Typos p. 206: patters [= patterns]
Sex education and its advocates
Anthony M. Ludovici
The International Journal of Sexology 4, 195051, pp. 202206
- p. 202 -
Particularly in regard to the young female, the ignorance deliberately fostered up to comparatively recent times, was a real menace to society; and where it still prevails its consequences are often disastrous. Indeed, were it not that, in rural areas at least, public opinion plays a much more powerful disciplinary role than in towns, the consequences would be universally deplorable.
Nevertheless, although much credit may be due to the pioneers of this new Movement for the courage and initiative they have displayed, it must still be admitted that, in the advocates of Sex-Education (again especially for the young), and in their programmes of reform, there are many regrettable signs of haste and sometimes of superficiality, which will need to be corrected before the complete change over from the old conventions to the policy of frank and outspoken instruction on the subject of sex will be up to the hilt defensible.
However readily the urgent need of reform may be granted; however strongly the Nineteenth Century attitude may be condemned, it still remains true that, in no programme or method of Sex-Education hitherto advanced does there appear to be any evidence that its promoters have attempted to view the whole field and appreciated all its features and implications. The eagerness to mend a state of affairs which few would now venture to justify, has led to a hasty concentration on the main problem of imparting the correct information, at the cost of a host of ancillary problems which required to be solved simultaneously with the main problem, if the solution of the latter was ever to be sound.
Thus, we got lectures on the organs of sex and their functions, delivered before mixed classes in primary and secondary schools, long before it had been decided whether scientific exposition, alone, adequately met the required conditions. Medical men and women were often chosen as lecturers on these occasions, irrespective of their emotional or generally characterological suitableness for the task. The fact, however, that medical graduates were lighted on for this duty (often under protest from the ordinary school teachers) reveals the bias in favour of keeping the instruction within the scope of the bare scientific essentials, as if the imparting of this information exhausted all the requirements of the situation.
The lectures, moreover, were often classed in the same category with general biology, or natural history, as if the intention really were to impart to them the same neutrality of tone and significance which marked the lessons in arithmetic or geography. The fundamental difference between the emotional reactions provoked in children and young adolescents by arithmetic on the one hand and sex-talks on the other, was disregarded. It was evidently hoped that if the adults concerned disregarded it, their juniors would also.
In addition to all this, more or less qualified publicists very soon began advocating specific measures in the direction
Thus, one well-known medical man advocated that young adolescents should be instructed in the use of "approved sexual equivalents" to adult sexual congress, and that such instruction should be "accompanied by explanation of their purpose" and form a part of Sex-Education. "Sex-Education," he declared, "which provides no guided outlet is worse than none."
And what did he mean by "sexual equivalents"? Practically all those forms of mutual manual or oral stimulation, or "clothed intercourse" which may lead to orgasm being achieved "without any accompanying sense of guilt."
Another publicist, not medical, tells us that "From the time when the child can sit up and look about, both parents should pass to and fro unclothed in full view of the child." He accepts as a necessity that little girls and boys should be allowed to play with one another naked, and should not be reproved even if the boys should take to urinating over the little girls. Moreover, the little girl's questions about "which hole do babies come from?" should not only be answered, but also "given practical demonstration."
These are but two examples; but, did space allow, many more could be given.
Now, laudable as may have been the motives inspiring such advanced reformers, it surely requires but little knowledge of human nature, especially as represented by children and young adolescents, to appreciate that in both the major aspects of the reforms advocated in that of formal sex-instruction and that of directed freedom in sex-expression certain important features of the whole problem have been overlooked, or hastily and deliberately set aside, which cannot be ignored without defeating the exalted social aims implicit in the reform movement.
