Let’s talk about sex education this morning because you guys are really good at helping me see opposing view points.

A local mother was aghast to see a sex education pamphlet that was sent home with her fifth-grader, handed out by the school nurse in the Steel Valley School District.

Before I fully read the article, I thought to myself, “Tsk. This mother is probably all upset because the booklet dares talk about body hair in new places, voice changes, and the sudden interest in the opposite sex. Chill out, mom. This is 2011.”

But then I read the article and saw what was in the pamphlet and WHAT THE VAN HALEN?!


This is what the schools are giving to 10- and 11-year-olds?

I have a very distinct junior high school memory of watching a “puberty” video in health class and the most explicit part of the video was an animated girl stick figure suddenly sprouting hair in a place where hair hadn’t been before, resulting in explosive laughter from the totally mature classroom. The video also had nice animated acne and animated profuse sweating.

That was then; this is now.

I found the booklet, which is from Proctor and Gamble, online in PDF format and read some of the stuff. Snippets:

  • When a boy or man is sexually excited, or sometimes for no reason at all, his penis becomes harder and stands away from his body. This is called an erection.
  • You can get an erection any time your penis is touched or rubbed, you have happy or exciting thoughts, or if you see someone attractive.
  • The average ejaculation contains more than 40 million sperm.
  • Sometimes semen spurts out of the penis.

Sex education is important and the booklet does a good job of answering questions that might be asked, but I don’t think this booklet should have reached the hands of a 10- or 11-year-old by way of a school nurse, or at least they should let the parents preview the booklet before deciding how they want to use it.

Some parents might give it to their child early.

Some might want to wait until their child starts asking more serious questions beyond, “Dad. Why do my pits stink so bad all of a sudden?”

Some might want to use different literature.

And some might be like my parents. “Sex? SEX?! Have you been watching Three’s Company again? Ask me again when you’re thirty.”

It’s a miracle my sisters and I all aren’t either crazy cat ladies or giant sluts with ten kids apiece from four different babydaddies.


  1. George
    May 25, 2011 11:43 am

    The kid smiling by the Wet Dreams section is priceless. He’s thinking about a wet dream for sure.

  2. Jen
    May 25, 2011 11:49 am

    Aw, I feel back for the Stock Photo Kids on the pamphlet!

  3. Jen
    May 25, 2011 11:49 am

    that’s “bad” not back. oof.

  4. Virginia
    May 25, 2011 11:51 am

    If you check the PDF of the booklet, you’ll see that the stock image for the section on feeling a ridge along the back of each testicle is a boy jumping to catch a red ball.

    Can’t make that up. You’re right, Jen. Those poor stock image kids.

  5. spoon
    May 25, 2011 12:00 pm

    Anyone who’s the parent of a boy knows that morning wood starts the moment they’re born. I just tell my kids its a lie detector.

  6. Mel
    May 25, 2011 12:02 pm

    Considering “kids” are having sex as early as 13 and 14, I think some parents need to pull their heads out of their asses. Pardon the expression. But they don’t… which leaves it to the public school to teach these kids ANYTHING about sex (and the parents to subsequently get their nuts and berries all in a tizzy about it).

    There’s MUCH more going on “down there” then a little public hair at age 11, FYI. Also, I find it ridiculous that it’s “embarrassing” to teach boys about erections, considering that begins to happen WELL before that age.

  7. Madd Max
    May 25, 2011 12:05 pm

    <I don't see the problem!

    Give the kid a stack of porno and some lube, he’ll be fine!!

  8. kevin
    May 25, 2011 12:07 pm

    When is the right time? It’s different for every kid and every family, and sadly some parents can’t or won’t be bothered. Kids can handle it, they hear just about everything in school by that age anyway. All I can say is my wife teaches High school Juniors and Seniors, and last year 20% (5 out of 25) girls in her class were pregnant. So, the school has to be pro-active, regardless of the shock factor.

  9. kevin
    May 25, 2011 12:10 pm

    PS, by the way we live in a fairly affluent community, so this is just then way it is now. 10-11 may seem young, but it’s really not if handled correctly.

  10. Joe K.
    May 25, 2011 12:25 pm

    I don’t think 10-11 is too young for that. These are things that are happening to boys at that age and they need information. My parents gave me a book that had ALL the information at around 11 – 12 years old.

