STD or becoming a teenage mother is far worse than being teased for carrying a condom and being a sexually responsible individual.

Collective Commons Image by: Jo Jakeman on Flickr
Image By Superstylo via Wikimedia Commons


Follow up: Adolescent Sexual Health: To Improve or Not to Improve? That is the Question…

También en español After initially postponing the decision to adopt either abstinence-only or abstinence-plus sex education curriculum, the Natchez-Adams School Board in Jackson, Mississippi chooses “both.”

The Board voted to adopt the abstinence-only program, but also voted to require all 12 modules of the “Rise to Your Dreams” curriculum . . . the same curriculum mandatory in abstinence-plus. We wanted to know why.

For one, Board Member David Troutman thought that the topics covered in abstinence-plus were too explicit for sixth graders, believing incorrectly that middle-schoolers don’t have sex until high school. Second, Board President Wayne Barnett believes that the abstinence-only plan allowed for local flexibility, wrongly thinking that their local people know more about the subject of youth sexual health, disregarding years of scientific research and data about what sex education curriculum works. Finally, sometimes it is just easier to choose abstinence-only over other forms of sex education in communities that are more hostile to teen sexuality and anything other than abstinence in the classroom, which is merely an excuse for cowardice and reluctance to stand up and fight for the sexual rights of youth. As Mississippi is full of communities like this, the mixture appears to serve as “middle ground” between the two.

But why was Natchez-Adams’ School Board pressured into making a decision?

In 2011, Governor Haley Barbour signed the House Bill 999, a law that requires all Mississippi school districts to teach either abstinence-only or abstinence-plus. Both curriculums are approved by the state Department of Education (DE), even though they both have drastically different implications for the sexual health of youth as discussed previously. All districts had until June 30 to decide which curriculum to adopt for the 2012-2013 school year.

This law was implemented in response to the fact that Mississippi has the highest teen birth rate in the nation and one of the highest AIDS statistics. In fact, the teen birth rate in Quitman County alone far exceeds the national average. In 2009, teen childbearing cost taxpayers $155,000,000. Sounds shocking? Not really, considering that Mississippi did not require sex education to be taught in schools until House Bill 999. Before this law, only a fraction of teens received formal sex education, with these programs varying widely in approach and accuracy. It’s no wonder why Mississippi is in this atrocious state.



Tupelo County School District

Houston County School District

Lee Country School District

Natchez-Adams County School District

Corinth County School District

Leflore County School District

Neshoba County School District

Starkville Country School District

Amory County School District

Greenwood County School District

Hattiesburg County School District

Oxford County School District (Initial Abstinence-only decision reversed)

West Point County School District (Unofficial)

Ocean Springs County School District

Jackson County School District

Pascagoula County School District

George County School District

Moss Point County School District

Table: A list of some of the County School Districts and their decisions regarding House Bill 999. (Not a full list)

Although an obvious disadvantage to students who will be subjected to abstinence-only curriculum, let’s hope that the Department of Education will notice the huge disparities between the sexual health of students who were placed in abstinence-only versus abstinence-plus. Maybe then they will enforce universal abstinence-plus sex education for all public schools in Mississippi, as this bill should have mandated. And as time goes on, maybe they will upgrade to comprehensive sex education, cultivating positive sexual behavior and decision-making of Mississippians in ways they could not have even fathomed before.

Creative Commons Image by: Ken Lund

Adolescent Sexual Health: To Improve or Not to Improve? That is the Question…

(También en Español)

The Natchez-Adams School Board in Jackson, Mississippi, is currently deciding whether to adopt abstinence-only or abstinence-plus curriculum. This decision for Mississippi schools, to implement either abstinence-only or abstinence-plus curriculum, is the same as deciding whether or not to improve adolescent sexual health.

Hopefully, Natchez-Adams School Board’s decision will foster homes full of sexually health youth instead of homes crowded with unintended pregnancies and STD/STIs.

