May 6, 2009

Mr Wang's Straight Talk on Sex Education - Part 1

Sex education seems to be topical right now. So I shall blog about it.

In all my years at school, I have only ever had to attend one session of sex education. It happened when I was either 15 or 16 years old. That was about 20 years ago. But it was quite a memorable experience, and so up to today, I still remember it quite well.

At that time, I was studying in a Catholic school. So one day this Catholic man came to visit our school, and all the boys were told to go to the school hall to listen to him talk about sex. I remember that he began the session by explaining the mechanics of sexual intercourse.

I learned nothing new there. I was already taking Biology for my O-levels. And human reproduction was part of the syllabus. I'd already been repeatedly practising drawing detailed diagrams of reproductive parts like the vas deferens, the vagina, the Fallopian tubes and so on.

But the session was probably educational for some of the other boys (who weren't taking Biology).

I also remembered that at that sex education session, the person ran a slideshow. It was an extremely gory slideshow. He warned us in advance that it would be gory. The slideshow comprised photos of what happens as a result of abortion (and of different types of abortion methods, such as suction, curettage or saline injection).

Gruesome stuff. Here's a typical picture. Here the suction method of abortion has been used. The suction device (which is extremely strong) is applied to the woman's vagina. It basically sucks the foetus out of the womb, tearing the foetus into pieces. This, I didn't learn in the Biology O-level syllabus.

The message was quite simple. If teenage boys do hanky-panky with teenage girls, then the girl could get pregnant. If the girl gets pregnant and goes for an abortion, then, well, you can see what happens to the baby. Therefore the boy is guilty of having caused, or at least of having contributed to, the occurrence of a very terrible, gruesome and sinful event. It would be much more advisable to abstain from sex altogether.

What else did the man cover, in his talk? Contraception. He spent a long time talking about what is known as the "natural birth control method". As a matter of fact, this was the only form of contraception that he spoke about.

The natural birth control method basically means that the woman keeps careful records of her own menstrual cycle. She and her partner then avoid having sex at those times when she is likely to be fertile.

For greater certainty, the woman also regularly checks her own cervical mucus. How does this work? How her mucus looks and feels at different times of the month indicates which part of the ovulation cycle the woman is at. An excerpt from the following website:
There are three ways in which you can check your cervical mucus:

1. Use your finger or toilet paper to wipe across the opening of vagina and then take a look at the mucus.

2. Wear a panty liner and examine any cervical mucus that may be left on it (this can be hard to detect, though)

3. The best way: reach in and get a sample of your cervical mucus. Examine the consistency and try to stretch the mucus between your fingers. If you can stretch it at least three inches without it breaking, then ovulation is about to occur.

If you do not want to get pregnant, then sex should be avoided from the time you begin to notice the slippery, stretchy mucus until at least two days after it is gone.
That day was the first time that I had heard of natural birth control methods. However, because I was an 'A' student in Biology, I was very unimpressed. I did not think that the strategy of avoiding sex during the times when the woman was supposedly fertile was a very reliable method of birth control.

After all, women were not necessarily very regular; stress alone could easily cause changes to their menstrual cycle, making it difficult to predict when they were really fertile or not. Furthermore, the lifespan of the man's sperm was also variable. After getting ejaculated into the vaginal environment, the sperm cells normally survive for up to 3 days, but sometimes for as long as seven.

Taking all these factors into consideration, the so-called "natural birth control method" seemed to me to be the equivalent of a rather risky gamble. And that tip about the stretchy cervical mucus between your fingers .... Aaack, gross. Well, it definitely evoked a lot of raucous laughter from the big crowd of schoolboys.

Enough for today. In Part 2, I will continue to discuss my sex education session from those long-ago days. And I will also comment on what might constitute a good, healthy sex-education session, for teenagers today.


Ser Ming said...

My goodness! This entry is so informative!