  11. Virginia
    May 25, 2011 12:27 pm

    Joe, that’s my point. It should be up to the parents to decide when and how much, not the schools. In my opinion. Some kids grow up faster than others. I don’t think it should be a “one size fits all” kind of deal.

    I might feel differently when my son, who is 8, is 10.

  12. Paul
    May 25, 2011 12:30 pm

    It’s knowledge about the human body. This might be a bit much for 5 or 6 year olds, but I see no problem with it for 10-11. Tells them that their body is going to do this, and they should’t be embarrassed about it.

    I especially don’t have a problem with this coming from the school nurse.

    I suppose the best way to handle this, though, would be for the school to say they are going to hand this out to the kids, give it to the parents first (that way they can talk about it before the kids see it) and then give it to the kids.

  13. red pen mama
    May 25, 2011 12:31 pm

    I’m sniggering at “twigs and berries” and LOL’ing at spoon’s observation. I have noticed the same thing going on with my boy child, and it’s hard not to giggle.

    My parents sound like your parents, Ginny. Three’s Company was the height of scandal. Imagine my mother’s horror when I got an apartment after college — with two roommates who were men! Neither of whom I had any interest in anyway. Hell, one of them was gay. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

    on a more serious note:

    I would hope that this was a little more about “health” education at 10 or 11 than “sex” education (as in to have or not to have). I think facts are important for girls and boys to have. Imbuing sex education with morality and consequences is very much up to parents, and should start early. And be more about respect of self rather than terrorizing the little buggers (“It’ll fall off if you touch it too much!” “You can get pregnant just by kissing a boy!”) Besides, a pamphlet like this is a lot better than what I “learned” at the lunch table from my best friend who read another friend’s dad’s medical text book. I swore I was never doing that. (Multiple babies later…)

    Also, let’s remember too that there is a new vaccine for the HPV virus that they are offering to 10 and 11 year old boys and girls. That takes some ‘splaining. I know we’re all mortified to some degree or another about talking to our kids about sex (er, most of us, including me, anyway), but believe you me, I want to do a better job of it than my parents did.

  14. Joe K.
    May 25, 2011 12:33 pm

    Well like Mel said in #6 a lot of parents may not be doing ANYTHING, so then what? That’s not an easy decision for the schools.

  15. bucdaddy
    May 25, 2011 12:48 pm

    That first image up there, the second paragraph? That’s extremely important for women of ALL ages to learn and memorize.

    Presuming of course that by “older” the book means 54 and not 15.

  16. Suburban Nor'Side Girl
    May 25, 2011 12:53 pm

    I used Virginia’s link to read over the whole pamphlet – it does say to ask a trusted adult to review it with or answer questions the child maya have. And it doesn’t explain how the sperm and egg meet up. Frankly, I’d rather my son come home with this pamphlet to start the conversation rather than have to field questions about ED or, thanks to those yogurt commercials, “Hey, mom, what’s a prostitute?”

  17. Zach
    May 25, 2011 12:54 pm

    More or less what red pen mama said.

    I think schools absolutely have a responsibility to cover the health and science aspects. Look, it’s going to be crazy awkward no matter where it comes from, but I remember it being less awkward coming from a stranger, if that makes sense. Further, even though health class was always full of giggles and tons of vagina jokes, the information stuck with me.

    As far as when to have sex, or what it “means”, that should be a parent’s responsibility.

  18. bucdaddy
    May 25, 2011 1:11 pm

    The PG could replace Cat with Dan Savage and solve two problems.

  19. mamabear
    May 25, 2011 1:12 pm

    Well said Red Pen Mama.

  20. Rebecca
    May 25, 2011 1:33 pm

    First, my son got that same pamphlet last week at his “puberty lesson,” for lack of a better term. And i don’t see anything wrong with it. Erections and wet dreams happen to a lot of boys around this age and I believe they need to know what it is so they aren’t freaked out. I believe all of us women have heard stories about girls who got their period before they knew what it was and how freaked out they were. Granted that’s a little grosser than woodies and wet dreams but it’s the same principle.

    That said, I do agree that it should be up to the parents to review the material that is presented to their children on such a sensitive subject. My son’s talk was last week and our school district sent home a paper well beforehand informing us of the date and advising us who to talk to if we had any questions or would like to review the materials. And I did call and ask questions.

