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Journal of social hygiene (Volume 28) online

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late desires unduly. From such contaminating sources the boy
should be free if he is to make the most satisfactory adjustment.
Many parents and educators interested in the welfare of young
people do not realize the audacity and nefariousness of those who
make their living by playing upon sexual interests through these
different media of expression.

In contradistinction to the well adjusted individuals is the second
group in which I have been interested. These include those who
have had difficulty in their personal and social adjustment to sex;
those who are obsessed with sex desires, who have found no way
of securing the help they have needed in their personal adjustment,
and those who are promiscuous in their sexual relationships, look-
ing upon sexual expression as a routine physical matter lacking
any social implications. In such individuals I believe I have been
able to isolate factors which are common either singly or in
combination. These factors include the following:

(1) Misinformation in most cases leads to sexual experimentation
and sexual relationships. Sexual promiscuity, at least in our
society, is I think nearly always the result of wrong information.
The discussions which often take place between ignorant youths
in groups of two or more is a potent form of miseducation. Very
few young men experience their first episode of pre-marital sex rela-
tions without having the means at hand for taking contraceptive pre-
cautions. To me this means that the man was fully aware of what
was coming. He had planned his course of action definitely enough
that he was prepared for what might eventuate. From my experi-
ence in working with boys I believe it possible in most cases to
distinguish a pattern of education and personal behavior trending
toward promiscuity before the course has actually been set.

(2) Lack of information often leads to an undue interest in sexual
matters. The individual is intrigued and fascinated with this
mysterious force about which everyone is so uncommunicative and
so furtive. Living in such an atmosphere for too long a time the
individual comes to emphasize sex out of all proportion to its


importance, and psychologically stores up a backlog of intense
curiosity and fascination, which in the course of ordinary circum-
stances is likely never to be wholly cleared away. This very
obsession is sometimes the thing, which in his efforts to satisfy
it, throws the individual into a course of promiscuity and sexual

(3) The influence of undesirable associates or the presence of stim-
ulating and exciting forces comprises the third factor which is
commonly found with individuals who follow a pattern of

It is this latter group, unfortunately, which patronizes the
institution of prostitution. 1 I have also taken two extreme groups
for consideration. In actuality there are many from the mass of
persons in between these two extremes who also support prostitu-
tion through their patronage. They are more likely to do it not as
a regular thing, but out of curiosity, and because the general
attitude toward such behavior is such as to condone, perhaps even
to urge them to such experimentation.

If we consider these and other examples of cause and effect
the nature of the social hygiene educational program required
becomes readily distinguishable, I believe. I would like to add
that the question sometimes raised as to whether we will provide
sex education for youth is wholly beside the point. The real
question is whether we can begin early enough to circumvent the
undesirable forces which miseducate, and provide an education of
a type which will later counteract the effects of this word-of -mouth,
back-alley kind of education. Any active, alert boy or girl who
gets around is certain to come in contact with this latter approach
to sex. .Few people realize how thorough, wide-spread, and in
many cases, well-organized this undesirable type of education is.

A sound social hygiene education program would embody four
points. First, it would provide adequate information early enough
to enable the individual to understand his own sexual development
and to accept it as a natural and normal phase of development.
This information should not be provided exclusively for the purpose
of deterring the individual from socially undesirable behavior
through building up fears. Even if it were advisable to pursue
this negative course, we know it will no longer work because
knowledge of how to counteract the indicated dangers is too
prevalent. Though, of course, youth usually over-estimates the
extent to which safeguards can actually operate. While I would
be realistic and point out dangers to the degree that they actually
exist I would also desire to give strong emphasis to the positive
contributions which sex, properly used, can make to complete
and satisfactory living.

i Of course not all sexual maladjustment is expressed by active patronage
of prostitution or promiscuity. Homosexuality, personal obsessions and fetishes
of various kinds also may become means of expression.


This points to the second main phase of a program with which
education should be concerned; the building of attitudes and a
philosophy of life which will support the kind of conduct which
society has found to be most advantageous to good social relations.
I have not the time to describe the attitudes which I believe should
be engendered. I would like to say this, however: I believe that
one's sex behavior is an expression of his philosophy of life. If
he believes strongly in the importance of respecting the rights of
others then this will influence his sexual behavior. Surely many
of the things done to satisfy sexual desires, particularly as these
satisfactions take their form in prostitution, are a negation of
everything that emphasizes personality values and respect for indi-
vidual rights. Therefore, when a home or a school can build good
character through the establishment of desirable attitudes and the
development of a sound life philosophy they have contributed that
much to the solution of this problem.