Anonymous said...

dear Mr Wang, if i'm not wrong, the mucus test is considered reliable because it is independent from counting the cycles but is instead a physical examination of the state of the fertility cycle the female is in.. it's still in the A level bio syllabus. but it's quite a tough test to carry out, in my opinion.

personally, when i see parents screaming for the education of abstinance, i'm quite skeptical. how many parents actually practice what they preach, that is to abstain before marriage? or even being loyal to a single partner? (pardon me for the disillusion of the latter, i've seen enough real life cases. but it does not mean that i am promiscuous. i'm loyal to one partner)

i dont mean to say that we should do away with the preaching of abstinance altogether. what i mean is, it will only be considered valid education for so long, like up till the child is in junior college. after that (even before that actually), a lot of things go out of the window. abstinance is not really something that they will listen to.

Ape said...

From this part 1 alone, ape doesn't find the sex education you had useful. Ape will even go further to say that it could be misleading. The message ape got was "if you (boy) made a girl pregnant, this is what is likely to happen... so don't make her pregnant by taking precaution to (beep) her only when she's not ovulating". Can natural contraception prevent STD?

But Mr Wang, you have at least one session of sex education. Ape has none...unless you consider the "eh brothers, come my house after school... got good tape to show leh and my parents not around..." kind of whispers among the boys in class as sex education.

Anonymous said...


Glass Castle said...

Mr Wang,

Please write in to MOE with a statement of support for CSE which includes non-judgmental information about all sexual behaviour, and encourage others to do so too. I suspect they have no ideological objection to this and also recognise its public health importance, but they have been deluged by communications objecting so they must respond. If enough of us show support for proper education this will alter the political environment they operate in.

Links to various statements and documents by international health organisations supporting effective CSE - including UNAIDS, the World Health Organisation and Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) can be found at - I have also blogged at Glass Castle with contact details for MOE and the Health Promotion Board (we should ask them to communicate the public health merits of proper CSE to MOE).


Kaz Augustin said...

The "natural birth control method" is also known by wags as "Vatican Roulette", being the only kind of contraception the Roman Catholic church can bear to give a glancing nod to. (Which also makes me wonder: if you're so against contraception, why approve of ANY method?)

The mucus method worked well for us in reverse. That is, we used it to figure out when I was fertile when conceiving our first child. Seemed to work fine although n=1 is not a statistically significant sample. ;)

For the record, I'm against abstinence. I think sex is healthy and normal and if my children want to have pre-marital sex (once they're old enough) then that's okay by me, as long as they take the relevant precautions. Then again, I'm a romance author, and we tend to have a rather more pragmatic view of the whole sex thing.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...


Well as you might have guessed, Part 2 is going to deal with the values that influence the kind of content that goes into any given sex education talk.

I will use my own experience - the one at my Catholic school - as an example. I'll be discussing why the Catholic influence ended up such that the session taught nothing but condoms; and used horror tactics in discussing abortion.

chengguan said...

mr. wang:

maybe not need to dwell too deep into what was wrong. i would rather see some good food for thought like your usual style.

to me, i did not have sex until i was financially independent. i guess that's the minimum a guy can do to show some responsibilities...

Tan Ah Beng said...

An IT guy could easily be a better teacher on Sex eduation than some Catholic man. Why? This is how an IT guy would teach...

IF practice of abstinance = FALSE THEN
IF girl on pill = TRUE THEN just do it
ELSE IF condom availability = TRUE THEN just do it
ELSE IF girl NOT fertile according to mucus method THEN
IF sex engaged THEN Set pregnancy chance = 50%
ELSE Set pregnancy chance = 99.9%

Anonymous said...

Let's digress a little.

Where are we heading. We better get our education in schools right before the plant then becomes a tree.

Nowadays we read of constitutents threatening to beat up MPs, throwing chemicals on them, banging glass panels & table tops at MPs' offices, etc., if they don't get the kind of handouts they want.

We have forgotten that nobody owes nobody a living. The government is here to provide the infrastructure & climate to get especially the economy going for all good men. Unlike, our neighbour where the UMNO-led government is one akin to robbing Peter, the taxpayer, to pay Paul, the Ahmad.

