A little over a hundred years ago, John Harvey Kellogg, a physician, claimed the moral authority to instruct parents on the proper sexual education of their children. If you're unfamiliar with the writing of Kellogg and others of his day, their gloating disdain for basic human eroticism is chilling and unmistakable. In his best-selling Plain Facts for Old and Young (written on his sexless honeymoon in 1888), Kellogg offers parents guidance for dealing with their sons' natural erotic self-exploration in a section entitled Treatment for Self-Abuse and its Effects. "A remedy which is almost always successful in small boys," he writes, "is circumcision." He stipulates that, "The operation should be performed by a surgeon without administering an anaesthetic, as the brief pain attending the operation will have a salutary effect upon the mind, especially if it be connected with the idea of punishment...."

If circumcising your struggling, terrified son without anesthesia wasn't quite what a parent had in mind, Kellogg recommended "the application of one or more silver sutures in such a way as to prevent erection. The prepuce, or foreskin, is drawn forward over the glans, and the needle to which the wire is attached is passed through from one side to the other. After drawing the wire through, the ends are twisted together, and cut off close. It is now impossible for an erection to occur...." Parents were assured that sewing their son's penis into its foreskin, "acts as a most powerful means of overcoming the disposition to resort to the practice [of masturbation]."

No doubt.

Lest you think Kellogg was interested only in the severe, sadistic torture of boys, in the same book he soberly advises the application of carbolic acid to the clitoris of little girls to teach them not to touch themselves. Kellogg and his like-minded contemporaries demonstrate that sexual repression is a "malady that considers itself the remedy," to paraphrase Karl Kraus' dismissal of psychoanalysis.

Shocking, no? Barbaric. Unthinkably cruel.

Yes, but don't kid yourself. While American moralists aren't sewing boys' foreskins closed or pouring acid into the vaginas of little girls who dare to touch themselves, they continue to destroy the lives of children caught in the most innocent acts of sexual exploration. By labeling these kids "sexual offenders," the long-standing tradition of sacrificing innocents in the name of erotic hypocrisy continues:

"It takes so little for this happen to a child. A girl in school has oral sex with a boy in school. She becomes a sex offender for the rest of her life. Streaking a school event, as a practical joke, becomes a sex crime in the new America. Two kids 'moon' a passerby and are incarcerated in jail as sex offenders."

The quoted passage above, and the heart-breaking photos can be found here):

In 2003, 17 year-old honor-student and homecoming king Genarlow Wilson was caught having consensual oral sex with his girlfriend, who had not yet turned 16. He was convicted of aggravated child molestation, sentenced to a minimum of ten years in a Georgia prison, and forced to register as a sex offender for life. If Wilson and his girlfriend had just had good old-fashioned intercourse, as opposed to oral sex, their "crime" would have been a misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum of a year in prison and no sex offender status.

The previous year, Todd Senters videotaped consensual sex with his girlfriend, who was over the age of consent. No problem, right? Wrong. According to Nebraska state law, although the sex itself was perfectly legal, taping it constituted "manufacturing child pornography." The 17 year-old was legally permitted to have sex, but images of her doing so are illegal. Go figure.

Adolescents all over the country are getting into serious legal trouble for sexting one another: snapping a risqué photo of themselves with their cell-phone and sending it to a friend. Turns out, in many states, these kids can be sent to prison (where sexual abuse is rampant) for photographing their own bodies (manufacturing child pornography) and sharing the photos (distributing child pornography). They're being forced to register as sex offenders despite the fact that they themselves are the victims.

Being freaked-out about sex isn't just sad and ridiculous. It leads directly to horrible abuse of people who aren't responsible for the twisted sexuality of adults.

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For a thorough look at this issue from an international perspective, go here.

About the Author

Christopher Ryan

Christopher Ryan, Ph.D., is the co-author of Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality.

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