Minnie Joycelyn Elders, known as Joycelyn Elders, is a pediatrician and professor at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock, Arkansas. In 1953, Elders began to work with the US Army, where she trained as a physical therapist, being the only African American woman in her training class. Elders eventually became a medical doctor in 1956, specializing in pediatric endocrinology. In 1993, then US President Bill Clinton appointed Elders as the Surgeon General for the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, which she served as until 1994. At that time, Elders was the first African American to hold the position of Surgeon General in the US. Throughout her career, Elders often spoke about controversial topics, like comprehensive sexual health education and abortion. During her time as Surgeon General, Elders advocated for universal health care coverage, promoting comprehensive sexual health education and bringing awareness to teen pregnancy in the US.
On 29 June 1988, in Bowen v. Kendrick, the US Supreme Court ruled in a five-to-four decision that the 1981 Adolescent Family Life Act, or AFLA, was constitutional. Under AFLA, the US government could distribute federal funding for abstinence-only sexual education programs, oftentimes given to groups with religious affiliations. As a federal taxpayer, Chan Kendrick challenged the constitutionality of AFLA, claiming it violated the separation of church and state. The Supreme Court found that although AFLA funded programs that aligned with certain religious ideologies, it was constitutional because it did not encourage government involvement in religion, and it held a valid secular purpose in seeking to prevent adolescent pregnancy and premarital sexual relations. By upholding AFLA, Bowen v. Kendrick enabled the US government to continue funding abstinence-only education, which researchers have found to be ineffective.
In 1902, editors of the medical journal Alkaloidal Clinic Wallace C. Abbott and William Francis Waugh published Sexual Hygiene, a book about normal sexual physiology and behavior in Chicago, Illinois. Though the book includes a collection of passages from other books, articles, speeches, and documents surrounding sexual physiology and behavior, it does not include text regarding sexual hygiene. Rather, the book contains a preface and twenty-eight chapters on topics including masturbation, incomplete or delayed intercourse, and impotence, meaning the inability for a female to achieve an orgasm or a male to achieve an erection. Though physicians and those who served as experts in the book used seemingly factual scientific evidence to back up their claims, later scientific understanding of male and female physiology disproved many of those assertions. Sexual Hygiene is an early US discussion of sex by medical authorities that provides examples of historical medical misconceptions about sexual practices, physiology, gender roles, and context for understanding reproductive medicine during the early 1900s.
Menstrupedia published the comic book Menstrupedia Comic: The Friendly Guide to Periods for Girls, hereafter Menstrupedia Comic, in July 2014 in India. Aditi Gupta, the founder of Menstrupedia and a women’s health activist, wrote Menstrupedia Comic while studying at the National Institute of Design in Gujarat, India, in 2013. Gupta worked alongside her husband, graphic designer Tuhin Paul, who provided the illustrations for the book. According to Menstrupedia, misconceptions and taboo surrounding menstruation in India prompted Gupta to develop the book. Specifically, in Hindu culture, women and girls may feel embarrassed to discuss their menstrual cycles openly, because menstruation is a process that some people consider impure. Published in eleven different languages, Menstrupedia Comic has become an educational resource for girls around the world to learn about their menstrual cycles.