I migrated here from HK some 12 years ago. HK is what is today because the majority don't talk politics but seek out opportunities to better themselves. Survial means filling our stomachs & our families'. The HK government doesn't at all provide any material handouts at all to Hong Kongers let alone the goodies the Singapore government pours out to its 4 million people every year. And fortunately, since 1997 we have a huge motherland at our doorstep. Whereas Singapore has very different neighbours.

Well, the odds are really against Singapore.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

I considered moving to HK at one point. However, I decided not to.

Thanks to the pollution from the factories in nearby mainland China, the air in HK is terrible. In the short term, you suffer from throat and nasal problems. In the long run, who knows? Cancer seems a good bet.

The other thing is that in Hong Kong, a lot of your food supply comes from mainland China. Melamine in your milk; pesticides in your vegetables; lead in your noodles; soy sauce made from human hair.


Anonymous said...

first of all, the sex education Mr Wang had was in the context of a Catholic school where only the natural method is condoned (Billings Method). Certainly, in my school and other non-religious affiliated schools, it was a more practical sex info session, with the various contraceptives presented as part of it.

By the way, the natural method may not be reliable because like what you said, stress, irregular cycle, medication, health issues that make the woman no mucous, survival of sperm, acidity of vagina due to other factors, etc.

Secondly, the abortion pictures is a scare tactics gone too far. Abortion in the very early stage is not at all what you see.

I for one, think that sex education should be presented stripped bare of personal or religious values, but one can point out the various consequences of each action. The children are old enough to process the info in time to come.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mr Wang

what is wrong with abstinance as an option?

Btw, I think the Catholic dude would be better giving that lecture to the convent girls. Your schoolmates ... the ones I know all have PhDs in sexual education (practical).

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

Nothing is wrong with abstinence as an option, except that it is unrealistic (for many young people).

Anonymous said...

Hi Mr Wang

Thanks for your interest in this subject. Because you are so widely read, may I point out 2 things:

1. Natural contraception is a highly unsafe method (you were perfectly right in your analysis!)

Especially where teen girls are concerned, that is NOT recommended because firstly, it doesn't protect against any STIs, and secondly, 90% of the typical class of teen girls have irregular menstrual cycles (simple show of hands always gives that figure in my classes)

2. That picture of the aborted foetus is fake -- NO aborted foetus of ANY ANIMAL, including humans, look like that.

I'll stake my reputation as a PhD student of embryonic development on that.

I think it's just deceitful of people to fake such pictures.


坡仔哥哥 said...

I live in HK/SZ since 2006 and I agree that the pollution is terrible here. But the money is good here and l that Mr. Wang said (if you buy your food in China) are valid, but really alot of China (esp SZ) residence, buy their products in HK (much more safer).

I wanted to ask Mr. Wang - my 10 year son asked me yesterday " what is f***"? "why is a bad word?" - How would I acutally respond to him? I certainly do not think that his school has a responsibility to respond (educate) him...

zephyr said...

Mr Wang, I just came across your blog. I can't believe they did that in your school. I have to share this with you and your readers.

I personally grew up in a mostly catholic household(with some influences from hinduism, taoism... basically any religion that brings us luck, ha!).

When I was around ten years old, I got invited to a christian camp. I was told it was just bbq and swimming with a little preaching on the side. Yeah, it later turned out that they wanted to convert me to their brand of christianity.

So anyway, they showed a video of a guy who just got laid the night before and was discussing it with his friends. A few minutes into the video he found out that the girl he did it with, just tested positive for AIDS. Right after that video, they showed one with a guy interlocking his fingers together to illustrate how condoms are.

Yeah, that was how ridiculous it was. Luckily, my mother though religious, is a big believer in proper sex education. I don't think I can say the same for the people there.

Anonymous said...

f*** is a coarse word for sexual intercourse originating from German. Same as "tiu lay" \ "kan" \ etc. my mandrain sucks but I believe there is no equivalent in Mandrain as it was a lang of the imperial court.

Anonymous said...