A third important phase would be an educational program rich in
challenges and opportunities for creative effort. If through such a
program individuals could be provided with a range of challenging
interests, and with abilities to carry forward these interests, whether
vocational or avocational, the problem would under normal conditions,
be much alleviated. I add this last qualification because the problem
of social protection in wartime is much complicated due to the dis-
ruption of the normal tenor of the individual 's life, and the resulting
feeling of frustration and insecurity. Such conditions will always
produce aberrations of behavior. However, even here the wider the
resources of the individual the more likely he is to find a way to
satisfy his psychological needs within the range of socially acceptable

I repeat that I am thinking of interests and the development of
abilities not as a means of sublimating sex so that sex interests or
sex desire are non-existent. But everyone is familiar with the indi-
vidual who gets into trouble with his sexual conduct, not because he
is vicious, but because he has nothing else to occupy his time.

Finally, if any kind of a program of social hygiene education is
to be carried forward it must be paralleled, if not preceded, by a pro-
gram of public education to make clear to parents, teachers, school
board members and the public in general what is involved and their
responsibilities in such a program. The present international emer-
gency offers an opportunity for consolidating forces and advancing
a social hygiene program which we have not had for a long time,
and which under the circumstances I pray we may not soon have
again. The pressure of national defense has revived the interest in
health needs and social hygiene, and pointed anew to the need for a
program designed to promote a better understanding among youth
of the problems of social protection and human relationships. I
believe that the situation is now such that we could promote a program
which would gain the support of the general public and begin to
accomplish something.


Now is the time to prepare for a long-time solution to this problem.
We fail to become concerned about prostitution until a time of crisis.
Then with no basis of previous education, a general lack of under-
standing of what is needed, and a set of attitudes already crystallized,
repression is about the only means available for meeting the situation.
I occasionally hear criticism of groups working at social protection
because their approach is too largely repressive. However, I doubt
it can be otherwise until an educational program has been in existence
for a long enough period to build the necessary concepts and attitudes
for a better approach.

I should like to propose that this conference take steps to promote
the formation of a social hygiene society in each of the states rep-
resented in this conference.* Such a society, if formed, should have
the support of people of influence and ability in the various states.
The various occupational and professional fields should be represented,
so that all groups may work together. I think such a society should
include a division of education designed to help the schools and the
educational forces to do something in the way of promoting a positive
program. Unless we do this we will perhaps continue to handle
the present defense situation after a fashion, only to find in later
years in another crisis that the actual problem is then as far from
any real solution as it is now.

* The Oklahoma Social Hygiene Association was organized at the Conference
mentioned, and has continued to carry on a state-wide social hygiene program.
Everett L. Curtis, 2418 N. W. Guernsey, is secretary. First county group to
organize was the Tulsa County Social Hygiene Association, whose secretary is
Dr. David V. Hudson, 108 West 6th Street, Tulsa.

is the title of the new folder announcing plans for

February 3, 1943

Free in quantity lots on request to

Social Hygiene Day Service

American Social Hygiene Association

1790 Broadway, New York, N. Y.


Social Hygiene Lecturers, Wisconsin State Board of Health

What makes a girl popular? Does your town have enough
places for good decent fun 1 Will you, when you are a mother,
answer your children's questions on sex? Can one tell by
looking at a person whether he has a sex disease?

Of forty-six Wisconsin towns and cities, totalling a popu-
lation of 237,861 communities ranging from a rural town
with as few as 346 souls to the fourth largest city in the
State with a population of 48,765 3,351 high school girls'
opinions merge into the picture produced by these and other
questions, and which we chose to call What She Thinks
About It.

Cautiously we call it what she thinks about it rather than
what she knows about it, for in that difference rests our
obligation to lead these third and fourth year high school
girls from some fallacious ideas and hazardous fads, to estab-
lished truths and reliable customs. Not that the hazardous
fads look hazardous to them, nor are they to all! Not that
adventure in risk and in the untried is not more thrilling
and thus more attractive than the tried and true !

But when, in Wisconsin, we find that leaving the choice
of place of fun, companion, hours of amusement, source of
sex information to chance, does not guarantee youth the
minimum of sex damage, we feel obligated to help them
develop better standards of selection. The recently disclosed
low rate of syphilis in Wisconsin selectees (Wisconsin rate
6.3 per 1,000 population as compared to the state with the
lowest rate, 5.8 per 1,000, compared to the state with the
highest rate, 170.1 per 1,000) * is not just accidental. That

* Plain Words About Venereal Diseases, Parran, Thomas, pages 202-203.



of course concerns only the male, but it reflects the com-
munity's attitude on vice, sex, etcetera, and hence the girls'
attitude, safety, etcetera.

Because social hygiene talks have been given in Wisconsin high
schools since 1918 (more than ninety per cent of the high schools are
now reached), because the talks are accepted by parents, faculty,
students almost as routine, there is little difficulty, after talks, to get
normal questions, discussions, and reactions from boys and girls. Boys
and girls are talked to separately by men and women (four) from
the Wisconsin State Board of Health, and because this article revolves
around the work of the women of the department, it will be limited
to comments by girls girls of the third and fourth year of high school.