    This brings up a number of questions…did the school not inform the parents that the puberty talk was coming up? Did they not provide a contact for the parents to ask questions (even if they didn’t, a parent who is concerned about what their children will be seeing, needs to be proactive and call and ask who they can talk to)? And how can the mom be sure the kid didn’t receive a form and lose it and then never mention it to the mom? Because my son is notorious for not giving me important papers.

    Just some thoughts I had on the issue… if anyone wanted to know. :)

  21. Cassie
    May 25, 2011 1:50 pm

    Kids are having sex earlier and earlier these days. I think part of it is the lack of parenting and open discussions with their kids. Parents are relying too heavily on teachers to educate their kids.

    Is this pamphlet bad? No. Should the parents have been forewarned? Yes. But, kids need to know. They deserve to know what’s happening to their bodies. Honesty is good.

    I’d love to hear someone say that a kid is going to go out and have sex just because they read a pamphlet. I need a good chuckle.

  22. Shibori
    May 25, 2011 2:02 pm

    Heh. When I was in Catholic grade school, the girls got the old-school slideshow (advance to the next frame at the beep) from 1950, along with the “You’re becoming a woman” pamphlet that had coupons for belted pads and tampons on sticks, and a side note from the nuns that premarital sex would send you to hell. My sister, three years later, got a video of culturally diverse and differently abled people where a mom used pancake batter in a skillet to draw the uterus and fallopian tubes. The boys got to go to recess. Of course, with this commitment to providing good sex ed info (not)- it was no surprise that we had girls on their second pregnancy by 8th grade.

  23. Ann
    May 25, 2011 2:02 pm

    Waaaay back when I was in 5th grade (1967 or so), we were sent home with a sex ed permission slip and when our parents signed it, we were taught all of this stuff. The age for this pamphlet seems spot on to me.

  24. Sarah
    May 25, 2011 2:02 pm

    If not 10, then when? 12? 14? What if your child is ready to learn these things and has been carefully keeping his questions/concerns a secret from you out of embarrassment? What message are you sending a child if all his classmates learn about puberty and you tell him he can’t know about it until later?

    Treating puberty like any other aspect of “this is how our bodies work” is what takes some of the mystery and shame out of it. He’s going to hear things from classmates at school whether he’s “ready” or not. Better to hear actual facts from an actual adult. Hearing them a little early won’t warp him forever.

    I think in some cases it’s the parent who isn’t ready for their child to grow up more than children who aren’t ready to learn that their bodies are about to change.

  25. Shibori
    May 25, 2011 2:03 pm

    That said, I’m a big fan of giving good info, but also showing horrible STD pictures. Two birds, one stone.

  26. Jake
    May 25, 2011 2:13 pm

    Granted, I haven’t seen the entirely of this pamphlet (back in sixth grade our principal hauled us off to his ranch for “the talk” – I would have preferred a booklet), but it doesn’t seem to be giving any more information than “Your body is changing. This is how. Don’t panic.” So what’s the problem? A number of the class would already be experiencing these things anyway, and the rest aren’t far behind. It seems like generic health-related facts – it’s only scandalous because we’ve convinced ourselves that if we don’t cover the topic in just the right way and with enough seriousness then our little angels are going to grow up to be prostitutes. It’s all in your head, parents. The better approach is to actively discuss with your kid what they just learned and coach them through it (while instilling your family values) like you would math or history.

  27. Deanna
    May 25, 2011 2:22 pm

    This looks similar to the pamphlet we got in school. Our booklet was female-focused but had info on guys too. We got it in 4th grade and that was in 1994. I don’t think any of us were particularly damaged* but the school did send a newsletter home to tell parents what was going on and if they wanted their kid to abstain.

    *We were not damaged by the booklet. I WAS damaged by the video shown where the mom is instructing her daughters & friends in anatomy and pours pancake batter into the shape of a uterus on a griddle. FOR. REAL.

  28. PG Wodehouse
    May 25, 2011 2:38 pm

    I don’t see what the problem is. Wet Dream should be discussed in every grade school music class.

