Show Me!

Show Me! is a controversial sex education book by photographer Will McBride. It appeared in 1974 in German under the title Zeig Mal!, written with psychiatrist Helga Fleischhauer-Hardt for children and their parents. It was translated into English a year later and was widely available in bookstores on both sides of the Atlantic for many years, but later became subject to expanded child pornography laws in jurisdictions including the United States. In Germany, the book was followed in 1990 by a second edition that included, among other additions, a discussion of the AIDS epidemic.

Publication history

While many parents appreciated Show Me! for its frank depiction of pre-adolescents discovering and exploring their sexuality, others called it child pornography. In 1975 and 1976, obscenity charges were brought against the publisher by prosecutors in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, and Toronto, Canada. In all four cases, the judges ruled as a matter of law that the title was not obscene.

However, starting in 1977, some states began to criminalize the distribution of even non-obscene "child pornography," whose definitions they broadened to levels that could be argued to be in violation of the First Amendment. New York State, home of the publisher, St. Martin's Press, criminalized the distribution of non-obscene "child pornography" in 1977, but the publisher promptly went to court and obtained an injunction against the State. The court granted the injunction because the First Amendment was interpreted to permit the banning of only obscene material.

The U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision in 1982, New York v. Ferber, which allowed the government to constitutionally ban the knowing distribution of even non-obscene "child pornography". Citing a chilling effect, St. Martin's Press then pulled the book, stating that though they believed Show Me! was not pornographic, they could no longer afford the legal expenses to defend it, and they did not want to risk criminal prosecutions of their own personnel and/or vendors who sold the book. The Court overruled a decision of the New York Court of Appeals, The People v. Paul Ira Ferber, which held that the First Amendment protected the dissemination of non-obscene sexual depictions. Show Me! was not the direct subject of the Ferber case, but the book was prominently featured by both sides in the litigation, and it played a significant role in the oral argument before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Critical reception

Show Me! received mixed reviews from the mass media when it was first published. The Los Angeles Times on 03-09-1975 called the photographs "beautiful...graceful, charming, and elegant," yet accurately predicted, in a severe understatement of what actually happened, that the book "may start (an) uproar." The 05-04-1975 Washington Post, on the other hand, described the photographs as "beautiful, assaultive, grotesque, and seductive," and concluded that Show Me! was only suited for "avant garde" parents. Reviewer Linda Wolfe was more hostile in the New York Times of 07-13-1975, in which she called the book a "child-abusive joke." The 13-year-old daughter of Chicago Tribune reviewer Carol Kleiman perhaps summed it up best:

"I'm too old for it myself. The last part, though, with no pictures, looks interesting to read. The book is good for little kids because they don't know what society terms 'dirty' yet. You know, Mom, it's PARENTS I'm worried about. '''''They're''''' not ready yet."

Recent reviews

A recent review by Dr. Russell A. Rohde claims that the book, "appropriately delves into the issues of breast feeding, adolescence, pubertal changes, menses, sexual anatomies, pregnancy, masturbation, contraception, sexual behavioral disturbances and venereal disease. [...] I am not aware of any book comparable to this illustrated primer that fills the needs of sexual education so well."

D. F. Janssen, in Growing Up Sexually. Volume II: The Sexual Curriculum: The Manufacture and Performance of Pre-Adult Sexualities (October 2002), places it at the one extreme of a late twentieth century visual and textual revolution that enabled parents to illustrate information that up to that time had been transmitted orally. He sees the work as subversive not for its "too frank" portrayal of childhood sexuality, but instead for the primacy that the image takes over the text. In his eyes, the work "comes out of a culture with a long history of pathologising so-addressed 'primal scenes,'" a history that became manifest in particular with regard to the works of Will McBride.

The book is also analyzed in an article on "Picturing Sex Education" (Discourse Volume 27, Number 4 / December 2006).

Bibliographic details

  1. 1974: Zeig mal. Ein Bilderbuch für Kinder und Eltern Foreword by Helmut Kentler. Wuppertal
  2. 1975: Show Me!: A Picture Book of Sex for Children and Parents St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-72275-3
  3. 1990: Zeig mal. Ein Bilderbuch für Kinder und Eltern (2nd. ed.) 195 p. Wuppertal: Hammer. ISBN 3-87294-301-4
  4. 1995: Zeig Mal Mehr (5 ed.). 176 p. Beltz. ISBN 3-407-85106-5


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This article is based on "Show Me!" from the free encyclopedia Wikipedia ( It is licensed under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation Licencse. In the Wikipedia you can find a list of the authors by visiting the following address: