Insert Your Own ‘Stuffed Crust’ Joke Here

Al Vernacchio teaches the best high school sex education class you’ll find anywhere — it’s honest, frank, and doesn’t shy away from answering the questions kids really want answered.

My favorite excerpt from this New York Times article is the part where Vernacchio wonderfully links up sex and food:

“So let’s think about pizza,” Vernacchio said to his students after they’d deconstructed baseball. The class for that day was just about over. “Why do you have pizza?”

“You’re hungry,” a cross-country runner said.

“Because you want to,” Vernacchio affirmed. “It starts with desire, an internal sense — not an external ‘I got a game today, I have to do it.’ And wouldn’t it be great if our sexual activity started with a real sense of wanting, whether your desire is for intimacy, pleasure or orgasms… And you can be hungry for pizza and still decide, No thanks, I’m dieting. It’s not the healthiest thing for me now.

“If you’re gonna have pizza with someone else, what do you have to do?” he continued. “You gotta talk about what you want. Even if you’re going to have the same pizza you always have, you say, ‘We getting the usual?’ Just a check in. And square, round, thick, thin, stuffed crust, pepperoni, stromboli, pineapple — none of those are wrong; variety in the pizza model doesn’t come with judgment,” Vernacchio hurried on. “So ideally when the pizza arrives, it smells good, looks good, it’s mouthwatering. Wouldn’t it be great if we had that kind of anticipation before sexual activity, if it stimulated all our senses, not just our genitals but this whole-body experience.” By this time, he was really moving fast; he’d had to cram his pizza metaphor into the last five minutes. “And what’s the goal of eating pizza? To be full, to be satisfied. That might be different for different people; it might be different for you on different occasions. Nobody’s like ‘You failed, you didn’t eat the whole pizza.’

Where was this class when we were in high school?

And why would anyone oppose it?! (That a rhetorical question… we know the last thing religious parents want their children to hear is that sex — including sex outside marriage — isn’t necessarily a bad thing.)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Gyldenkam

    My sex ed teacher wasn’t quite that intense, but he was down-to-earth and went a bit beyond the condoms, STDs and body parts involved.

    My favourite part was when he “explained” the clitoris: “This is not an on/off button.”

  • Mrs. B.

    It could have been much worse. When you mentioned sex and food I thought it was going to involve whipped cream and caramel sauce and cherries. Ahem.

    I remember in a COLLEGE biology course the instructor standing at the front of the class and telling the boys that women had orgasms just like they did, but it was all done inside the vagina, internally. My jaw dropped and it was truly all I could do to not ask him how fulfilled his wife was.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=209100138 Kyle N Weber

    I think he forgot to mention how great pizza is the next morning!!!

  • Erik

    Al strikes me as severely uninformed.  Doesn’t he know that pizza is a vegetable?

  • PJB863

    No joke:  back in the mid 1970′s, I was attending a brand-new, startup public high school in the Chicago area, and this was the type of message we were gettting!  They were doing a lot of avant garde (for a public school) stuff.  At the time, it was considered way out there because it was one of the first sex-ed courses that was coeducational in the area.  Unfortunately, the course has probably been dumbed down by now.

  • Guest

    This is a _bad_ teacher, not a good one. He talks down to the class and over all comes off as someone who doesn’t appreciate his student’s intellect.

    • http://nathandst.blogspot.com NathanDST

      Really? I’m not seeing that all. How are you getting that impression?

    • http://www.shadesthatmatter.blogspot.com asmallcontempt

      I don’t think that at all.

      Yes, it would be a wonderful utopia where a teacher can talk about sex to teenagers without metaphor and talk openly and frankly and seriously…but I don’t think that utopia exists. It takes a loooong time to foster relationships with students so that you can address issues like this – if mutual respect isn’t established and the kids don’t trust you, forget that serious, whole-class discussion you had planned. Go with a pizza metaphor instead.

      The metaphor is great because it addresses a lot of issues that teens might be uncomfortable raising on their own. They might giggle at it a little, and your boys will probably make pizza jokes for the rest of the semester, but I can guarantee you that many of them probably considered this quite seriously.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000434302335 Michael Connor

    That is the most concise, clear, and honest metaphor I have ever heard.  Awesome.
    On the down side, that is the most concise … heard.  I wish that was the default.

  • Suze

    Sex is like pizza. Even when it’s not that good, it’s still pretty damn good.

    • http://nathandst.blogspot.com NathanDST

      I think you’ve never had truly bad pizza. Or bad sex.

      • Drew M.

        Sucks to be you.

        • http://nathandst.blogspot.com NathanDST

          Meh. I suppose. I’ve also had really good pizza and really fantastic sex, more so than the bad, so I think on balance it works out in my favor.

      • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ Anonymous

        Heh. Thing is, you know when you’ve had either of those.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/DJRVGKGG36KNLNMZAVT4EXOF3M Ed-words

    Consensual, safe sex before marriage – -OK
    Cheating on your spouse – -not OK.

    ( Wonder if Herman Cain would like the pizza analogy.)

    • dauntless

      Says who?

      • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/DJRVGKGG36KNLNMZAVT4EXOF3M Ed-words

        Your wife, that’s who!

    • http://www.facebook.com/LittleBrownBird Sharon Combs

      Depends on how you define cheating!

  • Nathaniel

    Really? What makes you say that? Every single student in that story loved him, and some comments from other past students attached to the article are all glowing in their praise.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    variety in the pizza model doesn’t come with judgmentExcept for anchovies. Those are just perverted.

    • Anonymous

      And pineapple. Yuck

      *ducks*

  • Thoushallthink

    He hath seen the light of the Holy Crust and the doors of Hoven shalt always be open to him. My vessel is indeed tha answer to everything, and he who seeth it, shalt forever dwell in my kingdom surrounded by my hovenly bakers. Spread the gospel children; let’s fill our brethren’s souls with the joy of Jessy Crust, and their bellies with my holy vessel.

    Signed: @JessyCrust

  • beijingrrl

    I secretly listened to Dr. Ruth when I was a young teen and concluded that I wouldn’t be waiting to have sex until I was married and was unlikely to marry the first boy I had sex with.  Despite all that, having a very strong sex drive, and having no guilt about my conclusions, it still was 5 years until I did have sex.  Frank discussions about sex and relationships don’t implicitly give kids permission to have sex, but they do explicitly give them permission to figure out what it is that want from sexual partners.  At least that was my experience.  And unlike most of my female friends, I look back quite fondly on that first time.

  • Guest

    My older brother had this guy as a teacher when he was at a catholic school.  I remember meeting him a few times and I wanted to go to that school because of him.  Even as a middle schooler I could tell he was a great teacher and a phenomenal person.  Sadly, he left the school before I got there (fired because he was gay, maybe?).  I’m sad I missed out on his class.


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