Religion and SpiritualityScience & Nature

New Book Series! Sex Ed with James Dobson

I’ve mentioned before that I grew up in a fundamentalist lite Christian sect, so as one might expect, my sex education was a little lacking.  I had a picture book aimed at seven year olds called Where did  I come from  and a body atlas that I pored over the lower abdominal pages of.  The only real sex ed book, for certain values of realness, that I had was James Dobson’s Preparing for Adolescence: Straight Talk to Teens and Parents.  Like the good evangelical Christian I was, I will now share, in excruciating detail, my lack of sex education with you!  Enthusiastically! Yes, my darling and indefatigable readers, I have in my possession the exact 1978 edition of Dobson’s  guide to adolescence that I had!



Reading the back blurb, I discover that Dr James Dobson is one of America’s leading Christian Psychologists and that “He becomes a very special confidant; his insight, concern, and sincerity quickly win the respect and friendship of his readers.” As for what’s in the book, we will have

THE CANYONS OF INFERIORITY-How to avoid feelings of inferiority…and develop self-confidence.

CONFORMITY IN ADOLESCENCE-How to handle group pressure…the dangers of drug abuse and alcoholism.

EXPLANATION OF PUBERTY-Physical changes…sexual development…menstruation…masturbation…fear of abnormality.

THE MEANING OF LOVE-The ten most common misconceptions about romantic love.

THE SEARCH FOR IDENTITY–Making sound decisions…dealing with feelings…overcoming discouragement…handling independance.

I can assure you from experience reading countless Church of Christ publications that abusing ellipses is just a stylistic thing.  I do not know why.  However, in order to avoid ambiguity, I am going to promise right now that whenever I provide quotations from the text, any ellipses are me quoting verbatim; I will not use them to indicate a departure from the exact text.

Be excited!  We are about to get straightly talked to by Dobson!  Except the book actually opens with a message to our parents rather than bothering to talk to us (wins the friendship of his readers, the blurb said.).  However, since this message is not written in any sort of specially encrypted parent glyphs, I read it.  Dobson invites our parents to reminisce about how horrible adolescence is for a while:

The self-doubt and feelings of inferiority which seemed unbearable at times.  And of course, we recall the emotional vulnerability to practically everything through adolescence…vulnerability to failure, to ridicule, to embarrassment, to parental attitudes, and especially to any form of rejection by members of the opposite sex. [heteronormativity alert!]

And then Dobson quotes himself stating “the primary reason adolescence is so distressing is because youngsters do not fully understand what is happening to them. Many of their fears and anxieties and discouragements could be obviated by a simple instructional program.”

Maybe youngster was a less condescending term in 1978.  Beyond that, I actually kind of agree with this.  I don’t agree that ignorance is the primary reason, because sweeping generalizations are sweeping, but the proposal to stop awfulness is education!  I’m going to call that a win and completely ignore Dobson’s disinclination to acknowledge any problems not beginning and ending with feelings and inept heterosexual relationships and belief in a simple and quick fix which, surprise, he is providing.  For a fee, of course.

Besides, I have to rhapsodize about the fact that he is shamelessly plugging purchase of the book on six cassette tapes.  Just the cassette tape aspect, the plugging I don’t care about, think about the cassette tapes! This book is 190 pages and it took 6 cassette tapes to hold that (unless he is being all materialistic and using more cassettes than is strictly necessary in order to increase the price).  I have a device smaller than a cassette without moving parts that effortlessly holds, at the moment, two books, some podcast episodes, and a thousand odd songs.  Storage technology, progress of, is amazing.

We end with a (sport that Americans call) football analogy.  How relatable and/or down-to-earth of Dr. Dobson!  Parents are compared to coaches who have spent years teaching their players the fundamentals.  The players “rehearsed the proper spiritual attitudes and moral values and they worked especially hard at building self-confidence.”  I have never played or cared about (that sport that Americans call) football so I’m going to need someone to tell me if spiritual attitudes, moral values, and self-confidence are common at practices for such a sport.  No matter, we’re at the end of the message, and our parents are told that before adolescence is their Very Last Opportunity to coach their children and they may never get another chance at teaching so had better do a really good job.  As Dr. Dobson says, without giving any examples, results of children unprepared for adolescence are often disastrous.  The vagueness, it is threatening.

But that’s all right, next chapter we (and I mean we the preparers for adolescence, since Dobson will finally talk to us rather than our parents ) will learn about self-esteem!  I feel better about myself already.

Featured image is Waterhouse’s Decameron

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Elizabeth is a professional belly dancer, a flaky computer scientist, and a returned Peace Corps volunteer. She lives in Georgia (the state of the U.S., not the country) but is nonetheless somehow not a combination of stereotypes from Gone with the Wind and Deliverance. Her personal blog is Coffeefied. Operafied. Fluffified. Beglittered.

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