Thursday, September 08, 2005

Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders, Still Speaking Out

She still sounds feisty as ever. Jocelyn Elders, who was Surgeon General under President Bill Clinton, you might remember, had to leave her job suddenly after she suggested that sex-ed classes should teach kids how to masturbate.

Well, she hasn't backed down from that, and she's got a lot of important things to say. USA Today reports this morning on a talk she gave:
Former U.S. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders said yesterday that HIV/AIDS is a "major crisis" in the African-American community and insisted that it's going to take more than abstinence programs to educate children.

Elders told about 60 people at Meharry Medical College that of the 40,000 new cases of HIV last year, 52% involved African-Americans, though blacks make up about 12% of the population. Of the new cases, half involved people under the age of 25.

HIV, which is primarily a sexually transmitted disease, deteriorates the body's immune system, progressively destroying the body's ability to fight infections and certain cancers.

"We teach our young people what to do in the front seat, but we need to start teaching them what to do in the back seat," she said at Meharry Medical College yesterday as part of a program sponsored by the Urban League Young Professionals of Middle Tennessee. "The vows of abstinence break far more easily than a condom."

Elders, who is professor emeritus at the University of Arkansas Medical College, was forced to resign the Surgeon General's post in 1994 after suggesting that masturbation should be taught as part of schools' sex education programs. She defends her views on masturbation to this day.

"Masturbation has never given anyone a disease," Elders said. "And you know you're having sex with someone you love." Abstinence can't be only defense against HIV/AIDS, Elders says

It is often said that eighty-five per cent of the population masturbates, and fifteen per cent lie about it. But heaven forbid that anyone should say anything in public about it! Never mind an authority on the subject. Oh well, it is just weird the stuff that people decide to get upset about, isn't it?
Elders was appointed by President Clinton in 1993, and became the first black Surgeon General.

She appeared at Meharry for the Urban League's National Day of Service.

"While some of her methods may not be mainstream, she definitely has a voice when it comes to eradicating the disease," said Paula Roberts, president of the ULYP of middle Tennessee. "It's a scary disease. We are trying to minimize the fear."

Elders said the best way to prevent the disease is for people to talk about it, whether it be at church, work or school.

"AIDS is a very nondiscriminatory disease. There's no cure and no vaccine. The only thing we have is education," she said.

Yes, education ... and that's why we're here. We don't think the schools have to teach students to masturbate, but they do need to learn about sex and how things work, objectively, coolly, correctly, thoroughly.

They need to know how AIDS is spread, and yes that's going to mean they will hear the term "anal sex." It may be more than you hear in a nice intermission conversation in the lobby of the Kennedy Center, but, well, at least it's not the gross stuff the CRC loves to talk about at school board meetings.

Some people in our society like to suggest that you get AIDS by being gay. But of course straight people get AIDS, too. Dr. Elders is stressing the impact of AIDS on the black population, and it is clearly serious. Some people blame AIDS victims for having unprotected sex. Those same people are often the ones who don't believe that schools should teach students how to have safe sex. It doesn't make sense to me. Let's teach our kids how AIDS and other diseases are transmitted, and let's teach them, step by step, how to minimize their chances of catching something.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Exactly, Jim. While it is of course true that you can't get HIV simply by being gay, it is true that certain sexual practices common in the gay male population run a higher risk than vaginal intercourse when unprotected. The best solution, then, is to teach more clearly about the realities of sex -- not only the risks, as Ruth Jacobs rightly emphasizes, but also how to minimize those risks in responsible ways. The solution is not to try to scare kids into believing that it's wrong to be attracted to people of their own gender. We will never solve the problem of STIs by stigmatizing a minority population in our community. We will come closest to solving it by talking openly and encouraging kids to ask questions and discuss their fears.

September 08, 2005 3:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"And you know you're having sex with someone you love."

Good least she could give credit to the person that minted this quote, Director and Actor Woody Allen.

Masturbation as might be alot of things, but it is not love.

Orin Ryssman
Fort Collins, CO

BTW: The latest issue of Citizen, a publication of Focus on the Family, as an article on your favorite foe, Michelle Turner. Curious sideline to the article is the fact that they omit mention of her religious affiliation as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day know, those Mormons.

I checked and the article is not yet available, so if you want to email me a snail mail address, I might just plop a copy in the mail...

September 09, 2005 4:50 AM  
Blogger JimK said...

Thanks for the heads up, Orin, we'll watch for the story. I'm sure it will have something quotable in it.

I grew up in the Southwest and have had very many Mormon friends, but not everyone out here in the East fully appreciates the distinction between LDS and other religions. I think I did write something on the blog once about the tension between Mormons and the Christian Right, but in general "out here" people don't make much of a distinction.

And as for your views on masturbation,uh, ok, so counting you it will add up to more than a hundred percent, I guess.


September 11, 2005 11:22 AM  

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