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Condom Nation

The U.S. Government's Sex Education Campaign from World War I to the Internet

Alexandra M. Lord

Publication Year: 2010

This history of the U.S. Public Health Service's efforts to educate Americans about sex makes clear why federally funded sex education has been haphazard, ad hoc, and often ineffectual. Since launching its first sex ed program during World War I, the Public Health Service has dominated federal sex education efforts. Alexandra M. Lord draws on medical research, news reports, the expansive records of the Public Health Service, and interviews with former surgeons general to examine these efforts, from early initiatives through the administration of George W. Bush. Giving equal voice to many groups in America—middle class, working class, black, white, urban, rural, Christian and non-Christian, scientist and theologian—Lord explores how federal officials struggled to create sex education programs that balanced cultural and public health concerns. She details how the Public Health Service left an indelible mark on federally and privately funded sex education programs through partnerships and initiatives with community organizations, public schools, foundations, corporations, and religious groups. In the process, Lord explains how tensions among these organizations and local, state, and federal officials often exacerbated existing controversies about sexual behavior. She also discusses why the Public Health Service's promotional tactics sometimes inadvertently fueled public fears about the federal government’s goals in promoting, or not promoting, sex education. This thoroughly documented and compelling history of the U.S. Public Health Service's involvement in sex education provides new insights into one of the most contested subjects in America.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press


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pp. -

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pp. ix-xi

Writing a book is never a solitary project. I have benefited tremendously from the suggestions and knowledge of many people. Within the Office of the Public Health Service Historian and the Department of Health and Human Services, Victoria Harden, Sheena Morrison, John Parascandola, John Swann, Lindsey Hobbs...

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A Word on Terminology

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pp. xiii-

Over the past hundred years as our views of sex education, sexually transmitted diseases, and out-of-wedlock births have changed, the terminology used to describe these concepts has also shifted. As a historian I prefer to use the terminology that was in vogue during the period under study...

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1 In Bed with the Fed

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pp. 1-24

It was, the headlines screamed, a “case of too much candor.” On December 1,1994, World AIDS Day, Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders publicly announced that masturbation “is part of human sexuality and it’s a part of something that perhaps should be ...

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2 The People’s War, 1918–1926

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pp. 25-47

The manager of an Illinois factory was upset. Everywhere he looked, there was evidence of moral corruption. In his own factory, several youngwomen under his management had contracted venereal disease...

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3 Battling the Mad Dog, 1927–1940

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pp. 48-70

When Dizzy Malone burst into his office, the District Attorney couldn’t help himself. “ ‘Dizzy Malone,’ he gasped, ‘the same, gorgeous body and all!’ ” A “jane with a . . . red past,” Dizzy “went tomen’s heads.” She was every adolescent boy’s dream of a bad girl. Yet despite her appeal, this blonde bombshell had her limitations; she was, after all, nothing...

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4 Lifting the Shadow from the Land, 1941–1945

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pp. 71-92

Prostitution is just like any other business,” a city official in Washington,D.C., noted with dismay. “It goes where the cash is.” During the late 1930s much of the cash came from the unattached young men who...

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5 A False Sense of Security, 1946–1959

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pp. 93-114

If you want to know the truth,” seventeen-year-old Holden Caulfield confessed, “I’m a virgin.” He had come “quite close to doing it a couple of times,” but as he reluctantly admitted, “something always happen[ed]” to prevent it. “The thing is, most of the time...

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6 Making Love, Not Babies or Disease, 1960–1980

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pp. 115-137

When the Beatles asked, “Why don’t we do it in the road?” they promised that “no one will be watching us.” But when John Lennon and Yoko Ono posed naked on the cover of Rolling Stone, everyone was watching. By 1969 sex had become, if not a public activity, then certainly a topic...

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7 Telling It Like It Is, 1981–1988

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pp. 138-161

It’s done in plain language, it’s done at a 12- to 13-year-old reading level, it doesn’t mince words, yet it is in good taste It began slowly. AIDS, C. Everett Koop said, “entered the consciousness of the Public Health Service rather quietly, rather gradually, and with almost no fanfare at all.”...

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8 Abstinence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder, 1989–2008

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pp. 162-186

The blogosphere went wild. John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin, a religious conservative and the relatively unknown governor of Alaska, as his vice-presidential nominee sparked almost nonstop rumors as ...

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pp. 187-190

Dear Beth,” the letter read, “sex education should not be taught in schools. Children should learn from their parents. . . . When the subject is discussed in schools, children learn that sex is something they should start right away.” For the advice columnist who received this letter, the answer was clear: “Teachers who are properly trained do an excellent job” ofproviding sex education. More important, the columnist gently pointed out,“there is no indication ...


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pp. 191-216


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pp. 217-224

E-ISBN-13: 9780801898709
E-ISBN-10: 0801898706
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801893803
Print-ISBN-10: 0801893801

Page Count: 240
Illustrations: 21 halftones
Publication Year: 2010

OCLC Number: 647917318
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Condom Nation

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Subject Headings

  • Medical policy -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • United States. Public Health Service.
  • Sex instruction -- United States -- History.
  • Contraception -- United States -- History.
  • Sexually transmitted diseases -- United States -- Prevention.
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