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Labor Action, 15 August 1949


Sex Education in Russia

New Official Line Turns Clock Back on Progress


From Labor Action, Vol. 12 No. 33, 15 August 1949, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


To the wiping out of all advanced and progressive ideas in social fields like education and the status of women, in Stalinist Russia today, add now the concepts of sex education. The Stalinist state announces that it is going back to the 19th century on this question.

Soviet Education, monthly organ of the Russian Academy of Educational Sciences, makes the about-face official in a new manifesto article (reported in U.S. News and World Report, July 22). As in all totalitarian countries, the government emphasis has been for a long time on the necessity of large families, etc., tending to convert women into child-bearing animals; and the new line on sex education is to be understood in this context.

The article in Soviet Education contrasts its new pronouncement with previous theories. The following is the old line, to be rejected:

“The principal concern was somehow to prepare the child especially for sex life, teaching him not to regard anything as ‘shameful’ or secret. For this purpose, they tried as soon as possible to explain sex and procreation to the child. Naturally, they pointed with genuine horror at those ‘simpletons’ who deceived their children with stories about storks and other fictitious sources of life. They supposed that if sex were explained and interpreted to the child, depriving it in his mind of shameful implications, correct sex education would thereby be achieved.”

Of this, which is approximately the progressive view today, the article ays: “Such advice must be regarded with great caution.” (If isn’t clear whether the Kremlin thinks little Ivan should be told that the stork brought him.) The article goes on to develop the latest advice:

“The fact that the child often asks where children come from does not mean that one must explain it through and through when he is so young ... There is much he does not know about other life problems, and we need not burden him prematurely with knowledge beyond his understanding ... The proper time will come for such knowledge, and there is no danger involved in answering him: ‘You’re still a little tyke; when you grow up, you’ll find out.’”

For “Prudent Silence”

Naturally no one has ever advocated explaining sex “through and through” to youngsters of any age, regardless of their ability to understand, and the argument against this is simply a hedge for the purpose of stressing the quite opposite conception represented by the typical words: “When you grow up, you’ll find out.”

This element of mystification and secrecy is underlined in other passages, for example:

“There is absolutely no need to worry that the child will discover the secret of procreation from his friends and keep his knowledge a secret. In such a case, the secret is not at all terrible. A child must learn that many aspects of human life comprise an intimate, secret realm which need not be shared with or exhibited to all. Only at a later age, when the child has already developed this understanding of people’s intimate life and a habit of prudent silence about certain things, can he be told about sex.”

Again – since no one is in favor of imprudent loquaciousness on sex – the emphasis on “prudent silence” is an attempt to swing the helm toward old-fashioned reticence and the sacred-mystery approach.

In several other passages, a proper attitude toward sex and love is tied up with a “proper” attitude toward love of country and society, and – by immediate implication – toward love of the regime.

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