Teaching moral sex: A history of religion and sex education in the United States

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2 Scopus citations


Teaching Moral Sex is the first comprehensive study to focus on the role of religion in the history of public sex education in the United States. It examines religious contributions to national sex education organizations from the late nineteenth century to the early twenty-first century, highlighting issues of public health, public education, family, and the role of the state. It details how public sex education was created through the collaboration of religious sex educators-primarily liberal Protestants, along with some Catholics and Reform Jews-with “men of science, " namely, physicians, biology professors, and social scientists. Slominski argues that the work of early religious sex educators laid foundations for both sides of contemporary controversies regarding comprehensive sexuality education and abstinence-only education. In other words, instead of casting religion as merely an opponent of sex education, this research shows how deeply embedded religion has been in sex education history and how this legacy has shaped terms of current debates. By focusing on religion, this book introduces a new cast of characters into sex education history, including Quaker and Unitarian social purity reformers, the Young Men’s Christian Association, military chaplains, the Federal Council of Churches, and the National Council of Churches. These religious sex educators made sex education more acceptable to the public and created the groundwork for recent debates through their strategic combination of progressive and restrictive approaches to sexuality. Their contributions helped to spread sex education and influenced major shifts within the movement, including the mid-century embrace of family life education.

Original languageEnglish (US)
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages356
ISBN (Electronic)9780190842178
StatePublished - Jan 1 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Abstinence-only education
  • American religion
  • Comprehensive sexuality education
  • Liberal religion
  • Protestantism
  • Sex education

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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