Gary K. Clabaugh, Emeritus Professor of Education, La Salle University
Many, perhaps most, Americans are decidedly weird when it comes to sex. American culture has always had a secret love/public hate relationship with sexuality; and that isn’t about to go away any time soon. Yes, even though our culture is utterly obsessed with sex, blue-nosed Puritanism is still very much alive.
This gives rise to some very strange phenomena. For instance, most American children are exposed to murder as “entertainment” day after day, and their parents rarely object. But imagine, if instead of detailed murders, a network showed realistic sexual acts — enthusiastic intercourse instead of an excited strangulation, for example. The outrage would be so thick Dumbo could walk on it. In short, depictions of deadly violence are regarded as tolerable for youngsters; but portrayals of intimacy and mutual pleasuring are an abomination. What kind of values does that represent?
Then there is the remarkable preference for ignorance over knowledge when it comes to sexuality. Sure, most parents don’t want their kids to be sexually ignorant all of their lives. But by the time this type of parent thinks their child is ready for the birds and bees, thanks to the internet their kids could teach them a sexual thing or two.
What is one to make of this remarkable American uneasiness with sex? There are a lot of possibilities, one of which is spelled O-P-P-O-R-T-U-N-I-T-Y. This is what demagogues and religious con men make of it. It’s a rare opportunity for picking the public’s pocket by exploiting their fears. Mix these unscrupulous flim flam artists together with guilt-ridden religious fanatics and a healthy blend of ordinary ignoramuses and you have a highly unstable compound that can, and does, blow up in well-meaning educator’s faces.