May 26, 2010

Sex ed for young kids

Indonesians, worried about sexual exploitation of children, launched a sex ed program that features anatomically explicit dolls. Check out the video here: Sex Ed for Kindergardeners in Indonesia
How would sociologists approach the multiple issues described in the video? Well, first of all, let's use the sociological imagination to examine ideas from the video. The sociological imagination, which you will recall is one of the most important foundations of the discipline of sociology, makes a link between personal, private troubles and public issues. In a society where children are sexually exploited, individual children suffer. This is the "private trouble" C. Wright Mills talks about. But the sociological imagination reminds us that sexual exploitation of children happens only within certain social contexts. These particular social contexts are the "public issues" C. Wright Mills describes. From the video, what are some of the public issues--the social contexts--that perpetuate the sexual exploitation of children? And as a society, how is Indonesia responding to alter the social contexts that allow sexual exploitation?

Another way to think through the issues sociologically is to think about how each of the three sociological paradigms would analyze the issue of child sexual exploitation. Structural functionalists, who think that societies seek order and stability above all, would ask if the education program increases stability and order, or if social change is happening too fast. Indonesia, like the US, tolerates some degree of child sexual exploitation. Structural functionalists would wonder if Indonesian society will spin out of control if small children are routinely taught to resist exploitation. Critical power conflict theorists, who think that dominant groups in societies organize to maintain their dominance, would be interested in the conflict generated by the educational programs. They would be especially interested in the threats of violence by religious groups who have organized to oppose the educational program. Symbolic interactionists, interested in how symbols are used and understood in a society, would ponder how the children understand the symbolism of the anatomically accurate dolls. How, for example, do children come to interpret the yarn on the dolls as pubic hair?

May 10, 2010


Welcome to the class blog for SOC/WMS 395: Love, Sex, and Heartbreak! I am delighted that you have joined us for this class. We will use this blog to accomplish three tasks this summer: First, this blog is a site where we can get to know each other and to create a sense of community among ourselves. Second, this blog is a place where I, as your instructor, can post late-breaking sociological news about the topics we will be studying this summer. In my posts, I will model how to use sociological tools of analysis. Third, the blog will be the place where you can contribute to our sociological conversations about love, sex, and heartbreak. You are required to write a certain number of original posts for the blog (see syllabus for details). But I am hoping that beyond meeting the minimum requirements, you will read and carefully consider what your classmates and I write on this blog and that you will make sociologically informed comments that further our conversations. I hope you enjoy reading and contributing to our blog!

Thanks to for the photo.