Oh, i thought that four-letter word mean "fornication under (the) consent (of the) king" :p

坡仔哥哥 said...

Gentlemen, I do know all that, but please do understand, I ask for how to respond to my son...not what it means. My problem is message delivery rather than the message itself.

My point here is that this question took me by surprised and I did not know how to respond immediately and even after much thinking, i cannot decide on the actual way (delivery) from me to him...THIS IS A LOT TRICKIER THAN IT SEEMS....(sigh)

By the way, there IS a chinese equivalent...

Anonymous said...

let me try

definition of f#"@ : it is a very rude/vulgar word to say because it means making love with anybody else which should not be. Making love is having sex, it is like hugging, holding hands, what Mummies and daddies do when they love each other. But f@#$ means you do it with anybody else, which should not be. It is a very rude word to say.


Anonymous said...

I would like to add on to what "zephyr said... "

I too attended a christian camp more than 30 years ago, I think it was at Changi. We had "quiet time" and the sex education included "not sitting on the bed that was just warmed by a girl." Any sexual arousal is sinful.
I think the Christian sex misinformation produces a lot of guilt. But then again, the Christian faith strives on guilt. You are born with SIN....from where...from Adam and Eve.
and everything including cancer came from that sin. And i don't look anything like Adam and Eve who are often portrayed as caucasians!

Anonymous said...

Sex education in schools under the supervision of the MOE should be purely secular. The government should only prescribe sex education insofar as it has practical benefit to Singapore as a whole (i.e. reduction of unwed mothers, abandoned babies, the spread of STD etc). For that reason, it needs to include the recommendation of using condoms as an effective means of protection.

Abstinence works of course, but teaching only that is tantamount to saying that if you don't want to get hit by a car, don't leave your house.

If parents have their own religions views on what their child does in respect of sex, it is their responsibility to teach their child. It's not the government's duty to do so for them.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

I shall write a new post about the word "fuck". Actually, the new post would be related to my post today ("Mr Wang Writes A Poetry Book").

The overall quality of the book is certainly not obscene or profane, but the word "fuck" does appear about 4 times (in different forms - eg "fucking" and "fucked").

Now, when writing poetry, I always pay very careful attention to my choice of words. I strive to always pick the most appropriate and suitable words, for the given purpose.

This tells you that there are times when "fuck" is the most appropriate and suitable word to use. :)

小肥与阿宝 said...

Mr Wang, clever nuanced entry title eh? You just can't stop taking a swab at the hottest issue of the moment huh?

I was in my university translation module, when our American lecturer set us an assignment on the translation of vulgarities. In the tutorial, most of us were reluctant to even say the word "fuck". He then said, "Now people, follow me, say it out loud, and get it over and done with: FUCK."

The whole class echoed after him. It was hilarious, although, admitedly, it reeked of forcing people to go against their moral stand on not uttering vulgarities.

What is so wrong with THE word, though? I think it's a matter of how we approach it. The more we shun it, the more of a taboo it becomes, no? So Mr Wang, maybe some "purists" will tell you, under no circumstance should this word be ever used! Might as well petition for the word to be removed from the dictionaries.


The said...

/// 坡仔哥哥 said...
I wanted to ask Mr. Wang - my 10 year son asked me yesterday " what is f***"? "why is a bad word?" - How would I acutally respond to him? ///

Well, if you want serious answers, go to:

If you the fun or facetious versions, go to:

Perhaps one of the most interesting and colorful words in the English language today is the word "fuck". It is the one magical word which, just by its sound, can describe pain, pleasure, love, and hate.

In language, "fuck" falls into many grammatical categories.

* It can be used as a verb, both transitive (John fucked Mary) and intransitive (Mary was fucked by John).
* It can be an action verb (John really gives a fuck), a passive verb (Mary really doesn't give a fuck), an adverb (Mary is fucking interested in John), or as a noun (Mary is a terrific fuck).
* It can also be used as an adjective (Mary is fucking beautiful) or an interjection (Fuck! I'm late for my date with Mary).
* It can even be used as a conjunction (Mary is easy, fuck she's also stupid).

