Globalizing (and Historicizing) Sex Ed


Robert Greene II on Jonathan Zimmerman's Too Hot to Handle: A Global History of Sex Education, over at US Intellectual History:

In 1947, just six years after Life Magazine declared the rise of the “American Century,” the American Social Hygiene Association (ASHA) distributed sex education materials to 47 different nations and over 60 organizations across the globe. Formed in the Progressive Era and now combined with the political, economic, and military might of the United States in the early years of the Cold War, the ASHA and similar groups reflected the rise of sex education in Europe, the United States, and eventually the non-western world throughout the twentieth century. Scenes of educators, government officials, and health care workers unpacking sex education films and written materials for classrooms in places such as East Asia, Africa, and Latin America symbolized the rising hopes and influence of western sex educators after World War II.

However, if little about the postwar world looked familiar to those who had lived through the first half of the century, historian Jonathan Zimmerman’s Too Hot to Handle: A Global History of Sex Education (Princeton, 2015) emphasizes the enduring limits of sex education in both the United States and abroad. This brief but ambitious survey of sex education since 1898 tempers claims about modernity and revolutionary change with a narrative largely about continuity. Despite their resources and often evangelical commitment, sex educators in virtually every country from the United States to the Middle East faced strikingly similar opposition to their efforts to teach students about the physical, emotional, and social realities of sexuality. Rather than simply conflicts over specific curriculum materials or the training of teachers, the passionate arguments over the nature and future of sex education in the last century illuminate larger intellectual debates over culture, power, and rights, both individual and parental, in a globalized world.

More here.