#PleasurePioneers: Joycelyn Elders
Artwork by @wishyouwerehere.art
In September 1993, Joycelyn Elders was appointed as the 15th Surgeon General of the United States and the first African American to find herself in the position in President Bill Clinton’s cabinet. However, her position as Surgeon General was very short-lived. Unlike some people who prefer to live on a cloud where sex, sexuality, and sexual health is only whispered about in dark corners, Surgeon General Elders was outspoken in her beliefs about sex, even going so far as to advocate that masturbation be taught in sex ed classes. She also thought that contraception should be distributed in schools to those who needed it and once said, in regards to abortion, “We really need to get over this love affair with the fetus and start worrying about children.”
Naturally, these forward-thinking thoughts of Elders’ had people clutching at their pearls and gasping: masturbation and birth control?! Oh my! Because of her controversial views, President Bill Clinton, who was no saint, mind you, forced Elders to resign on December 31, 1994.
Not long after her resignation, California-based sex toy shop, Good Vibrations, declared May 7, 1995 as the first National Masturbation Day in honor of Elders. Since then National Masturbation Day has evolved into a month-long celebration not just nationally, but internationally too. Not that anyone needs a reason to masturbate, it’s nice to know that at one point there was someone in the U.S. Surgeon General’s office who basically wanted us all to rub one out on a regular basis because, yes, masturbation is actually that good for you.