The former, abstinence-only education, will be laden with religious ideologies, teach students about the importance of abstinence as the expected standard, and only mention contraceptives in terms of failure rates that are wrong and unscientific. The latter will teach the benefits of abstinence, but also will give comprehensive information about condoms, contraception, and the prevention of sexually transmitted infections and diseases. When you put the two side by side, it seems like a clear-cut decision: abstinence-only curriculum will only further diminish the sexual health of adolescents, while abstinence-plus curriculum has the potential to improve sexual health outcomes. Yet, other schools boards in Jackson and George counties recently adopted abstinence-only models.

But why would any school board adopt such an obviously flawed sex education program?

For one, American society has an extensive history of supporting abstinence-only-until-marriage  (AOUM) programming. This is the result of many factors, such as negative stereotypes associated with adolescent sexuality, an incorrect belief that teaching teens about sex is encouraging them to have premarital sex, AIDS fear, homophobia, heterosexism, sexism, and religious doctrine that dictates premarital sex is a sin.

Second, the American government has bolstered this attitude by providing financial support for schools that teach abstinence-only: the federal government has spent $1.5 billion funding AOUM programs over the last 15 years. This abundance of federal funds lead directly to the proliferation of these unsound programs across America, and why some school boards today still choose abstinence-only education in their schools, despite research proving their ineffectiveness to postpone teenage sexual activities.

In fact, there is overwhelming research that has found multiple issues with AOUM education: censoring vital health care information, jeopardizing adolescent sexual health, stigmatizing the LGBTQ community, purporting harmful gender stereotypes and one religious perspective, and withholding information teens need to make healthy and responsible life decisions. Yet, schools still adopt these programs despite this astounding evidence because they can take advantage of this federal funding.

Sexuality is a part of everyone’s life, no matter what race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, or age a person is. Everyone has the basic human right to access comprehensive sexuality information that is not bias, is scientifically correct, and applicable to their sexuality. Let’s hope that the Natchez-Adams School Board recognizes this and accounts for these proven sexual health benefits of comprehensive sex education when making their final decision on June 30, and students of this district get the comprehensive sex information they need and deserve.

UPDATE: After initially postponing the decision to adopt either abstinence-only or abstinence-plus sex education curriculum, the Natchez-Adams School Board in Jackson, Mississippi chooses “both.” Check next week for a follow up post explaining why the school board was forced to find this middle ground.

Part 2: Proclamation of Masturbation: Joycelyn Elders Gives Masturbation a Thumbs Up

previous Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders

(También en Español)

“We must know that if we want to have a sexually healthy society, it’s about education, education, education,” says Joycelyn Elders, MD.

With 9.5 million teens obtaining a sexually transmitted infection (STI) and 750,000 becoming pregnant per year in the United States, it is no wonder why Elders asserts that comprehensive sexuality education is the key to a sexually healthy world. In order to help remedy this, Elders teamed up with the University of Minnesota Medical School’s Program in Human Sexuality (PHS) to advance sexual health education not only in America, but globally. Together, Elders and PHS established the Joycelyn Elders Chair in Sexual Health Education. The Elders Chair will work with PHS to create comprehensive life-long sexual education curricula, increase the number of health care providers trained in sexual health care, and expand scientific research in sexuality education. However, Elders will not hold the chair position herself, but will still be involved with the program. Elders currently gives on-campus lectures, including her presentation entitled, “Revolutionizing Our Sexually Dysfunctional Society: Are Americans Ready to Talk, Listen, and Learn?”

Perhaps Americans are ready to talk, listen, and learn.

In 2008, the California State Board of Education developed and passed California’s (CA) first set of health education standards, which included comprehensive sex education. Under this Sexual Health and HIV/AIDS Prevention Act, K-12 sex education programing must cover topics about STDs, contraception, condoms, pregnancy, and violence. Furthermore, instruction and materials must be age-appropriate, medically accurate and objective, and representative for students of all races, genders, sexual orientations, ethnic and cultural backgrounds, and pupils with disabilities. Sounds great, right?

