Dear President Obama, From a Pro-Sex Ed Father

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Dear President Obama, From a Pro-Sex Ed Father

Gilbert Herdt

It is not right that only wealthy people's children who attend private schools get quality sexual literacy. This form of extended segregation creates a vacuum and fills it up with shame, fear and silence.

Dear Mr. President,

We all congratulate you on this amazing
achievement; it is our victory, as much as yours, as you have often
reminded us. Moving into the White House and getting the US house in
order after years of bad leadership, corruption, failed opportunities,
and pure dumb ignorance is going to be a challenge you will thrive on. At your inauguration, as you spoke to the country and took your oath of office, you
highlighted the importance of science in decision making. What science
shows in relation to sex is unequivocal, and it is time to usher in a
new era of healthy sexuality that is grounded in science, truly
comprehensive in scope and that speaks to all Americans-inclusive of,
not regardless of, our differences in age, faith, race, culture, gender
and physical ability.

Please remember sex education as you get
into the work of making America "stronger." To quote your own words,
our policies on abstinence only–or "ignorance only," as I have
referred to them for years–must be changed; "there is a better way." We
have the solutions for progress and we can work together to improve
life for all.

As a father, too, you will understand that
truly comprehensive sexual literacy can make a huge difference in the
lives of your daughters and all of society–now and for the rest of
their lives. You will want them to grow up with healthy sexuality; that
is what our whole species is about; the integration of intimacy,
attachment, well-being and pleasure–for couples and for children and
even for the country. You support marriage and have said that marriage
workshops can make a "real difference in helping married couples" come
together and by "encouraging unmarried couples who are living together
to form a more lasting bond" (Audacity of Hope, page 334).

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have the opportunity then to provide the tools for lifelong sexual
literacy for all children and all couples today, gay and straight.  As
you have said so forcefully in your last book, social conservatives
"want a return to a bygone era" in which sex outside of marriage was
"subject to both punishment and shame"…and those who failed to live up
the standards of "sexual propriety" were bullied into a small dark
corner our society. You have said that you "applaud parents,
congregations and community programs that transmit" the message of
young peoples "showing more reverence toward sex and intimacy" (page
335). Many sex educators and researchers would agree.

So let’s
give young people the benefit of what the great majority of their
parents and churches and communities do not provide them with–sexual
literacy. All the research for 50 years suggests these institutions of
society are not doing that job. The harm that this gap causes is huge
and growing–staggering HIV rates, increasing teen pregnancy, and an
epidemic of STDs among young women–some as young as your daughters.

accurate knowledge or emotional literacy, young people lack even the
appropriate language and words to discuss these sensitive topics at the
right time and place. They are going to make mistakes that could be
prevented–unintended teen pregnancy, HIV infection, syphilis and
gonorrhea infection, date rape and sexual violence that mares their
lives forever. Blame is not the issue; it will not bring back the
beauty and richness and integrity of life for these damaged lives. We
can do better.

There is a great divide now between rich and poor
in this country, as you know, but it trickles down into a terribly
vulnerable place for young people nowadays–their sexual illiteracy. It
is not right that only wealthy people’s children who attend private
schools get quality sexual literacy. This form of extended segregation
creates and then fills up the vacuum with shame, fear and silence. We
need to end this unequal treatment for middle class and working class
children who attend public schools by giving them sound knowledge and
the tools needed to have healthy sexuality lifelong. And that includes
giving the support and respect needed to principals and teachers who
have been hounded for years and made scared to death of teaching sex
education in the right way.

Mr. President, you can lead the
healing in this process. Organizations such as Planned Parenthood, the
National Sexuality Resource Center, SIECUS, and Advocates for Youth
have been out in the cold for years and years trying to heal this
country’s tragic sexual ignorance. You can make a different in the
coming 4 years–for all of our children, and for all who aspire to
uplift this country into the bright light of literacy, science,
education, reason, and faith–yes, inclusive faith that recognizes the
role of sound sex education in how all of us can grow up right, and
contribute mightily to society, or grow up twisted by hatred, shame and
fear. Help us make this a time for new beginnings in that most
sensitive and difficult of areas-our sexual well being.

Sincerely yours,

Gilbert Herdt

Director and Founder

National Sexuality Resource Center

This letter was first posted by the National Sexuality Resource Center