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Models of Masculinity: Sex Education, the United States Public Health Service, and the YMCA, 1919-1924
In 1918, the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) told American parents that "it is no longer possible for you to choose whether your child will learn about sex or not." According to the PHS, most American boys learned about sex from "improper sources" by the age of nine. The "unfortunate effect of these early impressions" had, PHS warned, not only resulted in a gross misunderstanding of sex, but also been a major factor in the spread of venereal disease (The Parents' Part [the U.S. Public Health Service, 1918], p. 5). To counter and correct this miseducation, PHS joined with the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) to create a sex education program aimed at adolescent boys. Officially launched in the spring of 1919, the "Keeping Fit" campaign provides a unique insight into the federal government's attempt to medicalize and regulate American sexuality through the forum of public health.