What are the Birds & the Bees, Exactly?

While watching a Fox News report recently (it was broadcast in a restaurant, so non-consensual) they had a “special report” on sex ed in Montana. The opening to the piece went something like this:

Parents in Montana are upset about a proposed sex-education program that would be going a lot further than just teaching the birds and the bees…”

CC image from Beverly & Pack via Flickr

I thought to myself: how interesting. They’ve proven the need for better sex ed in their opening statement.

What are the birds and the bees, exactly? The way it’s phrased in the sentence, it’s talking as if it’s a commonly agreed-upon statement, like saying “the sky” or “that car.” But I bet if you put any ten adults in a room and asked them to write down on a page what constituted “the birds and the bees” – and, I might add, just the birds and the bees – you’d end up with some wildly divergent curricula.

What are the basics, these days? Do they include proper terminology? Mechanics? How about emotional context? What is the right age to talk about it?

Seems to me that “birds and the bees” is a phrase that has outlived its usefulness. What do you think?

4 thoughts on “What are the Birds & the Bees, Exactly?

  • Gray,
    LOL when I read this….

    I have an 11 year old girl going on 23) who just underwent the per-requisite ‘birds and bees day’ at school. She brought home the form, and giggled, and said ‘do I really have to do this? I already know all this stuff!”

    Now, being that I’m an RN, and she is my 3rd trip down the hormonal hell-train that is puberty, she’s been very educated about her body and we’ve started talking about sex (in a sex-positive way, of course!) She came home from ‘V-Day’ (Vagina Day) at school with a little package containing a pamphlet for her and one for me (on how/what to talk to my daughter about puberty) 2 pads, and a mini Secret deodorant. I started looking through the booklets, and it was like Nickelodeon and Disney combined to vomit all over the traditional material! So very upbeat about the whole ordeal! They went into a lot of detail about every, and I do mean EVERY possible symptom of puberty onset.
    That all sounds pretty good, right? But as I kept reading there was NO mention of sex at all. Lots of info about pubescent changes (and the boys got the same deal in a separate room, of course), but NOTHING about masturbation/sex (although she did ask me about wet dreams…lol). The funny/tragic thing about the whole deal was they still talked about sex that day. On the playground at lunchtime, my daughter said the boys and girls compared booklets in their little cliques. (one of the boys apparently asked how he would know if he had an erection, and the teachers response was ‘it will be staring right back at you’…lol…the one-eyed-wonder-worm strikes again!) She says no one offered ‘show and tell’, but the majority of the conversation that was relayed to me was about how the two genders fit together in a sexual context. I answered all of her questions she garnered from her lunchtime schoolyard quorum, which she promptly ran to the computer to send off messages to her little pals to clarify their confusion as well. Since then, Ive kind of turned into the impromptu Dr. Ruth for her and her 6th grade pals! I figure as a nurse, at least I’m making sure they have accurate info (instead of the usual fallacies that are circulated at that age) but I was sad that even after revamping the whole ‘sex-ed day’ at school, they STILL are not covering safe sex, or sex at all for that matter. So I cant speak for anyone else, but I am spreading sex-positive education in our neck of the woods! lol

    Thanks for all you do!

  • It is silly. While I never remember my parents having the talk with me per se, I also remember clearly my mother supporting my right to read anything from the library I wanted and most especially the books about sex and sexual health.

    I also did not hurt, that I lived out in the country and had see, well, dogs, cats, pigs and sheep in action as it were.

    By the time the football coach bumbled his way through the sex ed lesson, half a dozen of the girls in the sophomore class were pregnant already. A day late and a dollar short if you ask me.

    I think the idea of the birds and the bees is counter productive. I have been having sex for a number of years and there have never once been any birds or bees involved.

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