England Supports Parents as Sex Educators

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Just in time for my visit this week, the English government has issued a recommendation via its National Health Service website encouraging parents to use the right words for genitalia with their young children.

According the NHS, “Parents have told us they are keen to back up the learning that children get in school” about “growing up, puberty, sexual health and relationships,” but aren’t sure what to say. Apparently parents are afraid that words like ‘penis’ and ‘vulva’ are “sexual” and therefore off-putting to kids, but the NHS assures them that kids can learn that they’re as normal as ‘hand’ or ‘leg.’

Great. Imagine our government encouraging parents to say ‘penis’ or ‘vulva’ instead of pee-pee, woo-woo, or vijayjay.

I’m reminded of the time ten years ago when Bill O’Reilly attacked the Reverend Debra Haffner on his show for suggesting that kids could handle the word ‘uterus.’ Clearly angry and upset, prissy little Bill said that the magic word “robbed children of their innocence.” Well, Bill is gone, and my friend Debra leads a UU congregation in Reston, Virginia.

I confess to learning something in reading the NHS article this morning on the train from Canterbury to Oxford (ahem). It listed ‘front bottom’ as one of the euphemisms parents didn’t need to use. Never having heard of it, I went to Urban Dictionary, which informed me it was slang for vagina. I really must get out more.

As an interesting aside, there’s an American band with the trademarked name The Front Bottoms. Given the government’s ability (actually responsibility) to refuse to trademark names that are offensive, lascivious, etc., one wonders if the government knew what the word meant when the trademarked it for the band.

This gives new resonance to that old saying about England and the U.S.—two countries divided by a common language.


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