  29. Dan
    May 25, 2011 2:49 pm

    @Rebecca, I’d bet there was no permission slip or letter ot the parents – I attended Steel Valley and graduated in 2002 – When I was in 4th grade, they gave the boys one pamphlet and the girls another one – the gym teacher actually gave it to us then, and there was no mention of parents – we were told to talk to them about it if we had questions, and then the gym teacher proceeded to tell us we all stink and should ask our parents about deoderant too lol

  30. SpudMom
    May 25, 2011 3:02 pm

    I don’t see anything wrong with this at all. It’s factual, uses appropriate terms and language, and is coming to the kids at the appropriate age.

    It’s FAR better than I ever got.

  31. SpudMom
    May 25, 2011 3:04 pm

    Oh and let me say that I was prepared to answer the “where do babies come from” question when my son was 3 and I was pregnant with his brother. The question never came but I was prepared if it did with age appropriate answers. I think this pamphlet is age appropriate for 10-11 year olds.

  32. Anastasia
    May 25, 2011 3:06 pm

    Our perspective is that human sexuality is a gift. It’s not just biology or a conversation that should be reduced to lists of ‘facts.’ Children should definitely hear about it from adults, I agree entirely. But those adults should be connected to a child’s family in some way other than employed by the local school district, ideally. The scary-mystery part is easy to deal with: “This is what your body does when it’s healthy.” The beautiful-mystery part is much more complicated, (i.e. “You are precious, and here’s why . . .”). As far as I can tell, even if typical gym/health teachers can handle the first, there’s no way they are equipped for the latter. It’s complicated. But there is no excuse for parents to not have been given advanced notice. And for those w/o kids . . . believe me. The difference between a 4th/5th grade 10 year old and a 6th/7th grade 12 year old can only be measured in light years.

  33. PittinDC
    May 25, 2011 3:26 pm

    Lots of parents won’t talk to their kids about this stuff, so I think that it is good that the school provides them with some information. The information seems entirely age appropriate. Also, when I was in 5th grade (and then again in 6th grade, because I went from Catholic school to public school so I was lucky enough to go twice), we went to Wonders of Wonders at the Science Center where they taught us all of this stuff and then some – talked about reproduction, how babies are made, how the genetics works to get a boy or a girl, etc. We were able to handle it, so I don’t know why a 5th grader today wouldn’t be able to handle it.

  34. JennyMoon
    May 25, 2011 3:40 pm

    It’s twig and giggleberries in our house and since no one allows me to go to the bathroom alone, my children are learning all kinds of stuff early.

  35. Lisa
    May 25, 2011 4:09 pm

    A few thoughts:
    1. Not every parent out there is as conscientious as you are. A lot of them won’t discuss sex with their kids. A school’s job is to educate every child who walks through the door, especially those whose parents don’t/won’t do it.
    2. Back in 1980, I got the school “meeting” when I was in 4th grade. I’m surprised they wait until 5th grade now.
    3. Kids are entering puberty earlier and earlier now, so you can’t wait too long to discuss these things.
    4. You can’t really decide when your child is ready to learn about sex. Today they’ll learn about it from other kids, from movies, and from the internet whether they’re “ready” or not.

  36. Al Lambrini
    May 25, 2011 4:49 pm

    I received the EXACT same info in 6th grade over 30 years ago in the “Wonder of Wonders” program assembly down at the Buhl planetarium . What’s the big deal? If this is too much for you I would humbly suggest sending them to church school or a madrassa or something like that

  37. Shibori
    May 25, 2011 5:20 pm

    @ Deanna- That had to be the same video I mentioned. I think there was a girl in a wheelchair at some point, but I can still picture the pancake uterus.

  38. cheryl
    May 25, 2011 7:42 pm

    Sadly, since the average age kids start having sex is 12, this is a necessary evil. Why can’t they learn it on the streets like we did? (not really laughing …..) Ask a middle school bus driver what the kids talk about…..

  39. Rebecca
    May 25, 2011 8:00 pm

    @Dan…thank you for the info…that answers a lot of my questions. But in the event that they did pass out that literature without making the parents aware, it seems like that is what the mother should be trying to change. What difference does it make if they change the literature they pass out if they still aren’t going to alert the parents that they will be distributing it?

