Monday, August 17, 2015

John Oliver tackles a subject that can be critical to the future health of society: sex education


"The sad thing is, sex ed when done well can do so much good. But when it's done badly, it can do real harm."
-- John Oliver, in the Last Week Tonight segment "Sex Ed"

Johnny Stanton's story: "For me it all started when I went bowling with Judy today. I should have known something was different as soon as she got a strike. She's usually such a rotten bowler."

by Ken

What Judy revealed, as Johnny bowled on in that resurrected nugget of Sex Ed Past, was that "got her first period today!" Well, no wonder she was suddenly transformed into the Terror of the Lanes. If young Johnny looks familiar, by the way, it's not, as I thought fleetingly, a young Sylvester Stallone.

It's somebody much better!

Yes, it's Breaking Bad's and Better Call Saul's Jonathan Banks!

Yes, I know this clip isn't from last night's, but from last week's, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, but in the ensuing week it hasn't become any less spectacular, or less important. And while in some places sex education has improved since the days of Johnny and Judy, in a lot of places it's gotten worse. Old-fashioned American obtuseness and sex-averseness has in much of the country given way to right-wing cretinism and outright insanity. As our Noah was just pointing out, in his post "A Star Is Born: Christopher Hucko -- Republican Candidate #18?": "Repugs view matters of sex and sexuality differently from normal people."

"Kids have good questions that need good answers," says John.

"To which the answers are: It's engorged with blood; yes; and can you at least wait until the end of class?"

"There is no required standard for sex ed in this country," John points out. "In fact, only 22 states mandate that kids receive it."

"And only 13 require that the information presented be medically accurate."

As always with Last Week Tonight, there's a huge amount of entertainment in the "Sex Ed" piece, along with a good measure of deeply serious content.

"Abstinence is a healthy choice that many teens will make --"

"either by choice or, as I can attest, by circumstance."

"But it should not be the only thing we teach. And not just because many studies question its efficacy." The reality is that most people are going to have multiple partners.

"And the average age at which people begin having sex is around 17. So just saying 'Don't do it' is not practical."


"This idea that sex is something which devalues those who have it," says John, "particularly women, crops up again and again."
JOHN: Non-virgins can be likened to a used toothbrush or a chewed-up piece of gum. And then there is this video, in which a non-virgin on her wedding night is compared to a dirty shoe.

GUY [holidng up ratty pair of sneakers]: Michelle, what are these?
MICHELLE [sheepishly]: Uh, sneakers?
GUY: Michelle, what is this? They look like the entire football team has been in these things.
MICHELLE: I made 'em all wear socks.
HUSBAND: Socks? Michelle, socks don't protect my heart. You can still get foot fungus with socks.
MICHELLE: I wish I could go back in time [turning to face camera] and make a commitment to being abstinent until marriage.
"That is heartbreaking," says John. "And not just because he's shaming his wife, but because [with air quotes] 'Michelle, socks don't protect my heart' might be the funniest line ever delivered on this show, and we didn't write it."

John points out how devastating this message can be to survivors of sexual assault. "Learning nothing would have been better than that." And, he says, "The sad thing is, sex ed when done well can do so much good. But when it's done badly, it can do real harm."

John looks at the whole issue of consent, about which studies show there's a good deal of ambiguity and confusion among younger people.
Sex is like boxing. If both people didn't fully agree to participate, one of them is committing a crime. And abstinence-heavy messages do not help this. They spend so much time on the importance of saying no, they can leave out what informed, enthusiastic consent looks like, or even worse, suggest that it's all one party's responsibility.
From here it's the tiniest step to the epidemic of sexual ugliness infecting our college campuses, for example.


. . . the clearly enthusiastic participation of Fred Armisen (voice only), Laverne Cox, Jack McBrayer, Megan Mullally, Kumail Nanjiani, Nick Offerman, Kristen Schaal, Aisha Tyler -- and of course the present-day Jonathan Banks. They all seemed to be enjoying themselves. I hope they're all proud of what they contributed. I hope everybody involved in producing this remarkable segment is proud of what they did.

The piece should be put on a DVD and played everywhere there are people in need of sane counsel on sex and sexuality, like schools -- and the Republican National Convention.


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