Dr. Elders' Planet

March 31, 1994|By GEORGE F. WILL

WASHINGTON — Washington. -- "Society,'' says the surgeon general, ''wants to keep all sexuality in the closet.'' Which makes one wonder: What society is Dr. Joycelyn Elders living in? Surely hers is an interesting sensibility if she lives in today's America and frets that there is insufficient thinking and talking about things sexual.

This is a society in which parents can hardly watch television with their children without wincing, in which a walk past a magazine rack is a walk on the wild side, in which before or after the steamy soap operas have got the afternoon television audience panting, on come Geraldo, Montel and Sally -- ''Next, bisexual grocers and the lingerie they love!'' Someone should send the surgeon general tapes of the ''shock jocks'' now flourishing on radio -- Howard Stern and the rest. That would assuage her anxiety that sexuality is being ''repressed'' by ''Victorian morality'' in an America that needs ''to be more open about sex.''

The surgeon general should be gratified by the out-of-the-closet television commercial for little Hyundai automobiles. In it, two women speculate that men who buy big cars are compensating for their small penises. Observing the driver of a large car, one woman says ''He must be compensating for a . . . shortcoming?'' Of the man who drives up in a Hyundai, the other woman says, ''I wonder what he's got under the hood.'' A columnist for Ad Age notes that, in the argot of advertising, this is an ad campaign based on ''penis-length positioning.''

Imitation really is the sincerest form of television: Last Monday two consecutive CBS comedies, ''Murphy Brown'' and ''Hearts Afire,'' featured penis jokes. Given that such is now the stuff of mass entertainment and advertising, it is a mystery what the surgeon general thinks is left back there in the recesses of the nation's sexuality closet, and why she wants it -- whatever it is -- out.

You may well think the river of national life is silting up rather rapidly with sexuality in all its permutations -- gays in the military, gays in the St. Patrick's Day parades, Bob Packwood, Michael Jackson, Madonna, MTV, ''date rape'' seminars for freshmen, and so on, and on. But the surgeon general, in an interview with The Advocate, a magazine for homosexuals, indicates that she thinks the nation is suffering from sexual reticence.

In the process of endorsing adoption of children by homosexuals, and embracing the fiction that 10 percent of young people are homosexuals, she says ''sex is good, sex is wonderful.'' Verily it can be, but Dr. Elders' effusions are not VTC exactly all that the nation just now needs to hear from its principal public-health official.

Is it good and wonderful sex that is making so many 14-year-old mothers?

From boom boxes carried by young males down city streets comes 2 Live Crew's song ''Me So Horny,'' and lyrics about how much fun it is to ''bust the walls'' of vaginas. Not good. Not wonderful.

The New York Times reports a resurgence of what it delicately describes as ''commercial establishments where people meet for sex.'' It means places like the Adonis theater, a cinema on Eighth Avenue between 43rd and 44th streets in Manhattan. The city is estimated to have about 50 similar establishments where people go, often for anonymous sex with multiple partners. The city government knows that it will have to care for many of the 80,000-plus ''AIDS orphans'' -- children whose mothers died of AIDS -- that the nation will have by the end of this decade. The city closed the Adonis in January because not all sex is good and wonderful.

When used by advanced thinkers like Dr. Elders, the phrase ''in the closet'' means ''unliberated.'' But would-be liberators have a problem, there being little remaining in the way of laws or mores from which anyone can be liberated. Sure, in some cities children who are not yet in the sixth grade are denied information about anal intercourse, but such minor imperfections in American liberty make an uninspiring agenda for sexual liberators.

It really is no longer daring to say, as Dr. Elders did to The Advocate, ''I feel that God meant sex for more than procreation,'' and of course Dr. Elders has a right to construe God's will as she pleases. But can someone explain why a government official, and particularly this one, is favoring us with such thoughts? Where in the job description of the surgeon general does it deal with the duty to issue public lamentations about America's sexual repression? Repression is what she implies by her remarkable judgment that American society -- has she seen Calvin Klein underwear ads? -- ''wants to keep all sexuality in the closet.''

George F. Will is a syndicated columnist.

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