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Condom Nation

Hardback
, 240 pages

21 halftones

ISBN:
9780801893803
November 2009
$42.00

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Condom Nation

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

Award for the Public Understanding of Science, 2010, British Medical Association's Board of Science

First Prize, Popular Medicine, British Medical Association 2010 Book Awards

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.

Alexandra M. Lord received her Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. She previously served as a historian with the U.S. Public Health Service.

"Lord, a public health historian, argues that the U.S. government has spent the past 90 years trying to give Americans frank sex education, but the power of religious groups and Americans’ own squeamishness in admitting to having premarital sex has thwarted public health officials for nearly all of that time."

"Lively historical account... Lord is particularly enlightening about the ways in which race, religion and geography have produced an inconsistent approach to sex education."

"This fascinating history of the past hundred years of sex education in America explores public and private efforts to eradicate sexually transmitted disease and promote healthy sexual behavior: It also reveals our hang-up, Alexandra Lord observes: 'Americans' uneasiness with sexual behavior.'"

"Americans have a split on the issue: using a condom is a responsible action, but having the sex that makes using a condom a responsible action, well, that’s irresponsible and immoral. Lord, a former historian for the Public Health Service, has documented this ambivalent stance throughout her fascinating book, which surprises throughout in showing just how little sex education changed through the twentieth century, even though we profited from an increase in scientific knowledge and from improved contraceptive and prophylactic technologies."

"An informative and enjoyable read."

"This is a highly readable study about a hot-button issue... Condom Nation contextualizes federal policies within the changing sexual mores of the twentieth century and shows how important it is to look at the story behind sex education campaigns."

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