We had been feeling that it was getting to be an easy habit for
adults to make "snap" judgments about high school girls. These
"snap" judgments were not helping parents nor girls, but rather
widened the adolescent wedge that naturally develops. For example :
"The way high school girls phone boys these days! Really!" Or
again: "Really, all high school girls think about is becoming
engaged!" Were adults making these statements because they
thought them true, because they felt "licked," because they were
too lazy sympathetically to guide stubborn youth or what?

So, for two years, from September 1940 to June 1942 (two full
school years), a very simple questionnaire was given to groups of
girls who had just listened to social hygiene talks by one of the two
women referred to previously. The items on the questionnaire, most
of which will hereafter be discussed, were picked, because they reveal
What she thinks about it, "she" being 3,351 third and fourth year
high school girls in Wisconsin.

To start just anywhere, let us take the two questions proposed as
a sample in the preceding paragraph. To the question: "Do you
think a girl should phone a boy for a date?" For every one girl
who said it was "O.K.", twenty-six to twenty-seven said absolutely
"no." So true to form did this answer run, that we were amazed by
the similarity of even rural and urban points of view; for in nine
small towns producing a total of 367 answers, 354 girls said "no,"
while in the largest city where 368 questionnaires were collected, 351
girls also said "no" to the matter of "telephoning boys." And as
to high school girls believing in high school engagements (an attitude
which has no doubt grown in popularity this last war year), five
times as many girls said "thumbs down" on high school engagements
as said "yes."

Because the writers of this article are attached to a health depart-
ment, their obligation is naturally to health, though they feel them-
selves constantly mindful of the fact that "the girl's the thing,"
and health a factor only. But because of the health slant, let us
gather up some of the points of view that gravitate around health,
sex and related items.


Much time is spent shuttling the responsibility for sex guidance
from home to school, from school to church, from anywhere to
nowhere. So we asked: "Did your mother answer most of your sex
questions?" "Did your father answer most of your sex questions?"
And again, "where or from whom (other than parents) did you
receive your present sex knowledge ? ' ' And yet again : ' ' Should sex
information be taught in school and fitted into some related course ? ' '
These questions gave our high school girls a chance to tell what they

And this is what they tell us! Sixty-seven and one half per cent
of the girls say ' ' Mother answered most of my sex questions. ' ' Father
did not do so well, for only five and one half per cent got help from
him. That does not surprise us. Father is not lazy; he just isn't
around as much. But we are again reminded that fathers are either
reticent or slightly opposed to sex talk at home.

On sources of information concerning sex, other than parents, the
girls volunteer the following given in the order of frequency :

girl friend doctor or nurse

books movie

magazines church

older sister or aunt boy friend
school course

Books and magazines eclipse even the "girl friend." Books, maga-
zines, and movies equal as sources of sex information, girl friend,
older sister and aunt. Doctors and nurses are one-fourth as popular
or available as sources as the girl friend.

And how do girls feel about sex information integrated into
related courses in school? The writers wish to say emphatically that
the word "integrated" was explained, as was the probable wisdom of
using a different term, (human relations) or tucking it under some
accepted and inclusive heading. Also, may we say that where a few
questions in the questionnaire were left blank by some, this particular
query rated high in answers. The girls "think," ninety-four per
cent of them, that sex information should definitely be included some-
where in the high school course.

And, while we are at it, suppose we tell you whom they would go
to " If you had a question about the right or the wrong of sex morals. ' '
The dean of girls gets the palm! Fifty per cent more would go to
her than to mother. The "favorite teacher" is a close second to
mothers. Less than three per cent would go to the principal and a
shade less than twenty per cent would go to their clergy. This is not
recorded by us with any intent to criticize, but it emerged out of the
findings with no small surprise to us !

These high school girls feel, without perhaps having thought it
out very well, that parental guidance is best. They answer the
question, "If and when you have children do you think you will
answer their sex questions ? ' ' strongly in the affirmative. Of all those
handed the questionnaire, ninety-six and one half per cent answered


that question, and of those ninety-five per cent said yes that they
hoped to answer their children's sex questions "if and when."