  40. Kristin
    May 25, 2011 8:03 pm

    A friend of mine’s 6th grader was offered a bj by a girl in his class. She new exactly what it is, as she had given them to a few of his friends. Luckily, he told his mom and she was able to address it. 5th grade is not too soon (in fact, it may be a little late) for this type of frank sex discussion. Kids are sexually active a lot younger now. If the parents don’t think their 10- and 11-year-old kids are talking about this stuff with each other, and likely sharing inaccurate information, then they’re deluding themselves.

  41. SpudMom
    May 25, 2011 8:22 pm

    One other little factoid: Girls can begin menses anytime after the age of 10 or by the time they reach 100 lbs. My sister has two girls and she sat her eldest down at the age of 9 and gave her the rundown on things.

  42. YinzerInExile
    May 25, 2011 8:37 pm

    I don’t get what the problem is . . . ? I mean, it’s not like 10-11 year old boys *don’t know* that the willy gets hard. So the snippets, at least, that you’ve shared don’t give the kids (or their bits) any new ideas, they just give information on *why* these ‘strange” things are happening. And personally, I don’t think anyone, even a parent, really has much of a right to keep another person in the dark about their own body.

    A kid who’s getting an erection is obviously ready to have that explained to them. It’s a biological function, which they are experiencing. To say otherwise is tantamount to saying that you, as a parent, aren’t ready to explain it or to deal with your kid growing up. Tough luck: you’ve been upstaged by biology. Parents control many things, but they cannot control their kids biological functions. It IS their responsibility, however, to deal with them.

  43. Sam's Dog
    May 25, 2011 10:02 pm

    @ 25 shibori, actually I think that’s 2 stones and a stick. And despite such a juvenile response, could we please refrain from divulging what year we were in any particular grade? I feel old enough already. Thanks.

  44. Recent Pitt Grad
    May 26, 2011 2:41 am

    Haha! So happy to see others mention the pancake video. While I remember the uterus pancake, what really stuck with me was when the girl asked the mother how much blood typically comes in one cycle. And the mom replied, whilst holding up a pyrex cup filled with batter, “about half a cup!” I couldn’t eat pancakes for about a year.

  45. Tam
    May 26, 2011 7:51 am

    Hey Gin – this is the exact pamphlet that Norwin gives its 5th grade boys. So be prepared. Or it did until that story hit. And we didn’t get to preview it. When he brought it home i was all “Ooh let me see your booklet – you had the TALK” My teeth almost fell out as my jaw hit the floor. It’s a bit much – and really more than they hit the girls with IMO.

  46. Peg
    May 26, 2011 9:42 am

    This seems, to me, to be age appropriate and factual. Exactly the information that I would want my son to have. Is there corresponding information for girls?

  47. bucdaddy
    May 26, 2011 10:43 am

    Because if the parents were given advance notice, a few of them, or even one, would have raised enough hell and threatened lawsuits and all that nonsense to where the school district would have said, “The hell with it,” and the kids wouldn’t learn anything.

    Easier to ask forgiveness than permission.

  48. Kathy
    May 26, 2011 11:18 am

    I think this is perfectly age appropriate. I have children that are in their early teen years and I am happy to see that the schools are passing out information that discusses these functions in a very factual way. I have always been open and frank with my kids about their bodies and human sexuality. I am proud to say that they are now not afraid to come to me and ask questions. They know that I will tell them the truth in a safe environment and they do not have to be embarrassed. I would much rather have them comfortable with their bodies and sexuality than afraid to come to me with questions and learn things the hard way.

  49. Kathy
    May 26, 2011 11:34 am

    i think it’s very important but agree with the need for advanced notice. my stepson just came to live with us (17) and we were watching an officer and a gentleman. during the scene where he’s grilling her about her period, stepson says, “what does that mean? why is it such a big deal about the period?” he’d gone to school in Utah and didn’t have SO much information. but he’s watching porn on the computer.

    I’d rather he was sat down and explained everything – and here’s a second on graphic STD pics – so he’s prepared and not a babydaddy when he’s a baby.

    in 7th grade I was in silicon valley and new micro cameras were the in thing. I watched an ejaculation from “up the chute” AND got to watch the graphic birth video. I’m willing to bet a majority of the girls in our class made it through high school without a baby!

  50. Steverino
    May 26, 2011 11:47 am

    These should have been distributed when I was that age. It’s just basic information that every kid should know early. I had to learn it in the cul-de-sac.