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Why Obama's K-12 Sex Ed Initiative Makes Sense

Why Obama's K-12 Sex Ed Initiative Makes Sense

By Suzan Mazur

In the quest for a more positive dialogue between women and men, it's worth revisiting George Lucas' classic scifi film THX-1138 set in an underground city of tomorrow where sex is forbidden and drug sedation laws are to be obeyed. In the film LUH tells THX that she is pregnant. And at that instant the lovers are doomed. LUH is taken away to Reproduction by security robots in creaking black leather and THX, now branded an "incurable erotic", flees for his life to the Superstructure above ground -- presumably to return for LUH (Lucas never made a sequel).

In some ways the Lucas version of tomorrow is already here with American television hyping medication for social anxiety and warning that sex could mean death. Meanwhile, the divorce rate soars as men and women increasingly reject a lasting commitment to one another.

We are still writing the guidelines about how to live together as women and men following the social movements of the 60s and 70s, which were so rudely interrupted by Pentagon wargames leading to a decivilizing of American culture. It is urgent that we resume where we left off in our discussion because there is now broad agreement that gender relations and the health of our fragile planet are linked.

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Will Keepin, a physicist who blew the whistle on a major nuclear power project while at IIASA (International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis) near Vienna, now heads the Satyana Institute in Colorado where he is a psychologist and healer holding workshops on transforming relations between women and men to create "lasting positive social change". Keepin says "restoring balance between women and men is fundamental to restoring balance in humanity's relationship with the Earth. We cannot heal relations with other species while ignoring conficts within our own."

Will Keepin

One of the techniques Keepin uses to encourage "connection, clarity and healing" is deep-sustained "holotropic" breathing which elicits non-ordinary states of consciousness. During a two- to three-hour session, one person breathes while a second acts as sitter or psychic midwife. It's the type of breathing you might experience running a marathon. The method was first devised by Stanislav Grof (whose earliest experiments in communist Prague were with LSD).

Dr. Steve Bergman and Dr. Janet Surrey, long associated with Harvard Medical School and The Stone Center at Wellesley College, respectively, began pioneering "gender dialogue" two decades ago working with women and men of all ages, in schools as well as corporations. Bergman told me the following: "We've learned from doing gender dialogues with over 20,000 men and woman and boys and girls that we all come into the world with a basic desire for connection, and that if there's a way to tap into that, we'll embrace it and change."

Sam Shem (aka Steve Bergman) and Janet Surrey

Unfortunately, the current socialization of children still emphasizes rigid stereotypical roleplaying rather then deeper human values. That was evident as early as age four in the studies of Bergman and Surrey, who say they were "appalled" by the level of aggression in evidence among boys and girls in preschool when they asked them what they liked about one another:

We asked the boys, "What do you like about the girls?" They said:

"They like to play what I like to play."

"They always play with me and help me with things."

Then we asked the girls, "What do you like about boys?" They said:

"We like kissing and hugging boys."

"We like when they chase us and tie us up and they thought we were dead and we faked it and then we liked sneaking away and getting away."

But it gets worse. Bergman says the sexes are often then separated from one another for the next few years in school when further molding into traditional male and female identities takes place and that their next real encounter does not occur until they are developing hormonally, and school games become potentially dangerous sex games -- like the hand-flashing they observed in a Boston middle school where the loser was to perform various sex acts.

Congressman Dennis Kucinich (Dem. - Ohio) told me by phone that we may have to begin teaching human connection and mutuality "prenatally". Kucinich has for years been an advocate of a US Department of Peace at the cabinet level, with funding for peace education coming from the defense budget.

Kucinich is not put off by sociologists and anthropologists who have decided violence is innate. He says humanist revision says we can transcend our condition and that "nonviolence can begin through our children and become an organizing principle to hold society together." He adds that he is not alone in Congress with these views.

While the call in so many corners of American society for a more intimate and authentic human dialogue between women and men is indeed an alarm that traditional institutions have failed us, Barak Obama's sex education initiative shows courage and vision aside from a general concern about where gender dialogue and Earth are headed.

Lucas has shown us the kind of humans we don't want to become -- sharing space in a nightmare, desensitized and unable to answer: What am I to him and he to me?


Suzan Mazur chaired the first major benefit in Manhattan for battered women in 1985. The event brought together 15 victim services agencies and was co-sponsored by the National and New York State Coalitions Against Domestic Violence. Mazur's reports have appeared in the Financial Times, The Economist, Forbes, Newsday, Philadelphia Inquirer, among others, as well as on PBS, CBC and MBC. She has been a guest on McLaughlin, Charlie Rose and various Fox Television News programs. Email:

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