Sexuality on Sesame Street

Learning Womanhood from Child's Play

Lisa Anchin

By Judy Brown (Eishes Chayil)

Published October 05, 2012.

Elmo’s radio broke. He shook his furry head and banged on his toy. Elmo wanted to listen to music. He wanted to sing the ABCs, or a song about shapes and circles or fish in the sea.

I was 25 years old when I first watched “Sesame Street.” Oh, I knew Bert and Ernie from children’s books — the Yellow Rubber Ducky and Oscar the Grouch. But in the ultra-Orthodox Brooklyn neighborhood of Boro Park, TV is forbidden. There is “Uncle Moishy” and “The Marvelous Middos Machine” — but “Sesame Street,” Barney the Purple Dinosaur and other goyishe nonsense are seen as unnecessary and contaminated.

I was a young mother of two toddlers when I defied this rule. I had picked up a “Sesame Street” DVD while browsing through the sale items at the local Target. Big Bird stared out from the cover, tempting me. Elmo stood right behind him, a wide grin on his face. They seemed so harmless, all smile and fluff.

I thought of the pile of “Uncle Moishy” videos that my children had watched too many times to count, and my past teachers’ warnings flashed through my mind: “It begins with children’s movies, and ends in porn.” Then, in a moment of determination and defiance, I decided I’d buy it.

When I came home, I waved the DVD in front of my cousin’s eyes.

“According to statistics,” I explained, “children who watch ‘Sesame Street’ know the ABCs and numbers 1 through 10 better than those who don’t. It’s a proven fact. I’m telling you!”

My cousin, holier than I, peered at the picture of the oversized yellow bird. She observed Elmo. They looked unfamiliar, colorful, gentile. But I did not care.

“It’s ‘Sesame Street’!” I said. “It’s educational, it’s healthy, and it stimulates the brain cells!”

I sat my children in front of the computer in the den. I slipped in the DVD. I then leaned back in the chair, sighing contentedly. There are wonderful things out there for my children to enjoy. Why watch the same old things?



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