Both traditional parents in Western societies with their Victorian morality and parents in some nonliterate societies may repress their children’s sexual activity. Susii parents, for instance, do not tolerate their children’s sex play, and beat boys and girls for indulging in it. Nevertheless, children find opportunities to escape parental supervision and engage in hetero-sexuality. Adults are aware that children “in general” do such things, but they become upset on learning that a child of their own has done so. If the parent seems undecided as to what his or her own response should be, the response is commonly ambiguous or it is postponed to some not clearly defined later time.

Likewise, the average child of five or six who has not been openly and positively socialized about sexual matters and who has had an opportunity to observe genital differences, can say that “a boy’s sticks out and a girl’s doesn’t.” The child is very reluctant to divulge the name or label by which the organ is known. The name for the organ may be as innocuous as the term “dewdrop,” “teddy bear,” “dicky bird,’: “train,” or “piece of string.” Nevertheless, the child becomes restless, bites his lip, or hangs his head and refuses to speak when he is re> quested to utter the word which refers to that part of the body. Conn and Kanner reported no less than sixty-one different name: for the sex organs in the vocabularies of two hundred children. Many had two or three term: for the sex organs which they could use inter changeably. Most of these served for both the male and female genitals. The great majority î children had something to say about how bad naughty, or “not nice” it was to talk about genitality, genitals, to see others undressed, ant to be seen in the nude. Sex talk was generally regarded as a great offense. This attitude was especially strong when it came to naming the genitals. A girl six years old said, “That’s a bad word.” When she was asked why, she said “Because it’s really bad.” A five-year-old boy said, “A girl has a different thing. I don’t war to say it because it might be a bad word.”

This phenomenon of not labeling or mislabeling the sex organs and their functions, encouraged by many parents, leaves the child without a vocabulary with which to thin properly about or to describe human physic; attributes and physical or psychic experience Because he or she lacks a definitive sexual vocabulary, it is possible that fantasy will overrun sex life. The mysterious penis that supposed exists behind the female pubic hair, the feeling that females have been castrated, and other childhood fantasies are possible because there is no naming of parts and functions which could guide the child’s nascent interest in its own or other’s bodies. Nevertheless, innocuous misinformation given ratio ally is apt to have a less negative effect on the child than if the parent handles the situation by going “into a rage.”

Generally speaking, the schools have been little better than the parents when it comes to sex education. Ambiguity, misinformation, mislabeling, and excessive idealism often characterize sex instruction in the schools as well as at home. But it is not that simple. Some parents object to sex education in the school, not because it goes “too far” but because it does not go far enough. A school principal told me that his school felt that it was being very progressive and was doing the right thing when they told children that every child born is the result of an act of love on the part of the parents. In this case, some progressive parents called in as consultants on the school’s sex education curriculum objected to such instruction, pointing out that such instruction was too idealistic.


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