As you can see, there are very few words with the overall versatility of the word "fuck". Aside from its sexual connotations, this incredible word can be used to describe many situations...

Greetings "How the fuck are ya?"

Fraud "I got fucked by the car dealer."

Resignation "Oh, fuck it!"

Trouble "I guess I'm fucked now."

Aggression "FUCK YOU!"

Disgust "Fuck me."

Confusion "What the fuck.......?"

Difficulty "I don't understand this fucking business!"

Despair "Fucked again..."

Pleasure "I fucking couldn't be happier."

Displeasure "What the fuck is going on here?"

Lost "Where the fuck are we."


Retaliation "Up your fucking ass!"

Denial "I didn't fucking do it."

Perplexity "I know fuck all about it."

Apathy "Who really gives a fuck, anyhow?"

Greetings "How the fuck are ya?"

Suspicion "Who the fuck are you?"

Panic "Let's get the fuck out of here."

Directions "Fuck off."

Disbelief "How the fuck did you do that?"

It can be used in an anatomical description- "He's a fucking asshole."

It can be used to tell time- "It's five fucking thirty."

It can be used in business- "How did I wind up with this fucking job?"

It can be maternal- "Mother fucker."

It can be political- "Fuck Dan Quayle!"

It has also been used by many notable people throughout history...

"What the fuck was that?"
- Mayor of Hiroshima

"Where the fuck is all this water coming from?"
- Captain of the Titanic

"That's not a real fucking gun."
- John Lennon

"Who's gonna fucking find out?"
- Richard Nixon

"Heads are going to fucking roll."
- Anne Boleyn

"Let the fucking woman drive."
- Commander of Space Shuttle

"What fucking map?"
- "Challenger," Mark Thatcher

"Any fucking idiot could understand that."
- Albert Einstein

"It does so fucking look like her!"
- Picasso

"How the fuck did you work that out?"
- Pythagoras

"You want what on the fucking ceiling?"
- Michaelangelo

"Fuck a duck."
- Walt Disney

"Why?- Because its fucking there!"
- Edmund Hilary

"I don't suppose its gonna fucking rain?"
- Joan of Arc

"Scattered fucking showers my ass."
- Noah

"I need this parade like I need a fucking hole in my head."
- John F. Kennedy

The said...

/// 月下影子 said...
Mr Wang, clever nuanced entry title eh? You just can't stop taking a swab at the hottest issue of the moment huh? ///

Indeed, Moonshadow! Since the MOE has banned gay talk on sex education.

Likewise, you are punny due to your Freudian slip. Sorry, couldn't resist taking a swipe at you. Were you thinking of taking a swab for biopsy or a PAP smear?

小肥与阿宝 said...

The: Ha!

Oops. =X

But it's fucking incredible, the research you turned up on the lovely little word!

And yeah, the OED at that time, 10 years ago, devoted at least four pages (if I remembered correctly) just to the use of this word.


Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Wang,
You must be kidding right?
You attended a Catholic school, sat in on a talk on sex education by a Catholic man, of course you will get the Catholic church's stand on sex and contraception.
Next you will probably act surprised if beef or pork is not mentioned in talks on diet and healthy living in certain other religious schools.
Don't act cute. Get it right.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

Well done, Anon, you have begun to see my point.

Sex education is heavily influenced by values. The question is - whose values? And to what extent should any one set of values be allowed to dominate sex education for an entire nation of youths.

Anonymous said...

20+ years ago, during my teens, the only sex-ed we got in my non-religious girls-only school was "The Silent Cry". The image that stuck on my head was that of the ultrasound scan of a fetus opening its mouth resisting the abortive suction. If my memory is correct, the session was unfortunately not followed by advice on contraceptives. I wrote "unfortunately", because even in those unenlightened, strict-censorship and non-internet days, there were already teenage girls in my school reputed to be actively engaging in sex. (It was and still is a top girls school in Singapore). Thus, not knowing about contraceptives and being taught "abortion is wrong" does not prevent pre-marital sex.

