Srsly, I’m warning you: There will be mentions of genitals and sex. If you can’t handle that, better click off now.
When I was a kid, I learned this wacky thing from Mildred. At camp, she’d grab me up every week or so to braid my hair. She’d wash out barn chores, sweat, gardening dirt and lake water, and I’d take advantage of her much-nicer-than-the-campers’-wash-house shower. She’d scrub my back, make me promise to scrub everywhere else, then walk out saying, “Don’t forget to wash possible.” That was her odd little code for me to wash … you know … down there … the ol’ va-jay-jay.
But possible? So weird, right? It went on for a long time before I finally asked her why she said that. Apparently in school (remember, Mildred was born in 1914) the hygiene classes had included important information such as how to bathe. And the instructions for girls?
1. Wash as far down as possible.
2. Wash as far up as possible.
3. Then wash possible.
How much do you LOVE that? It’s so crazy and fabulous all at once. God forbid anyone should ever learn to say the word vagina. Shh!! If they learn to name it, they might learn how to use it! Better we should call it ‘possible,’ which will make so much more sense and have such poetic openness and potential.
Ok, so what brought all this on? My discovery of Planned Parenthood’s campaign to reach young adults with their update on the old ‘VD gets around’ line from my childhood. What? You don’t know about this?
(She is just a little too perky with that song. But I prefer her to the “VD Is for Everyone” lady.)
But the kids today have different interests, don’t you know. So intead of a silly ad with a catchy jingle, Planned Parenhood has created an unbelievably creepy video series called “Take Care Down There.” I’m not joking now. That’s really the name. Down there? That’s about as sensible as “possible.” And the videos are bizarre in the extreme. Watch the first one to see what I mean. And what’s up with that teacher-y guy who’s so borderline-inappropriate in his closeness and touching? And he gets stranger and stranger as the videos progress. And what’s with the psychodelic, Peter Max-ish scrapbooking at the end?
I applaud Planned Parenthood for wanting to get their point across, and I really applaud them for acknowledging the existence and normalness of homosexual sex. (That’s in episode 4, and it’s done in a way that I find gross, but acknowledgement is acknowledgement, right?) They’ve still got a lot to answer for. Do they really think kids talk this way, that they interact with adults this way, that they spend time making posters for Woodstock? They can say the word ‘penis,’ give me ten slang terms for a condom, and sing the ‘down there’ song (once again, not joking), but they can’t manage to say ‘vagina,’ and even the teacher can’t manage to say ‘human papillomavirus’ without making a funny.
The idea is that kids should relate to these young people, but I’m not sure that’s going to happen. The Marisol and Julio AIDS awareness comic managed this despite being painfully hokey (kind of like Rex Morgan comes to the Barrio). My students — and everybody else I knew — got into the story and couldn’t wait to see what would happen next. I don’t claim to be any kind of authority on ‘kids today’ or kids of any day, but I just can’t see kids like the ones I teach doing anything other than passing out from laughter at any of these videos.
And, too, the idea is that kids should feel comfortable talking to ‘safe’ adults about sexual health and talking to each other about sex and health … but the ‘kids’ in these videos are often quite uncomfortable. And they aren’t made more comfortable by the end of the episode, and they are pretty much never comfortable with the teacher-man. As much as I think my students might be amused by this campaign, they’re also likely to get the message that however they’re handling their sexual activity now is way better than what’s being shown in the videos, and while that’s “possible,” it’s surely not the best take-away message.