In Berlin's Kreuzberg, a neighborhood known for alternative lifestyles and a heavily immigrant population, parents of first-graders began to complain about the lewd content in a sex-education book that has been circulating in elementary schools for some time.
The book, "Wo kommst du her?" ("Where Do You Come From?") was launched in 1991 by the German publishing house Loewe Verlag, in cooperation with family planning organization Pro Familia. Recommended for ages five and up, it quickly became one of their most popular titles on the subject.
The illustrated book by Sonja Härdin and Dagmar Geisler follows two characters, Lisa and Lars, as they go through the process of having intercourse, pregnancy and birth. An extensive amount of nudity is included in the illustrations, including one scene of the couple putting on a condom. (As shown here in Spiegel Online.)
According to some parents, the text verges on the pornographic as well. Two examples: "The vagina and penis feel nice and tingly and warm" and "When it's so good that it can't get any better, Lisa and Lars have an orgasm." Some of the parents stated that 6-year-olds aren't ready to discuss issues like putting on condoms or achieving orgasm.
Loewe stated that it will not be reissuing the book. "The text and illustrations are no longer up to date," a representative told Spiegel Online.
The publisher has replaced it with a less explicit book by the same illustrator, "War ich auch in Mamas Bauch?" (Was I in Mommy's Stomach, Too?)
German politicians, usually more reticent than their American counterparts when it comes to such topics, have commented on the incident. "Sex education should accompany the development of children, but not speed it up," said Dorothee Bär to Die Welt. Speaking to the same news outlet, Monika Grütters said that when it comes to sex education, she would warn against "unnecessary zeal."
Perceived to be less conservative on the topic of sex when compared to the United States, Germany may be showing signs of becoming less liberal in its attitudes.
Or is the US truly that conservative on matters of sex education?
The National Conference of State Legislatures reports that, as of March 2013, all states are somehow involved in sex education for public schoolchildren. Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia require public schools teach sex education (20 of which mandate sex education and HIV education). Thirty-three states and the District of Columbia require students receive instruction about HIV/AIDS. Nineteen states require that if provided, sex education must be medically, factually or technically accurate. In terms of defining "medically accurate," the states vary with some requiring that the department of health review curricula for accuracy, while others mandate curricula be based on information from "published authorities upon which medical professionals rely."
Concerning sexual education, many states further define parents' rights in the matter. Thirty-seven states and the District of Columbia require school districts to allow parental involvement in sexual education programs. Three states require parental consent before a child can receive instruction. Finally, thirty-five states and the District of Columbia allow parents to opt-out on behalf of their children.