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Talk About Sex: The Battles over Sex Education in the United States

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In this lively book, Janice M. Irvine offers not only the first comprehensive history of the culture wars over sex education but also an important examination of the politics of sexual speech in the United States. Exploring the clash between professional sex education advocates on the one hand and the politicized Christian Right on the other, Irvine vividly demonstrates th In this lively book, Janice M. Irvine offers not only the first comprehensive history of the culture wars over sex education but also an important examination of the politics of sexual speech in the United States. Exploring the clash between professional sex education advocates on the one hand and the politicized Christian Right on the other, Irvine vividly demonstrates the crucial role that sexual speech plays in cultural politics. Examining a range of issues played out in living rooms and schools since the 1960s, she shows how a newly emerging Christian Right chose sex education as one of its first battlegrounds, then went on to dominate the public conversation on the subject. Talk about Sex is a rich and fascinating consideration of American sex education's strategic place in the long history of efforts to regulate sexual morality by controlling sexual speech. Irvine's original argument shows how sex education served as a bridge issue between the Old Right and the New Right. Exploring the political uses of emotion as it relates to sexuality, Irvine demonstrates how this movement draws on the tenacious power of sexual shame and fear in order to galvanize opposition to sex education. This book skillfully demonstrates how—by framing sex education as radical, dangerous, and immoral—the Right has fostered a climate in which it is risky, as former Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders found, to speak out in support of sexuality education.


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In this lively book, Janice M. Irvine offers not only the first comprehensive history of the culture wars over sex education but also an important examination of the politics of sexual speech in the United States. Exploring the clash between professional sex education advocates on the one hand and the politicized Christian Right on the other, Irvine vividly demonstrates th In this lively book, Janice M. Irvine offers not only the first comprehensive history of the culture wars over sex education but also an important examination of the politics of sexual speech in the United States. Exploring the clash between professional sex education advocates on the one hand and the politicized Christian Right on the other, Irvine vividly demonstrates the crucial role that sexual speech plays in cultural politics. Examining a range of issues played out in living rooms and schools since the 1960s, she shows how a newly emerging Christian Right chose sex education as one of its first battlegrounds, then went on to dominate the public conversation on the subject. Talk about Sex is a rich and fascinating consideration of American sex education's strategic place in the long history of efforts to regulate sexual morality by controlling sexual speech. Irvine's original argument shows how sex education served as a bridge issue between the Old Right and the New Right. Exploring the political uses of emotion as it relates to sexuality, Irvine demonstrates how this movement draws on the tenacious power of sexual shame and fear in order to galvanize opposition to sex education. This book skillfully demonstrates how—by framing sex education as radical, dangerous, and immoral—the Right has fostered a climate in which it is risky, as former Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders found, to speak out in support of sexuality education.

30 review for Talk About Sex: The Battles over Sex Education in the United States

  1. 4 out of 5

    Liz

    An important book analyzing the Right’s opposition to K-12 comprehensive sex education beginning in the 1970s and the ways in which their battle enhanced their larger political movement. Opposition to sex education was part of an overall resistance to generational change in the postwar period, reflecting a desire to lock in traditional gender roles and preserve a Romantic notion of the innocence of childhood. But in order to make their argument, the Right’s rhetoric relied on more sexually expli An important book analyzing the Right’s opposition to K-12 comprehensive sex education beginning in the 1970s and the ways in which their battle enhanced their larger political movement. Opposition to sex education was part of an overall resistance to generational change in the postwar period, reflecting a desire to lock in traditional gender roles and preserve a Romantic notion of the innocence of childhood. But in order to make their argument, the Right’s rhetoric relied on more sexually explicit language even than proponents of sexuality education; conservatives put forward detailed accusations of teachers who recruited kids to homosexuality and assorted perversions, and even offered explicit classroom demonstrations. (Irvine shows how conservatives unconscionably lied about what was happening in classrooms, thanks to supposedly biblically endorsed “mental reservations” that were akin to fingers crossed behind one’s back.) This rhetoric advanced a sexualized culture without arming children with the knowledge necessary to make sense of it, and not incidentally resulted in a cottage industry of new political organizations and abstinence-only curricula and other products. The Right had successfully quashed sex talk in the classroom by the early 2000s, but Irvine suggests that curiosity and the thirst for necessary knowledge cannot be permanently denied.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Aja

    Fantastic look at politics and culture in sexuality education! Similar to Teaching Sex: The Shaping of Adolescence in the 20th Century but with a much more clearly defined stance on the issue. Written a little less like a cultural anthropologist and more like an advocate of sexuality education. Fantastic look at politics and culture in sexuality education! Similar to Teaching Sex: The Shaping of Adolescence in the 20th Century but with a much more clearly defined stance on the issue. Written a little less like a cultural anthropologist and more like an advocate of sexuality education.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Brad

    "No nonsense and exhaustively well-researched/documented. No stone left unturned in this history. Helps the reader understand the tacitcs used my nutty christian fundamentalists to shutdown open (and NEEDED) dialogue about sexuality in this country. " "No nonsense and exhaustively well-researched/documented. No stone left unturned in this history. Helps the reader understand the tacitcs used my nutty christian fundamentalists to shutdown open (and NEEDED) dialogue about sexuality in this country. "

  4. 5 out of 5

    Catie

    Interesting over view of the issues with Sex Ed. in America

  5. 5 out of 5

    JoEllen Notte

  6. 4 out of 5

    Adam Foley

  7. 5 out of 5

    Anthony Petro

  8. 5 out of 5

    Laura

  9. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

  10. 5 out of 5

    Shaun

  11. 5 out of 5

    Drpsychorat

  12. 4 out of 5

    Cynthia

  13. 4 out of 5

    Morgana Davis

  14. 5 out of 5

    L.

  15. 4 out of 5

    David

  16. 4 out of 5

    Wes

  17. 4 out of 5

    Iyan Sandri

  18. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

  19. 5 out of 5

    Sarakfleurant

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ellen Reed

  21. 5 out of 5

    Christopher Saunders

  22. 4 out of 5

    Todd L

  23. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

  24. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

  25. 4 out of 5

    Emma

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ella Howd

  27. 5 out of 5

    Kris

  28. 5 out of 5

    L.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Vanessa

  30. 5 out of 5

    Robin

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