To deal first with the freedom of sexual expression in the young, however wisely directed, what these modern reformers seem entirely to have disregarded, is that in the civilizations of antiquity, as in most primitive societies, the culture that prescribed certain attitudes, practices and restrictions in the sexual life of the people, was and is always more or less homogeneous more rather than less so. Whatsoever one child was taught, allowed and forbidden, all children within the same sphere of influence were also taught, allowed or forbidden. Thus, apart from abnormal aberrations, there could be no anomalies of behaviour that shocked, no individual practices which the neighbour could regard with horror and which the majority frowned upon. But in our anarchical, chaotic civilization, with its atomization of the population into almost one-family units, each holding views divergent from the rest, this is no longer so. What one child is taught, either in religion, manners, morals or sex, bears no necessary relation whatsoever to what its contemporaries and immediate neighbours are taught. Methods of dealing with these questions are as numerous as there are families in the nation.
The consequence is that, above all in sex matters, what might be justified and harmless if it were general and in keeping with the values and practices of a whole group or community, tends as an isolated phenomenon to become so conspicuously odd as to provoke clashes, shocks, frowns and even jibes, with which the average parent, not to mention the average child, is quite unequipped to cope. For this reason alone many of the more shrewd among modern parents, although not wedded to the old point of view, very naturally look on the extreme measures advocated by modern educational reformers, not only with suspicion, but also with marked aversion. They find themselves, therefore, compelled for the nonce at least, to effect a prudent compromise with the old conventions, and to support them, less out of a spirit of puritanism than out of a desire to protect their child from the bewilderment, vexation and possibly shame, of finding its home at-
As against this, it may be argued that every reform, however urgently needed and in no matter what sphere, has always had to encounter such piecemeal opposition from the quarter or groups supporting expiring creeds and fashions. This is of course admitted. But whilst allowing full weight to this objection, it still remains true that the present attempt to introduce too hastily and inconsiderately, in a sphere as delicate as the nation's sex life, reforms as extreme as some of those indicated briefly above, can only lead to much hardship among individual children and their parents, and create both alarm and confusion in a world already sufficiently chaotic.
Rather than proceed immediately with the introduction of drastically reformed patterns of sexual behaviour, would it not have been wiser in the first place to attempt for instance a wholesale transvaluation of the prevalent values? This would at least have prepared the way for the necessary reforms. It would have meant a preliminary frontal attack on the sex-phobic creeds an undertaking admittedly riddled with difficulties. But, in the end, these sex-phobic doctrines of the old Faiths will have to be attacked; so that to start with the offensive reforms before having smoothened the road for their acceptance, simply amounts to deliberately selecting what appears to be the less thorny undertaking, and leaving the more difficult one to look after itself.
Turning now to the question of formal sex-education in schools and here we touch on the major failing of all modern educational reformers what history and anthropology teach is, that in the minds of those originally responsible for the procedures and methods of sex-initiation, observed both in the higher civilizations of antiquity and in primitive cultures, there was always a profound consciousness of the uniqueness or specificness of sex-instruction. The elders concerned always seem to have been aware at least of this fact, that whereas instruction in any of the arts or crafts of a particular culture, society's welfare and interests had to be considered, in the matter of sex-instruction, this social aspect loomed so conspicuously above the social implications of any other form of training, as to demand and deserve a treatment wholly different and special. The social repercussions of the two kinds of instruction were of such different magnitudes, that their unlikeness became one of kind rather than of degree. To treat both types of instruction as if they were undifferentiated in their social gravity, would therefore have seemed to the elders of both kinds of civilization those of antiquity and those of primitives as so palpably erroneous as to argue a complete misunderstanding of the relevant factors.
That is why we find almost everywhere, in cultures even only slightly above that of the Todas, an impressive and often not unpainful ritual associated with the ceremony of sex-initiation which is calculated to stamp it on the minds of the novices as something singular, significant and sacred: the idea evidently being that the novices should thereby be led to inter that, although the functions to which he is consecrated by the ceremonial, are as essential, natural and important as eating and drinking, they are nevertheless in a different and socially much more serious category.
