XV SEX EDUCATION FOR BOYS AND THE SUNDAY SCHOOL
There can be no adequate comprehension of the physical side of boyhood if the sex element be left out. In fact, we have discovered for ourselves that this is the very element that constitutes the real problem of boyhood; for until the idea of sex enters into the boy's consciousness we are only dealing with an infant. It is the gift and power of self-reproduction that changes the selfish, individual existence into the larger, altruistic life. It is this that compels gangs and team-work and the instinctive desire to negate self in service for others. It is this that forms the basis for the tribal or community desire; and on it, understood or not, is built all further achievement. The real value of a brave to his tribe begins with the support of his squaw, and the modern boy gets his importance among us, when, because of bodily function, he awakens to the consciousness of the meaning of the home. This comes gradually at puberty or adolescence with the knowledge of the sex purpose. And it is the quality of this knowledge, its purity and fear and regard, that makes the lad a worthy member of the larger whole, or a peril.
Knowing this as we do, is it not a matter of some wonder that we have never really made any systematic effort to instruct the boy concerning his wonderful power? Very few fathers give their sons any guidance along this line, although they do so quite freely on every other subject. Of course, it is a sacred, delicate subject from which we naturally shrink, but it is overmodesty to allow a lad to fall into the abuse of his manhood, either alone or in twos, when a wise word, spoken in time, would save the smirch on two lives or more. In fact, we are beginning really to understand that it is just as imperative for us to teach a boy how to live his life with the utmost happiness as to show him how to procure the wherewithal to feed his body. For this reason it is being advocated today that the boy should be given explicit instruction as to the care of the organs of reproduction and detailed information as to the functions of these organs, and many are doing this.
Our boys today are eating freely of "the knowledge of good and evil," and they are not as innocent as we could wish them to be. They are not ignorant of the processes of life because we have said nothing concerning them, but their knowledge is partial and faulty and clouded with misinformation.
A few years ago a body of men were discussing this very thing in New York City, and one of them suggested that every one present write on a piece of paper the age at which he had his first sex knowledge and pass it to the head of the table. The average age named by this group of interested men was six and a half years. Not one of these men, either, had ever had a single word spoken to him on this all-important subject by any adult. Their knowledge was of the street. Is it any wonder, then, that boys stray, mar their own lives, betray confidences and innocence and become moral lepers, feeding like parasites on the fairest of our communities?
Instruction in the processes of the function of reproduction would help many a boy to a clean participation in and a happy understanding of the home. The divorce evil and the necessity of a large number of surgical operations among women, to say nothing of the so-called social evil, would be greatly lessened by such instruction. The father, of course, is the proper person to deal with this question.
=Parents and the Sex Problem=
When parents understand sex influence they will more than half meet the problems of the teen age. To rightly instruct along sex lines and so prepare boys and girls to meet the teen period is almost completely to meet the teen problem.
Social and economic changes have moved this generation a full hundred years ahead of our fathers. The change, however, has a moral menace in it, for the slow but sure ways of the old-fashioned home with its genuinely moral atmosphere have nearly slipped us. Today boys and girls are herded together by the compulsion of the times and moral ideas are in danger of being warped and twisted. Everything about us today is more complex than formerly, and the more complex things become the more we herd together. Mass life is common and growing—in education, in the schools and in play life, in the big public playgrounds. Religious activity, in spite of the group tendency toward the small group, is still in the mass—Christian Endeavor, Sunday school groupings, etc. With the growing assumption of week-day activities on the part of the church, the moral peril increases.
To offset this increasing social danger sex instruction is an insistent necessity. Boys and girls must be taught to see themselves as members of society with all that that implies. To do so means a knowledge of self and sex and their functions and responsibilities. The sources and processes of life must be intelligently understood and thus respected. Ignorance of life does not beget purity, respect and honor. A boy's regard for a girl cannot proceed from lack of knowledge, although this lack may be termed innocence. A girl's love for the best for self and others is impossible unless she has knowledge tinged with the awe of God's purposes. Too often have our boys and girls been merely innocent, such innocence causing their fall. The tree of knowledge sometimes demands a high price for its fruit. To safeguard lives unblighted, the purity and processes of life's mystery must be imparted through instruction to our growing youth.
