Being the Surgeon General of the United States is a pretty prestigious position, and in 1993 Joycelyn Elders became the second woman and the first African-American to hold it.
Unfortunately, fifteen months into her term, Elders was fired. Her offense? Daring to acknowledge at an AIDS conference that masturbation, "perhaps should be taught" to teens as a way for them to express sexuality without risking sexually transmitted infections.
Within a day of the conference, President Bill Clinton asked for her resignation and she was out of a job. A big reason this happened was that despite having no harmful effects, masturbation has long been considered taboo. It’s also been blamed for everything from insanity, to acne and infertility.
Since broaching a subject that cost her a job, Elders hasn’t simply sat around wishing she had stated that masturbation was actually a dangerous endeavor. Instead, she returned to her previous position as a professor of pediatrics at the University of Arkansas and has been an outspoken advocate for teen sexual health.
One of her focuses has been the need for comprehensive sexuality education. Speaking in April at the University of Arkansas, Elders explained her views.
“I think abstinence-only education is wonderful for kindergarten through sixth grade. I think after that they really need much more…We’ve gotten into this idea that, if we tell them about it, they’ll do it. Well, they’re already doing it. Ignorance is not bliss; we’ve got to educate our young people."
Then in May, Elders told the Urban League in Springfield, Illinois that there is a great need for comprehensive sex education which includes information on everything from abstinence to contraception because abstinence-only education is, ”almost child abuse.”
I love the fact that this former Surgeon General has continued to speak her mind and fight for teens without sugarcoating her statements.
What do you think about her straight-talk about these issues? Do you think her style is effective?