And to check ourselves of the Wisconsin State Board of Health to
see whether we were fulfilling our job obligations in informing youth
correctly and understandably on the matter of venereal diseases, we
have the following : ' ' Can one tell by looking at a person if he has a
sex disease ? ' ' Only one and one fourth per cent of the girls said you
could. These modern girls showed a much higher rate of correctness
than would have been produced in the "good old day" with its dis-
gusting "description of syphilis" to frighten people into being good.
And to emphasize the danger of sex contact as a source of infection
rather than the rare but formerly much publicized "unsanitary
things," ninety-four and seven tenths per cent answered that sex
contact rather than commonplace contacts (handshake, money, library
books, etc.) was the more usual way of contracting syphilis and

"What should one do if one has a sex disease" is the last in this
group of questions on sex. Interestingly enough, all of the girls who
answered this question at all (and ninety-two and eight tenths per
cent of those who received the questionnaire did answer it), wrote
in "go to a doctor." With the social hygiene work done in schools
in Wisconsin running over a period of more than twenty years,
we might have hoped that one hundred per cent of all reached, not
only all who answered, would have said "go to a doctor." But a
sample of the answers written in adds light. Without comment, we are
setting down some of these miscellaneous remarks: "Don't have
children! Cure it, don't marry. Get rid of it if possible. Be care-
ful not to spread it. Be sanitary."

Because "dating" is to youth a manifestation of having arrived
at some recognized form of adulthood, or independence, and because
we know "play time" can be a cruelly hazardous time, we devoted
a good share of the remaining questions to boy-girl relationships. In
fact, the questionnaire was so built up, that that was our approach,
and we doubt if the girls even guessed our object was prompted by
our health job. We intentionally slipped the sex questions in where
they seemed natural and unobtrusive.

Some of the answers saddened us! Some braced us! But all the
answers, and some needed courage to answer, reveal a craving for
help a craving sometimes hidden behind a stubborn or sophisticated
front, or buried even deeper in a timid and puzzled soul. All the
answers are clues to adults. That we fail to follow up the clues
is evidenced by the sex mistakes of youth. Let there be no mistake in
believing that youth makes sex mistakes out of choice. They early
learn the brand of public condemnation. But sex mistakes do not
come labeled!

It is disheartening when almost seventy-five per cent say their town
has not enough places for good, decent fun. And no matter how good
movies are, it is regrettable that "movies," an inactive form of


entertainment, rate first of all other kinds of fun, ahead even of
dancing and sports. And as to "hobbies," they are one-seventh
as popular as movies!

Aren't we always hearing that high school girls constantly "chase"
with boys? To the question: "Are you one of those girls who hasn't
many dates?" forty-two per cent, or two out of every five girls
answer "yes, I'm one of those girls!" Of these, one-third said they
really cared. We have a hunch that the others are nice, normal girls
who felt "yes," but stubbornly tossed a "no" off the end of their
pencil. Half the girls confess they are shy with boys. Half the
girls do not get much chance to meet boys. And, bless their hearts,
ninety per cent say "So they have fun with girls instead." That's
nice and safe, but is it normal and wise for third and fourth year
high school girls?

Though thousands of mothers complain that their daughters "won't
listen to advice," or are independent, and not "yes ma'aming," eighty
one per cent of the girls say "yes" to the question "Should parents
have something to say about your choice of boy and girl friends."
And mothers should be cheered to learn that eighty-five per cent
of the girls feel that their mothers make it easy to have fun at home.
Sadly enough where the answer was not "yes" or "no," it often was
"my mother is dead," "my mother doesn't live with us," or "I don't
live with my folks."

And because we believe the best reason for good sex education and
sex guidance is happy family life, loving parents, and healthy happy
children, we could not resist finishing up with the query: "Which
would you rather be : a happily married woman or a woman with a
career?" The final vote went to marriage; for every one who wanted
a career, four spoke for marriage. Or as one sly minx remarked:
"I want both, but time will tell."


is a new ASHA folder planned to aid state groups in
securing better social hygiene laws and law enforcement.

Free in quantities. Ask for Pub. A-477.




Official U. S. Army and
Navy Photographs

WAAC Trumpeter

Army Nurse Navy Nurse



Navy Nurse


WAAC Sergeant


These photographs frc

lion .show hoir tht

duction Pi

Turret Operator in a
Bomber Plant

F m

\ "M^MK Wlllllft_ Bttl

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g for War Pro-

\e war effort.

"Tumblers" for the Army

Laboratory Technician


Official U. 8. Navy Photographs


Director, Division of Youth Personnel National Youth Administration

During the current fiscal year, funds for the operation of
the National Youth Administration have been made available
by the Congress of the United States by an appropriation act
to provide employment and work training for unemployed
young persons of the ages of 16 to 24, inclusive, on resident
and non-resident workshop and other projects. By executive
order, the National Youth Administration is now functioning
under the direction and supervision of the War Manpower
Commission in the Office for Emergency Management of the
Executive Office of the President. All projects are approved
by the Chairman of the War Manpower Commission, and
only such projects as are needed in the prosecution of the
war in furnishing work experience and work training pre-
paratory to employment in occupations in which there is a

Online LibraryAmerican Social Hygiene AssociationJournal of social hygiene (Volume 28) → online text (page 60 of 71)