Monday, February 19, 2007

Scrotum is as scrotum does

The New York Times reviews a new children's book, The Higher Power Of Lucky. On the first page of the book, "the book's heroine, a scrappy 10-year-old orphan named Lucky Trimble, hears the word through a hole in a wall when another character says he saw a rattlesnake bite his dog, Roy, on the scrotum."

This seems to have created an "issue" for librarians: stock the book or don't stock the book. Most of the librarians seemed to be against it. But a gusher of literally hundreds of irate comments flowed like sperm into the New York Times concerning this tender issue. They were overwhelmingly against "censorship" and felt that there should be no question but that teachers should take the bull by the scrotum and charge ahead, happy in the fact that the book took the direct approach to an ordinarily touchy subject.

Now, being quite an old geezer and, I might add, one with a scrotum myself, I'm not particularly disturbed by the word. But I do have a certain amount of sympathy for those in the line of fire, the librarians and teachers who will have to have to explain the term to a bunch of ten year old boys and girls en masse. My children went through a stage, though, as I recall, it was earlier than ten, when to everything I said they rather monotonously, over and over, replied, "Why?"

Putting myself hypothetically in front of the class as the reader I can easily imagine the answer to the first question, "What is a scrotum?"

"Why, my dears, a scrotum is simply a sack made of skin that holds the testes of most male mammals." (So far so good.)

"What are testes?"

"Well, testes are just glands that makes sperm." (Maybe they won't notice.)

"What are sperm?" (Bad guess.)

"Sperm are just little things that when the male puts them in a female they can make a baby." (Here we go.)

"How does he get them in there?" …

Next thing you know you've got yourself a sex-ed class. Now there's nothing necessarily wrong with that, except for the fact that you signed on as an English teacher. And what if mom and dad would rather explain it all themselves when the time is ripe?

But no, the readers of the New York Times see this as an opportunity to correct centuries, nay millennia, of subterfuge and, like the brothers in the commercial who want Mikey to try the new cereal, they have only a sperm sized compassion for those who must deliver this correction.

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