Now, in the merely scientific exposition of the so-called "facts of Life", as advocated and already practised by education-reformers, there is no sign of all this. Elementary as the need of such an unforgettable ritual would seem (otherwise its provision by primitive cultures could not easily be explained), not a trace of any attempt to meet it is discernible in the recommendations and practices of modern sex-educationists. One of them, it is true, implies that, at puberty, the adolescent should dedicate his or her newly matured functions to the Christian God "and the Logos"; by which presumably he means that in some way a ritual of sex-initiation should be grafted on to the present order of Confirmation. But, as we shall see in a moment, this is hardly a practical solution of the difficulty.
People may ask, why is this matter so important? Why did antiquity, why do primitives, think it so very important? The answer is, that normal sex-activities, natural though they of course are, differ from mere eating and drinking in that, first of all, they implicate two persons and not merely one. It is impossible to say of heterosexual licence, as of sitomania or dipsomania, "the punishment lies only on the head of the offender." Secondly, normal sex activities have wide and far-reaching social consequences, out of all proportion more fateful for the community as a whole, and ultimately for humanity, than the satisfaction of any other human appetite. And, thirdly, whereas eating and drinking are essential to the human organism from birth to death, normal sex activities become essential only at certain times and for definite periods. They have their flood and ebb, and are exposed to accidents which have more serious social consequences than any which may follow irregularities of diet or drink.
All these features of normal sex-activity lend a gravity and importance to the expression of sex and therefore to sex-regulation, which hitherto mankind seems always to have appreciated, and to have met by applying the whole majesty and weight of its local most sacred beliefs to the solution of the problem of sex-instruction and regulation.
Are we entitled on the score of the moribund state of our religious beliefs, to assume that we can safely dispense with any ritual whatsoever in the sex-instruction of our juniors? Or to put it in terms more acceptable to the opponents of all forms of transcendentalism, are we entitled to dismiss the idea of improvising and accompanying ritual for sex-instruction (because of its present impracticability) as if it were unnecessary to stamp this department of education with the character of its exceptionalness? Presumably these opponents would dispute the need of enlisting metaphysical agencies in such a ritual? Well and good! But have they made any effort to devise or improvise a purely secular ritual? Is that, too, quite impossible? If it is, has there been any sign of hesitation on their part, or of any desire to mark time and to postpone the practice of imparting naked scientific information, as if here they were concerned with matters as emotionally and carnally neutral (both in teacher and taught) as arithmetic and geography?
There has been no such sign. As has already been implied, the whole of the modern movement of Sex-Education, reveals both in its doctrines and practice all the characteristics of ill-considered haste, superficiality and even levity.
Finally, there is this further difficulty to be considered. As things are with information on the sex organs and functions, imparted to juniors as part of the ordinary routine of school instruction, there is always the danger, a danger which by having been overlooked is already leading to all kinds of gross misdemeanours in the sexual sphere, that our juniors, misinterpreting the freedom with which we elders refer to sex, may erroneously infer (especially in a heterogeneous culture of clashing values), that such freedom is levity and that there is therefore no limit to the licence it implies. For, though it may have been bad to observe a shameful silence, can it be wholly innocuous to give the impression that in this sphere, solemnity, gravity and awe are quite out of place? We do not need these psychological states in the act of imparting information about quadratic equations, or the trade winds. But how can we expect the young mind to infer that our information about sex is different from that imparted on other subjects if we observe the same freedom, the same neutral tone in imparting it as in imparting the latter?
This danger too can be met only as it seems always to have been met in the past,
Obviously the present Order of Confirmation of the English Church and that of the First Communion of the Catholics, even if they could be adequately reconstructed to meet the requirements, would not solve the difficulty. For it has been claimed with some validity above that the present feebleness and decay of Christian beliefs in all civilized countries makes this impossible except among a small and shrinking minority. Meanwhile, something has to be done, and the prospect of getting it done would be livelier if it were possible to discern in the various groups advocating Sex-Education and new patters of sex-behaviour, some consciousness of the deeper psychological requirements of their reforms.