Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Elders Was Correct in Speaking out on Human Sexuality

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Elders Was Correct in Speaking out on Human Sexuality

Article excerpt

You will be reading a good deal of solemn nonsense about the sudden firing of Joycelyn Elders as surgeon general of the United States. But it makes sense only as another episode in the post-election comedy.

Elders was a marked woman from the day the election returns came in. President Bill Clinton began to be advised that her way with words, with which he was familiar when he brought her into the national spotlight, was a political liability. And indeed her remarks on public health issues have occasionally been more bracing than diplomatic.

That may be so - as the White House hastened to say when it announced her resignation last week - of a reply Elders gave to a question about masturbation at an AIDS conference at the United Nations in New York in early December. The remark was about to be trumpeted in a newsmagazine. "What do you think are the prospects of a more explicit discussion and promotion of masturbation?" she was asked. Perhaps she missed the word "promotion." She later denied convincingly that she had meant advocacy of demonstration.

The White House pretended to believe, implausibly, that that was exactly what Elders meant, although it is nowhere reported, so far as I know, that any sex education course, anywhere, has included demonstration or promotion.

What exactly did Elders say? After stipulating that all sex education should be "age appropriate," she said specifically that masturbation "is a part of human sexuality and . . . should perhaps be taught. . . . We have tried ignorance for a very long time, and it's time we try education." All true.

Obviously, she meant "taught about." It wasn't a prepared remark and you couldn't fairly interpret her answer as a brief for some sort of classroom demonstration, or instruction in technique.

The White House described this as "one too many" instances in which the president has "disagreed" with her views.

Does this imply that there's an official administration position on masturbation? …

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