Early sex education

Is the vocabulary to properly talk about our own bodies too sophisticated a topic for children to be introduced to as early as kindergarten? Bill O’Reilly seems to think so, at least in regard to the word “uterus”, which apparently the mere knowledge that a woman has one is enough to “blast” a child out of their childhood.

It’s interesting how taboo words get rationalized by terms like “sophisticated” and stigmatized as being harmful for kids, especially when a basic knowledge of the term (that babies come from a part inside a woman called a uterus, for instance) is something that can help build a strong foundation for us to know our own bodies and what they do.

What do y’all think? Should we introduce children to the correct terms for their bodies, even the taboo parts, early on, or should we use/invent sanitized words that mean the same thing (like “wee-wee” instead of “penis”)?

Via Iris forums.

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10 thoughts on “Early sex education

  1. Honestly, I think this is another of O’Reilly’s manufactured crusades, the goal being to alienate voters from Obama and other Democrats.

    Sex ed in this country is a mess, and not just because of abstinence-only. It starts too late, ends too early, and covers too little.

  2. I am all for age-appropriate sex education, including the correct terms for various bits of anatomy — and definitely including (I’m looking at you, Catholic Church) the clitoris. Children should know at least enough about their bodies to be able to identify unwanted contact from wanted contact and public-appropriate from private-appropriate contact. (One little boy I used to know had trouble understanding that it was inappropriate to pull out his penis during Mass and idle with it, for example.)

  3. I don’t think it hurts kids to use words like wee-wee, though my parents never taught me any goofy pseudo-euphemisms for things and I respect them for that. But there’s no way in the world that it hurts kids to learn the proper terms for body parts, either, especially not “uterus”. I hate to sound reactionary, but for O’Reilly to consider THAT a dirty word makes him seem like a real misogynist.

  4. The hand-wringing over using clinical terms and about children knowing anything about sex is just silly. You’re absolutely right- teaching children about our bodies helps give them a stronger foundation for understanding the ways that their own bodies work. Telling a child what a uterus is doesn’t rob the child of any innocence or whatever other insane claims they want to make. And, honestly, what’s the real difference between using code-words like wee-wee or “down there”?

    When we use sanitized words, the only person we’re helping is the moron who is too uncomfortable with his/her own body to talk about it like a reasonable adult. The meaning is the same. If you use “wee-wee” or “penis” the kid is going to eventually understand what you’re talking about. The difference is that, by using code like “wee-wee” you infantilize and obfuscate things- you make it more difficult to give accurate information to the child.

    What a bunch of nonsense.

  5. The first steps towards unashamed and healthy sexuality are in naming and owning our bodies. That’s how it is in my house.

  6. I basically ditto what you guys said.

    However: The Rev. Haffner said something that I really *don’t* like:

    “…you want to talk about family roles…”

    I’m not really certain I want any state institution telling children, in the context of ‘how boys and girls are different’, anything about family roles. That just gives me the creeps.

    But yes, Bill O’Reilly is, well, despicable. The sort of thinking that says ‘children don’t need to know the names of their sexual body parts’ is the very reason why I don’t know to this day what (specifically) constitutes my vulva. (I own Our Bodies Ourselves, so I can go look it up, but it’s not knowledge that’s automatically there, like what my knee is, where it stops and what it does).

    Public school sex education needs serious improvements. Following O’Reilly’s line of thought is following the status quo (at least in the southern U.S. where I grew up in relative ignorance).

  7. Well, O’Reilly is also a rape apologist — whenever he covers a rape story, he always mentions if the girl was wearing a skirt or midriff-bearing top or if she had been drinking, and therefore says she was practically asking for it.

    So his misogyny is pretty blatant to me.

  8. Personally think wee wee is much cuter than penis… it is a personal opinion anyway… about all the rest, ‘O Reilley is a great comedian, love him, make me laugh every time I watch his videos. What? He’s not a comedian? Oh my!

  9. I came across this contest and thought it was relevant to this discussion. Its a film contest that lets those whose education is being so fiercely debated speak for themselves. Potential film ilm makers must be 15-30 years old and make an original video about sex education that follows one of two themes: 1. Share your sex ed experience so far. Show how and why it sucked or rocked. OR 2. Redesign how sex ed could be delivered. Imagine that anything is possible.
    Read the official contest rules and submit entries at

  10. I *absolutely* agree with the comment that sex-ed “starts too late, ends too early, and covers too little.”

    In elementary school, we first learned about what menstruation was literally a few *months* before I got my period. And the description was so abstract and sanitized that I did not actually recognize what was going on for several *days*. I thought I’d injured myself, or something… (We had, of course, vaguely learned about *caring for babies* at this point; strategies for actually *preventing* babies had to wait until high school. >.<)

    Also, wouldn’t a man who strongly believed we should not sexualize children too soon do a little more campaigning against child prostitution and sexual abuse of minors? ‘Cause teaching someone what their internal organs are called seems slightly less damaging than raping them, somehow… But I’m sure O’Reilly totally campaigns against rape constantly in his free time, and is careful to condemn *only* the rapists and not the victims. He really seems like the kind of conscientious feminist-type that seeks to protect women and children from sexual predators. Really.

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