Joycelyn Elders, the Surgeon General of the United States, was forced to resign over her comments about masturbation. Her remarks were made at the United Nations on Dec. 1, World AIDS Day, in response to this question from Rob Clark, of the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues:
"It seems to me the campaign against AIDS has already destroyed many taboos about discussion of sex in public. It seems to me that there still remains a taboo against the discussion about masturbation. And please forgive me for trying to do my tiny bit by announcing that I masturbate. And I do want to ask you what do you think are the prospects of a more explicit discussion and promotion of masturbation?"
"I think you already know that I'm a very strong advocate of a comprehensive health education program if you will, starting at a very early age. I feel that it should be age appropriate, it should be complete, and we need to teach our children the things that they need to know. And we know that many of our parents have difficulty teaching certain things. And for that reason, to make sure all of our children are informed, I've always felt that we should make it a part of our school. I feel it's the only institution we have where all of the children go. And at present in our schools, it's very incomplete, and only 5 percent of schools have a comprehensive program.
"As per your specific question in regard to masturbation, I think that is something that is a part of human sexuality and it's a part of something that perhaps should be taught. But we've not even taught our children the very basics. And I feel that we have tried ignorance for a very long time, and it's time we tried education."
Her remarks were widely misinterpreted, both by the people and by the press. Even the New York Times said that she "condoned the idea of teaching children to masturbate," which does not follow from what she actually said. [...]