I was comparatively lucky. During my early teens, I had an aunt who gave me a book from overseas that guides teenage girls about self-image, sex, and other practical matters. Learnt about sex and contraceptives from the book, but did not engage in it until I was a financially independent adult in love. From my n=1 case, knowing about contraceptives does not equate being encouraged to have wanton sex.

I am very sorry that the AWARE CSE is being censored. During my early teens, I had crushes mostly on my same-sex seniors and occasionally on boys. By my late teens, I had crushes mostly on boys and occasionally on same-sex seniors. If not for my aunt's book informing me that teenage feelings are temporary and will smoothen down as we mature, I may have struggled with my sexual identity. I am grateful for my aunt's gift. Perhaps my aunt's nursing background trained her to approach the controversy practically rather that from emotive grounds.

Anonymous said...

As a heterosexual female who has spent 10 consecutive years of her life in the same missionary girls school in Spore, 6 years primary + 4 years secondary, I was very well AWARE of what sexual intercourse entails! And this was all in the 1970's. Yes, quite long ago and my teachers were that open minded.

In upper primary school round about Pri 4 to 6, the female CHRISTIAN teachers were already telling us what sex was all about out of their accord! So yeah, I heard it so many times from so many teachers. There was no compulsory sex education in those days. It was like in between lessons, they would tell us what sex was and cautioned us to be careful of teenage boys & men who have ulterior motives to lure girls.

Remember those were the days where there was no internet. If you do not educate the kids about sex, nowadays it can be easily found on the internet, just google "girls" and you will see lurid images under Images on Google.

And about homosexuality, its just alarmist scaremongering, only a small proportion of the population will be this way. So its best to spell it out to today's youth in class that such relationships do exist.

But COOS & its fundies knowingly or unknowingly has furthered the LGBT cause in a way. I am very certain that every teenager who has a TV, reads the newspapers, or surfs the net is finding out what a gay relationship is due to massive publicity.

坡仔哥哥 said...

Guys, thanks...but I would like to rephrase Anon's (May 7, 5.06pm) reply to me.....bake it a little and serve it to my son (Pri 4)

Fuck means to force a woman to have sex when she dont want and it is painful and wrong (the what)

Fuck is a bad word which should not be used ever because it will hurt the other person emotionally (the when and the why)

Maybe this is the most simplest and most effective way to tell him. I would not escape this issue no matter what, that is not correct parenting, i believe.

I hope everyone understands my point, as a father, I understand the education is more for the parents than the schools, some topics are damn hard to "bake and serve" (so dont blame the school, MOE or the parents), we should not shun the topics but handle sensitively....

Anonymous said...

Um...I think there might be a slight inaccuracy in your definition of "fuck", 坡仔哥哥 - I think that's rape, not a fuck.

I think someone's definition (somewhere up there) of fuck as "sex without love" is quite accurate.

坡仔哥哥 said...

Hi, yeah i was aware of that when I wrote it..but please understand that I was trying to speak to my audience, my 10 year son...I need to differentiate more clearly...

but u are right, what i discribe is rape and not fuck...but really, fucking without love can be painful and also wrong, isnt it? :-)

KaiShan said...

You got a LOT more sex education than I got, and I went to a government school (okay, Australian...).

And as for 'fuck', it is just the old word for sexual intercourse, considered lower class 'cos the higher classes wanted to speak in French, not traditional Anglo. All English swear words (modern American ones excluded) are just the original Anglo-Saxon for whatever.

Anonymous said...

We want our child to grow up non-discriminative Straits Times Forum
May 11, 2009

We want our child to grow up non-discriminative
WE REFER to last Saturday's report, 'Aware programme 'exceeded guidelines'', and the justifications given by concerned parents (both in the press and online) that homosexuality is not neutral because it is 'not natural' and illegal.

There is increasing evidence from psychologists and scientists that suggests that sexual orientations go deeper than mere lifestyle choices and there may be genetics at work that swing people one way or another. Even nature (animal kingdom) has numerous bisexual, asexual and transsexual examples as biology evolves with its environment.