This can best be done by the parents—father or mother—for since children (boys or girls) ripen and come to puberty, individually and independently, the parent is God's choice for this task. To group boys and girls together for this instruction is terribly wrong, as the group must contain those whose need for information varies. To talk on these matters in mixed groups of boys and girls is to incite wrong impulses and is criminal. The parent is God's instructor in these things—a father to the son and a mother to the daughter. Anything else is second or third best and only to be done under great necessity. Under unusual conditions a Christian physician may instruct small groups of like physiological age, but the parental way is best, because it is both natural and permanent and we seek both.
=Sunday School and Sex=
Parents must be trained for this high duty. To this end Fathers' and Mothers' Meetings should be promoted separately by the Sunday school. Not one merely but a series, so that every father and mother may be able to attend. It wouIt is necessary to keep in mind the stage of development of the boy. It certainly would be foolish to tell a lad of eight years the facts that should be given to a sixteen-year-old. Great tact and intelligence, coupled with a knowledge of the stages of physical growth that a boy is passing through, are necessary.
A boy of under twelve years should be approached biologically: the sex element in nature study should be gradually disclosed to him. In this period, when the spirit of curiosity is strong in the boy and he is continually asking questions on the mystery of life—for instance, how the stork or the doctor can bring the little brother or sister—it is the best thing to answer the question with just enough truthful information to satisfy. Great harm may be done by piling the mind of the child with facts that cannot but be misunderstood. In the enthusiasm for doing things right, there must be a guard against going too far.
The second stage of a boy's physical development, the early adolescent stage—twelve to fifteen years—is the physiological. Puberty marks its advent, although the exact sign of its arrival is hard to determine. It has been easy to discover it in a girl's life, but it still remains a matter of some guessing in a boy. A recent work of Dr. Crompton states that the kinking of the hair upon the pubic bone is a sure sign of the beginning of the period. Some physical directors have found this a satisfactory sign, and have made this the basis of a graded work with boys. It is in this period, then, that the boy should learn something of the anatomy and physiology of the male sexual organs.
The third stage of sex instruction for boys is during the later adolescent period—at least over fifteen years—and this should be pathological. A free discussion of the so-called social evil and the forms of venereal disease would certainly educate the boys to a proper conception of the entire subject. All questions should be discussed in ordinary language and business-like style.
=Sources of Knowledge for Sex Instruction=
1. THE BIOLOGICAL PERIOD (UNDER TWELVE YEARS).
—A Frank Talk with Boys and Girls About Their Birth (Free).
—A Straight Talk with Boys About Their Birth and Early Boyhood (Free).
Chapman.—How Shall I Tell My Child? (.25).
Muncie.—Four Epochs of Life (Chapters 7-12) ([USD]1.50).
Thresher.—Story of Life for Little Children (Free).
—When and How to Tell Children. (Oregon State Board of Health.)
2. THE PHYSIOLOGICAL PERIOD (TWELVE TO FIFTEEN YEARS).
Hall.—From Youth Into Manhood (.50).
How My Uncle, the Doctor, Instructed Me in Matters of Sex (.10).
—The Secret of Strength (Social Hygiene Society of Portland, Oregon) (Free).
—Virility and Physical Development (Social Hygiene Society of Portland, Oregon) (Free).
—Address the Secretary of the Social Hygiene Society, 311 Young Men's Christian Association Building, Portland, Oregon.
3. THE PATHOLOGICAL PERIOD (OVER FIFTEEN YEARS).
Educational Pamphlets, Nos.1 and 6 (American Society of Sanitary and Moral Prophylaxis) (.10 each).
—Four Sex Lies (Oregon State Board of Health) (Free).
Hall.—From Youth Into Manhood (Chapter on Sexual Hygiene) (.50).
Health and the Hygiene of Sex (.10).
The Young Man's Problem (.10).
=A Word of Caution=
Let it be repeated that sex instruction should be undertaken with great tact and thoughtfulness. The one who gives the instruction—whether parent or teacher—should post himself thoroughly and he should be practical, go slow, not forcing the lad's development by unnecessary knowledge, avoiding gush and sentiment. He should not seek confession or allow the boy to confess to him, for confession will raise a barrier between the two later on; he should help the boy without invading the lad's innermost life, his soul; he should learn that there are recesses in the boy's self that are his own and that bear no invasion, and he should respect this right of privacy.
BIBLIOGRAPHY ON SEX
Alexander, Editor.—Sunday School and the Teens. (Chapter 14.) This is the official utterance of the Commission on Adolescence, authorized by the International Sunday School Association in convention at San Francisco, and contains a complete, classified bibliography. ([USD]1.00.)
American Youth (April, 1913. This entire magazine number deals with Sex Education) (.20).