Friday, December 21, 2012

An Open Letter to "This American Life"

As This American Life often does when it discusses sex in a podcast, it begins with the caveat that the segment might not be appropriate for small children as it “acknowledges the existence of sex.” The warning seems to say: What kind of parent is so protective that he wouldn’t let a child listen to a story that simply acknowledges that sex exists? For instance, let’s say a gay couple got married in my home state of Washington, and that night they had sex. That’s acknowledging that sex exists. I’m OK with that, as I think most parents would be. I think most kids in our public schools already know what sex is, so acknowledging that it exists is not a big deal.

However, a segment in a recent episode does a lot more than that. It acknowledges that there are things called “sex clubs for men”. It acknowledges the existence of anal sex with another man. It acknowledges unsafe sex. It acknowledges that the existence of a “giver” in a homosexual relationship. It acknowledges “sex with an anonymous, casual or internet partner.” It acknowledges sex with someone who injects drugs. It acknowledges the existence of a porno room in which every surface is made of black rubber. This is much more than acknowledging the existence of sex.

If I were being an enlightened parent and letting my child listen to this story, my child might have a lot of uncomfortable questions at the end of this episode. "What is a sex club for men? What is anal sex? What does 'giver' mean? What is porno? Why is every surface covered with rubber?"  I’m not offended by this episode or any of this content. It’s a good story. But this story does a lot more than just acknowledge that sex exists. So drop the smarmy disclaimer ("it acknowledges the existence of sex") in future episodes. Just say it’s inappropriate for kids and leave it at that.

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