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Review Essay

The Facts of Life

Sex Ed Around the World

In This Review

Too Hot to Handle: A Global History of Sex Education
Too Hot to Handle: A Global History of Sex Education
By Jonathan Zimmerman
Princeton University Press, 2015, 216 pp. $29.95 Purchase

"'Where do little children come from?’ This is an embarrassing question,” admitted Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Best, he thought, was to hope your kid doesn’t ask it. But if the question does come up, Rousseau advised in 1762, answer it “with the greatest plainness, without mystery or confusion.” The important thing is to avoid having this conversation with your kid during the impossible years. Wrote Rousseau: “If you are not sure of keeping him in ignorance of the difference between the sexes till he is sixteen, take care you teach him before he is ten.”

It’s not the worst advice I’ve ever heard, but honestly, what on earth did Rousseau know about it? He had five illegitimate children and, at birth, deposited all of them in a foundling hospital in Paris, l’Hôpital des Enfants-Trouvés. Every year, it seems, his mistress got pregnant: “There came the same inconvenience

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