Disney's Take On Sex Ed Not Sexy or Ed-y

Disney's Take On Sex Ed Not Sexy or Ed-y

The camera pans across a title screen in typical Disney cursive.

Zooming in, we focus on a sleeping baby. Then — boom — the screen goes dark except for a slight, ghastly illumination of the baby’s face. An arrow points down the middle of its forehead. Is it Chuckie? A demonic possession? Nope. This is no fairytale. We’re looking at an arrow to the pituitary gland.

It's the beginning of the nice, sanitized Story of Menstruation.


The Disney sex-ed video presents women as doe-eyed and docile, uteri as white and smooth (no blood or genitals or realistic-looking flesh), and contains helpful tips for keeping up appearances. According to one Disney scholar, the film portrays menstruation as, "a hygienic crises rather than a maturational event." The Disney film can be forgiven: it was published in 1946. However, there are an uncomfortable number of parallels today.

How Disney-fied is our current education? It’s easy to decide something is too embarrassing to talk about. Sex-ed was mortifying. In sixth grade, the boys and girls were marched into separate rooms and given clinical descriptions of our changing bodies. The teachers were clearly not enthusiastic. The material had an air of the forbidden, and we went over it as quickly as possible. I don’t remember much of it but my incredibly strong wish to disappear.

Disney’s video completely avoids talking about sex, and we’re still good at avoiding the topic. Only 22 states mandate sex education, and only 12 of those mandate sex ed that’s medically accurate. "Don’t let it get you down!" the Disney narrator chirps, discussing premenstrual mood swings. A decade later, we still debate the validity of PMS. Always was the first company to show red blood in an ad for feminine hygiene products — in 2011. And, as PolicyMic recently reported, a school in Texas is teaching students that non-virgins are like used pieces of gum.

When you’re desperate to fit in, puberty is not your friend. And when everything is strange and difficult, strange and difficult become normal. My period was awful. I’d sit in English with my eyes unfocused, turning pale and green until my teacher asked if I was okay. "Fine!" I’d chirp, blinking hard. I learned about dysmenorrhea later, and also the max daily dose of ibuprofen. It was a wonderful day.

I had good sex ed, by American standards, and the omissions in my education did no lasting harm. But plenty of important information was left out. Sex was something you weren’t supposed to do, and if you did, well, you’d probably get any number of horrific diseases. Your changing body was something to deal with, not celebrate. And any discussions of sexual orientation were completely off the table.

We need to grow up and stop Disneyfying our sex ed. Disney published the Story of Menstruation half a decade ago. It ought to feel very, very out of place in the sex ed classrooms of 2013. The sad thing is: it doesn't.