elders again advocates for teens

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?


Posted in: Health, Sex & Relationships, The State of Sex Ed
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  • Amber S.

    Well, like you guys said: baby steps. It's better than nothing, sooooo…
    GO, ELDERS, GO!!

  • stephanie

    americans actually have the most sex.

  • Miranda

    Seeing as many politicians believe that *any* sex ed for kids in elementary school is going to corrupt them and cause little kids to start having sex, it's pretty amazing that she's advocating for any sex ed for those grades. I think that's great.

  • Selo

    While I agree it should be more around 3rd grade than 6th with the abstinence-only sex ed, I am so glad that we have a strong woman who is really willing to speak out for our generation. She knows what we need and I think the people who asked for her to resign are the real criminals here.

  • indecisivemind

    That's Germany.Not to be mean, but it's probably the horniest most sexually active place in the world.I would no because that's where I'm from, so of course the'd have a little more sex education. Just like broadwaybohemia said baby steps.

  • broadwaybohemia

    Don't knock her, Blake. She's standing up for us, and our right to know. She's a bit on the conservative side, but she's a politician. They're not generally very radical. But she is fighting for comprehensive sex ed in high school. Baby steps. 'Kay?

  • blake

    Do you think her style is effective? Pff…
    She is too *conservative* for my taste (like abstinence only sex-ed till sixth grade) I mean our sex ed is one of the main reasons why you see so many pregnant black teenagers in the rural south. Compare us to Germany: they already have a comprehensive sex-ed from the 4th grade.