If you take a closer look, CA is still coming up short. CA received the rating of C+ in Young People’s Sexual Health from Amplify, a project of Advocates for Youth, a well-known organization that champions efforts to help young people make informed and responsible decisions about their reproductive and sexual health. Why? Because compared to the national average, CA has a high teen pregnancy rate (15th highest in the nation), while its AIDS rate tracks with national rates and STI rates only slightly lower than the national rate. Although this act has brought CA a monumental step closer to achieving the goal of a sexually healthy youth, there is more room for improvement.

You might be wondering, “Why only California? What about other states? If the goal is to have a sexually healthy nation, then why aren’t there national standards for comprehensive sexuality education?” Well, that’s because the bill is still sitting in Congress. On November 2nd, 2011, Senator Frank Lautenberg and Representative Barbara Lee told the federal government to stand up and participate in the legalization of comprehensive sex education for the nation: they introduced the Real Education for Healthy Youth Act (H.R.3324). This act lays out a comprehensive, age-appropriate, and holistic vision for sex education policy in the U.S.

This act recognizes that young people have a right to sexual health information–the first federal legislation ever to have done so. Through the federal government, this act creates national standards for sex education that have profoundly positive effects on the sexual health of American youth. First, it prepares young people to make informed, responsible, and healthy decisions about relationships and sexual health. Second, this act also includes grants for comprehensive sex education programs for adolescents and young adults in institutions of higher education. Third, it requires all funded programs to be inclusive of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) and heterosexual youth and meet the needs of young people who are and are not sexually active. Finally, this act highlights the importance of and provides resources for teacher training. (Other highlights not mentioned in this article. See full description here.)

To assert further that a national standard for sex education can and should be adopted, in January 2012, Future of Sex Education (FoSE) Project launched the National Sexuality Education Standards for K-12, which set the new gold standard for sex education in America. Founded by Advocates for Youth, Answer, and the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SEICUS), FoSE aims to create a national dialogue about the future of sex education and to promote the institutionalization of comprehensive sex education in public schools. Moreover, FoSE developed these standards to address the inconsistent implementations of sexuality education nationwide and the limited time allocated to teaching the topic. Hence, having national standards throughout schooling provides students with the knowledge needed to make the right decisions about their sexual health, no matter where they happen to live in the U.S., in a way they can understand and utilize as they go through different developmental stages.

Abstinence-only propaganda in direct opposition to Elder’s message of sexual health education as being key to a sexually healthy society. CC-image: phauly

As California State Board of Education, the Real Education for Healthy Youth Act, and FoSE have shown, comprehensive sexuality education is an ideal that can be reached not only on state levels, but also on a national level. Yet, as everyone can see, much more work still needs to be done to achieve the positive sexual health outcomes that other industrialized nations with already established national comprehensive sex education standards realize, such as the Netherlands.

Americans need to stand up for their sexual rights and demand the comprehensive sex education they deserve from their communities, schools, families, and government. Many notable people and organizations have worked hard to provide us the research, curriculum, and discourse on behalf sexual education and sexual freedom, so now Americans need to take these tools and fight for what is rightfully theirs and what Elders dedicated her life to: a sexually healthy nation.

Proclamation of Masturbation: Joycelyn Elders Gives Masturbation Thumbs Up (Part I)

(También en Español)

previous Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders

In 1994, then Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders, MD, proclaimed, “With regard to masturbation, I think that it is something that is a part of human sexuality and a part of something that should perhaps be taught.”

Masturbation being taught in schools? This statement is not one of shock, confusion, and contempt (or even a question) in countries where comprehensive sex education thrives, such as in the Netherlands, but in the United States, it sparked a nation-wide controversy that resulted in the termination of Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders.

So what was the fuss about?

