Sexual Education for Children
Sex education materials for children more often serve to confuse than to inform. These materials generally present females as passive and males as active. The books describe heterosexual norms while ignoring the existence of homosexuality and bisexuality. Many books describe sexual intercourse as existing for the purpose of procreation only. Pictures and descriptions of this sex act more often mystify than inform. Finally, these materials target young children and assume that these children are incapable of understanding most elements of sex. Children can often understand far more than they are given credit for. Most materials offer descriptions of sexual intercourse as an act devoid of passion involving an active male partner and a passive female partner.
Across publication dates, sexual education materials portray women as passive and men as active. Dr. Block’s Do-It-Yourself Human Sexuality Book portrays the girl as passive when she says “He’ll never leave me now” after she and the boy have sex (18). She has no active control over her life—rather, she waits to see whether or not the boy will stay or leave (Block, 18). In So That’s How I Was Born, the father explains that the “daddy puts his penis inside the… vagina” (Brooks, 28). Thus, the man is the active partner while the woman is passive. Brooks further emphasizes that the woman’s passive role exists in all areas of life when, at the end of Brooks’ story, the boy’s mother satisfies stereotypes of docile women by speaking “softly” (28). Many of these authors further perpetuate stereotypical gender roles in their stories. In his book, Brooks shows the mother wearing an apron (25). In her book Mommy, Where Do Babies Come From?, Zapun shows a man, “Dr. Ben,” working, while he shows the women in the story (Miss Florence and Sammy’s mother) at home (50, 56, 64).
These sexist portrayals extend even to the personification of individual cells. In his book, Dr. Block personifies the sperm as the active party, while the egg is presented as passive. According to Block, the “sperm search[es] for [the] ova” (21). Because of this active search performed by the sperm, the “egg is fertilized” (Block, 21, emphasis mine). Thus, the sperm performs an action while the egg only receives the action. In The Egg and the Sperm Martin remarks on this relationship as well. She says “the egg is seen as large and passive…. In utter contrast, sperm are… invariably active” (6). Martin argues that this portrayal is unfounded. She states that, in reality, the egg’s surface “trap[s] the sperm and prevent[s] their escape” (Martin, 7). Therefore, the egg is actually the active participant, while the sperm merely makes attempts at escape (Martin 7). Most sexual education materials, however, credit the sperm with the active role.
Most of these authors focus their efforts more on this incorrect portrayal of cellular biology than on the elements of...