Socially and culturally, different sexual orientations existed thousands of years ago (for example, in Greece, China and India) and continue to exist today. The law on homosexuality in Singapore is inherited from the British Victorian code of conduct.

For the record, we are a happily married heterosexual couple and proud parents of one. As concerned parents and with one of us having had a convent education, with its obligatory sex education programme that preached only abstinence (complete with a scary abortion video), we feel it is high time youngsters were given a more realistic and complete picture, especially in this Internet age, of what is involved as they develop sexually. They should be taught not to be ashamed of their body and respect it at the same time; and also that pleasure is not a sin but may come with negative consequences, including HIV/Aids.

We hope the Ministry of Education (MOE) will consider the feelings of parents like us also who are neither 'liberal' nor 'conservative' but are concerned that our child gets a well-balanced, progressive education.

Singapore is a multicultural and multireligious society and MOE must recognise that not all religious groups and non-believers necessarily think of homosexuality as immoral or criminal. At the end of the day, what we want for our child is that he grows up non-discriminative and non-prejudicial, and is able to make critical decisions, and love and be loved in return.

Margaret Tan (Ms)

Teo Thiam Seng

Anonymous said...

Will Spongebob make you gay?
Two conservative Christian groups are attacking the cartoon character for allegedly being part of a "pro-homosexual video"

updated 1:07 p.m. ET Jan. 21, 2005

First it was the spate of the SpongeBob rob jobs from local Burger Kings. Now the little yellow guy who lives in a pineapple under the sea is at the center of a far grimmer controversy, again not of his own making. Two conservative Christian groups attacking the cartoon character for allegedly being part of, as one of them put it, a "pro-homosexual video."

A man named Dr. James Dobson, founder of a conservative Christian group called "Focus on the Family" addressed members of Congress at a black tie dinner in Washington celebrating the president's election victory this week. He advised the group that SpongeBob had been included in a pro-homosexual video which was to be mailed to thousands of elementary schools to push a tolerance pledge by kids, including tolerance of differences of what Dr. Dobson called "sexual identity." Dr. Dobson said most of the favorite cartoons of America's kids were in on the plot, Barney and Jimmy Neutron included.

There is a video. It was broadcast in 2002 and has been revised for distribution to schools in March. It does promote tolerance of diversity, but contains no reference to sex, sexual lifestyle, sexual identity or Paris Hilton.

The eight-page long teacher's guide that accompanies that DVD makes three passing references to same-sex parents. It contains generic advice about what teachers should do if kids ask them about atypical homes— like ones with adoptive parents, step-siblings, or grandparents. Teachers are advised to remind kids that everybody's family is different, but they're all based on love.

Dr. Dobson's press spokesman says he's not sure whether or not Dr. Dobson has seen the SpongeBob video, but he has been briefed on it. And an assistant says the group stands by its claim, and says, "We see the video as an insidious means by which the organization is manipulating and potentially brainwashing kids. It's a classic bait and switch."

Bait and switch, a fish reference for an underwater cartoon. Clever.

Though the revised "SpongeBob and Friends tape," which is to be distributed to the schools, is not supposed to be released until March, we've gotten a hold of the advanced copy from the "We Are Family Foundation," which produced it. It is a foundation created by the man who wrote the disco hit of 1979, "We Are Family." Below is the whole thing, with the caveat that if the folks from Focus on the Family are right, it could make you, your children or maybe your furniture gay. Or tolerant.


SpongeBob controversy
Jan. 20: Click here to watch the video the Christian groups are referring to.


By the way, not only did I not see any sexual identity in that, I didn't even see very much of SpongeBob either. Although Winnie the Pooh wasn't wearing pants.

Mark Barondess, the lawyer for the "We Are Family Foundation" told "The New York Times" that any critics of the video "need medication."

We here found it hard to argue with him.

This was the No. 1 story on Thursday's "Countdown with Keith Olbermann." The show airs weeknights, 8 p.m. ET on MSNBC TV. E-mail Keith at

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