Date of this Version
Macy, Sheridan. Abortion, Homosexuality, and Fiscal Conservatism: The Coalescence of the New Right around a Partisan Sex Education. Undergraduate Honors Thesis. University of Nebraska-Lincoln. February 2020.
A new movement surrounding the implementation of sex education, including programs aimed at youth with the goals of destigmatization of sex, preventing teen pregnancy, and venereal disease began in the 1960s. This launched a debate about what information should be available about sex and sexuality and to whom. Initial debates at the end of the 1960s and in the early 1970s focused on whether or not sex education should be included in schools at all, however, by the mid-1970s and early 1980s, the debate had moved on to what specifically these courses should cover. Born in 1964 and liberalized in the early 1970s, the Sex Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS), was the leading voice in the sex education movement. Backlash to its ideas came in two waves, one non-partisan and one partisan. This thesis looks at the development of SIECUS, its positions, and its eventual association with the left, as well as the impact of fears surrounding ongoing changes in family structures, women’s roles in society, race relations, open sexuality, and abortion on the creation of a new right wing. The paper begins with a general overview of the history of sex education and the conditions that allowed for the rise of a sex education movement before moving on to discuss the creation of SIECUS, the initial lack of partisanship in connection to and wide support for sex education, the impact of SIECUS’ liberalization, and how important differences between the first and second waves of backlash to the sex education movement contributed to the development of a new Republican Party. This is used to explain an ongoing partisan divide surrounding the issue and to show how certain tactics and values have come to be connected with either of the two major political parties.