Thursday, August 18, 2011

Sex in the Sixties

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

(Note:  This is a more personalized version of yesterday's article on Sex Education in the Public Schools.  It is meant as guide of sorts to teen sex practices and knowledge in the 1960's.  Some of it is stuff the writer picked up firsthand, and the remainder (most of it!) was acquired vicariously through the lives and tales of others.  It is, however, a fair depiction of how things were then.  For a further look at that era, please read Don's response to yesterday's article.  PR)

The piece that I posted here yesterday on the state of sex education in the public schools left me thinking about how much (or how little) things have changed since I was in high school in the 1960’s.  It was a much different time, and we were basically as uneducated on the topic as many of today’s young people – and the arguments against teaching about sex in schools were much the same as those today:  some believed that learning about sex in schools caused kids to have sex, and others thought that anything a kid needed to learn about sex could best be taught within the family. 

The reality was that much of the sex education was occurring among peers – as is the case today – and the results were often sad and life-altering.

Sex was more private in the sixties, and young people who were “doing it” were less likely to be talking about it.  If it was known that a guy was having sex, he might be shunned by some and looked up to as a stud by others.   A girl having sex was seen as “loose” and having a “reputation.”  A girl who found herself “in a family way” or “knocked up” either married her befuddled boyfriend or was hustled out of town to live with a relative.  She might return in a couple of years with a baby and a manufactured story, but everyone knew the truth. 

Most rural schools did not allow pregnant girls to attend.  I knew a girl who married while in school, without being pregnant.  The superintendent called her into his office and told her that she was not allowed to talk to anyone about the honeymoon!

Teen sex usually occurred in the backseats of cars – they were bigger then – in secluded areas where kids went to “park” after a date.  Sex in a bed was less common.

I remember one encounter with “sex education” in high school.  The boys and girls were divided up, with the males remaining in the gym.    A special speaker talked to us in terms that were so vague it was hard to understand the message.  That was followed by a short film.  The film featured a couple of high school boys talking after a ballgame.  It was nighttime, and one of the guys decided to go downtown by himself.    An older woman came up to his car and talked to him through the window.  The next scene showed him and her entering a room under a flashing neon sign that said “Motel .”   In the final scene he was in the hospital fighting for his life.   That was it.  Unless the viewer was extremely knowledgeable beforehand, and I wasn’t, the film created more questions than it answered – and there was no follow-up discussion.

That was nearly a half-century ago, long before the rise of AIDS.   Today sex not only can cause pregnancies and the transmission of a raft of sexual diseases, it can actually cause death.    And yet we putter on treating the subject with benign neglect or contempt in much the same way as it was approached in the sixties.   It was an inadequate response then, and today, when more young people appear to be “doing it” more casually and more often, the consequences can be catastrophic.

It is time for a more enlightened approach to the topic of sex education in the schools.

1 comment:

bK in MO said...

I'm trying to remember what the girls were taught. I think mostly we were taught that nice girls don't. And in home ec class, we were taught about being clean "down there" and warned not to hang out with "fast" boys. But that is about all I remember.
I was so naive in high school - I would have sooner become a communist than have sex - and you know how much we feared communism.
Later, I loosened up a little, LOL.