The New Yorker Visits CSE's National Sex Ed Conference

Lila Gray

NEW YORK — A reporter from the gleefully highfalutin news and culture magazine The New Yorker dropped by the Center for Sex Education’s recent national sexual education conference to poke around and collect impressions.  

“Several hundred of those cheerful and unembarrassable souls whose calling it is to teach about the birds and the bees found, at the Center for Sex Education’s recent national conference, that there was something for everyone,” staffer Larissa MacFarquhar writes in an article titled “Heavy Petting.” “There were sessions on sex for old people and sex after weight-loss surgery; sex ed in Sweden and sex ed in Mauritius. In the ballroom, authors signed books—‘When Kayla Was Kyle,’ ‘Not Your Mother’s Meatloaf.’ Outside in the hallway, the inventor of the Wondrous Vulva Puppet peddled her satiny wares.”

MacFarquhar also relates lunch alongside noted sex therapist Dr. Ruth Westheimer, 86, who said, amongst other things, that David Letterman walked off set during an interview with her. Apparently he couldn’t stomach the anecdote she chose to tell on the show — about a man like putting onion rings on his penis.  

The short piece ends with a peek into a seminar meant to debunk sexual myths, held by Brian Flaherty, a legal reference librarian, and Megara Bell, who teaches sex ed to kids with Asperger’s syndrome.

By painting the seminar in broad strokes, MacFarquhar illuminates the mosaic of personalities, products and issues that fall under the ever-growing, increasingly eclectic umbrella of “sex education.”

“Heavy Petting,” appears in print in the Jan. 5 2015 issue. To read online, click here.

The Center for Sex Education (CSE) has been hosting its annual Sex Ed Conference since 1985, when the organization was still known as the Center for Family Life Education. What started as a one-day conference for New Jersey health educators has grown into one of the largest conference in the U.S. that is exclusively devoted to sexuality education. For more info, click here

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