Our Bodies, Our Sex: Images of sex education in American life

by Alicia Anstead

One of the most pivotal moments in a young person's life happens when he or she asks questions and gets answers about sex. But how do we ask the questions? Where do we find the answers? And what role do our families, friends, governments, media, politics and religions play in our understanding of sex and sexuality? "SEX, America," an exhibition at the Lab at Harvard through May 4, examines a plethora of sex education materials (books, ads, film, posters, cartoons, propaganda) for their visual impact and social role. Curated by Harvard Arts Beat blogger Nayeli Rodriguez ‘10, a senior in Quincy House and a Visual and Environmental Studies major, the show is a comprehensive encounter with the changes and challenges our country has faced in more than a century of educating its populous formally and informally about a subject that is as taboo as it is celebratory of human life. The title alone -- "SEX, America" -- tells us we are in unique territory. You can almost hear the jingle of the old TV series "Love Boat": "Sex, American style, truer than the red, white and blue." Except the "truths" are often the site of deep political, religious and personal tension. It's about sex, America, so pay attention.

[Caption: Images from Sex, America]

[Caption: Curator Nayeli Rodriguez looks at the major themes in sex education in the U.S. with "SEX, America."]