Joycelyn Elders has been a strong, public advocate for comprehensive health education in schools since her days as a pediatrician in Little Rock, Arkansas, in the 1970s. As a chief pediatric resident, she combined a successful clinical practice with research in pediatric endocrinology, which lead her to work with juveniles with insulin-dependent diabetes. Over her tenure of 20 years, she recognized that diabetic females face a health risk if they become pregnant too young. These hazards include spontaneous abortion and possible congenital abnormalities in the infant. In order to limit these threats, Elders found it crucial to talk about the dangers of pregnancy to her patients and distribute contraceptives. The direct result of her doctor-to-patient education was that only one of her 520 juvenile diabetic patients became pregnant. This sparked Elders’ study of sexual behavior and involvement with public sector advocacy.

With these experiences and her passion to address the issue of teen pregnancy, she broke new ground by advocating for in-school clinics that included contraceptive services. Elders was successful in opening 18 school-based health clinics, with some distributing condoms, and expanding sex education throughout Arkansas. Yet, Elders’ work did not stay within state borders, because she understood that there were thousands of young adults in the United States whose sexual behavior went unmonitored and whose irresponsible, uneducated actions were contributing to the country’s notorious reputation of having the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in the industrialized world. Moreover, the rate of sexually transmitted diseases was on the rise, with the scare of AIDS frightening all sexually active people. This unhealthy, apprehensive sexual climate fueled Elders commitment to comprehensive sex education and demand for bolder government involvement and an intense public education campaign.

However, a black woman cannot publicly talk about sex in America for too long without upsetting certain groups and making a few enemies. Elders’ progressive work was catching the eye of both political conservatives, who criticized her effort to increase the government’s role in the private sexual lives of U.S. citizens, and members of some religious groups, who feared that the distribution of condoms would increase sexual activity and rejected sex education in schools as sanctioning abortion.

Just as the single sperm lead to the population of this world, comprehensive sex education should be the single method of sexual health education to teach Earth’s population about sex, sexuality, and sexual health.

Elders contested these outrageous claims by stating that abstinence education does not work because, in the real world, young people will continue to have sex, and that is it the job of adults and the government to turn an irresponsible action into a responsible one. She maintained that this could be accomplished through education: sex education would help prevent unwanted pregnancy from ever occurring, counteracting the practice of abortion.

Even with her courageous and logical retorts to her critics, by the time Surgeon General Elders made her approval of masturbation known at the United Nations World AIDS Day in 1994, the political climate was against her favor. Her suggestion that masturbation was a healthy part of sexuality and should be taught in schools enraged both conservatives and moderates alike. As a result, President Clinton, who personally nominated Elders for the position of Surgeon General of the U.S. Public Health Service only a year earlier, forced her to resigned, stating that she demonstrated values that were “contrary to the administration.” To the conservatives, Elders was warped, dangerous, and a lunatic because she was a rare public official who could actually speak lucidly, heroically, and fearlessly about what people didn’t want to hear.

But Elders’ words were exactly what the country needed to hear and to think about. Masturbation is a healthy part of human sexuality and a valid activity to help reduce risky sexual behavior, and it was about time that everyone realized sex education needed to be talked about openly and honestly for the sake of America’s youth and their sexual health.

The U.S. government was afraid to take a stand with Elders in fear of the public perceiving it as perverse and immoral. Yet in reality, in the absence of comprehensive sex education, the abundance of advertisements, television shows, movies, etc., that are laden with sexual innuendo, even some with blatant sexual references, is itself perverse and unjust to all youth.

Young people are bombarded by sexual media, but when seeking answers to their questions about their sexual health and sexuality, the resources are scarce and often completely unavailable. Some phone-text-based sex eduction sites have recently come on the scene and are a good step toward connecting youth directly with answers to their pressing questions.

Elders symbolizes knowledge, education, and truth. She was not afraid to address these issues and answer young people’s questions, which made her powerful as well as threatening and fearsome to the government, conservatives, moderates, and some religious group. And what do people typically do with what they think is threatening to them? Get rid of it. Unfortunately for Elders’ opponents, they could not get rid of her so easily, and she is now breaking new ground at the University of Minnesota Medical School’s Program in Human Sexuality with the Jocelyn Elders Chair in Sexual Health Education.