lEE MAJORS: WHY WE NEED SEX EDUCATION IN OUR SCHOOLS
By James Gregory / Motion Picture magazine / May 1966
“I believe we ought to have sex education classes for all school children,” Lee Majors told me firmly. “And I think they should start at least in the seventh grade, when it’s early enough to do some good!
“I was talking to the principal of a high school in the Los Angeles area and he told me that out of 100 girls in one class, 30 of them were pregnant at the beginning of the school year! They wanted to come back to school, but they didn’t know whether they should.
“The principal said it’s the most depressing thing he’s ever seen. One mother called him and asked, ‘Can my little daughter come back to school even though she’s going to have a baby in three months?’ He told her. ‘Yes! If she can stand it, we can stand it.’
“Obviously, the high percentage of pregnancies in that particular class is unusual,” Lee added, “But it’s symptomatic of the way things seem to be heading - although, of course, unwed mothers are from being a recent development. After all, the character I play on ABC-TV’s The Big Valley is illegitimate!
“However, pregnancy amount unmarried teenagers seems to be on the increase. And it can create a tragic situation, not only for the girl but also for the boy. I know that from personal observation.
“You see, a boy I knew in high school got drunk at a wild party, and he had had sexual relations with a girl. The next thing he knew, the girl was knocking at his door saying she was pregnant. The boy retorted, ‘You probably went to bed with lots of other guys, too.’ But in order to avoid a scandal he finally married her, even though he wasn’t sure he was the father of the child! There’s a depressing situation for you. But it taught me a good lesson. I realized that if anything like that ever happened to be me in a careless moment, I could be held responsible just as that boy was.
“Even where the boy feels sure he’s the father of the child, a forced marriage can be a miserable one,” Lee continued. “As soon as the baby comes the young wife is likely to become devoted to the child to the exclusion of the husband.
“Often the husband and wife have to drop out of school and give up the careers they had planned. For he has to get a job - any job - and she has to stay home with the baby. This can lead to lifelong bitterness and frustration, especially for the man.”
Then he added earnestly, “I hope all this doesn’t make me sound like a prude, or as though I am preaching. I’m no expert on love and marriage. But I get quite a bit of mail from teenagers who watch The Big Valley and seem to feel that they can write to me for advice about problems they may not be able to discuss with their parents. Some of the problems deal with the boy-girl relationships, and I feel keenly that anybody who gets that kind of mail has a responsibility to think about these things and try to formulate an intelligent approach to them. Also, as the father of a small son I look forward to the day when I may be able to advise him in any way I can about the problems young people face in this world.
“While I think there’s no doubt that premarital sex often has unfortunate or even disastrous consequences, this doesn’t mean I condemn all those who take part in it. Somebody once said you should hate the sin and love the sinner, and I think that applies in this case. If a girl I married wasn’t a virgin at the time of our marriage - if she’d had an affair with another fellow and I somehow found out about it - I wouldn’t condemn her for something that had happened before she and I had fallen in love.
“Under the proper circumstances, the sex act is perhaps the greatest way in the world to express love. It shouldn’t be done casually or under shameful circumstances. I’m not qualified to tell other people how to run their lives, nor do I pretend to be perfect, but I do feel that I can express an opinion. And I feel that the best approach to sex is the moral one.
“But again I want to get back to the practical consequences, if moral persuasion isn’t enough to convince some people. Take kids of 13,14 and 15, many of whom are experimenting with sex today. Certainly it’s wrong for them to do so. They are totally unable to realize the possible consequences of their actions. Girls who get pregnant in their early teens are too young to get married - even if they’re old enough to be mothers! And boys that young can’t get a job to meet the expenses of fatherhood, to say nothing of the fact that they lack the wisdom and maturity to head a family.
“But when you talk about older kids - those who are 18 and 19 - then you’re talking about kids who should know the risks, and are old enough to get married if they have to. Those are the ones at the dangerous age - because they have to use their heads and show some responsibility!
“They’re too old to be scared away from sex simply by warnings from their elders. They have to start using their own judgement. And that’s when conscience really enters into it. And self-control.
“What’s the answer to all these problems that teenagers face in relation to sex? There’s only one possible solution, as I see it. The schools should educate children in the facts and consequences of sex, and they should do it early - before these problems arise. That’s why I think the seventh grade would be a good time to start - when the kids are about 12 or 13 years old. If I were faced with the task of setting up such a sex education class in a school, I have some definite ideas how I’d do it.”
Lee’s ideas are particularly interesting in view of the fact that he graduated from college as an education major and, but for the fact that he became an actor, he could at this moment be teaching such a course.
“I’d have the facts of sex and reproduction explained in scientific terms, but I’d make sure that they were clear and understandable to boys and girls of that age. Oh, I know there would be some giggling and smirking and whispering among the kids at first, but I believe they’d soon settle down to a serious attitude of wanting to learn the truth about a very important subject that affects each of them.
“But I wouldn’t discuss just the facts of life, as they’re called. More importantly, I’d educate the kids in the consequences of sex - the responsibilities they face, and the physical and emotional price they’ll have to pay if something goes wrong.
“I would stress responsibility, above all else. I’d try to get the kids to realize that sex isn’t just for kicks - that it has to mean something, and shouldn’t be tried casually.
“I’d also stress the dangers of ‘do-it-yourself’ birth control. I understand a lot of high school girls are taking birth-control pills, and I think that’s completely wrong. Scientists are now discovering possible dangerous side effects from those pills, and the girls might suffer permanent physical damage if they take them without consulting a doctor.
“You cannot and should not stress religious considerations in a public school sex-education class,” Lee continued. “But you should stress ethical considerations, which are generally similar to religious considerations, anyway.
“And the kids should be encouraged to see their own pastor or rabbi if they want guidance in the religious aspects of sex. Too many of them are afraid to do this. But they should be made to realize that no problems will shock an experienced counsellor.
“When I talk of responsibility as seen in a moral or ethical light. I can’t avoid saying that I feel it’s primarily the boy’s responsibility to keep from having pre-marital sex with the girl.
“Why? Because, paradoxically, it’s the girl who has the most to lose since it’s she who will have the baby if something goes wrong, and she who will face most of the problems and shame. So, morally, if the boy really cares about the girl he won’t want her to go through such an ordeal.
“If he doesn’t care about her, he’s being completely selfish in using her for his own pleasure.” Lee added emphatically. “He’s treating her as a thing rather than a person and that’s the worst thing one human being can do to another!
“Since boys have the stronger sex urge in most cases,” Lee continued, “they’re the ones who should control it. If they do, the problem is practically solved, because it’s usually the boy who is the aggressor in this area. If it’s the girl who is the aggressor, she’s usually doing it so only because she thinks it’s the way to please the boy.”
Lee foresees even wider benefits from sex-education classes than might be realized at first glance. “If you educate kids to their responsibilities in regard to sex, you’ll lay the groundwork for making them understand their responsibilities in other areas as well - their responsibilities to their school, their community and their nation. In other words, you’ll be making better citizens of them,” he affirms.
That’s why Lee feels that there should be no delay in setting up these classes, and is glad that many schools already have them. For many young people, next year may be too late