Crap or Not? 1983’s Am I Normal? is the bonerific guide to your changing body


Each Thursday, your Crap Archivist brings you the finest in forgotten and bewildering crap culled from basements, thrift stores, estate sales and flea markets. I do this for one reason: Knowledge is power.

Am I Normal?

Author: Jeanne Betancourt, but based on a film by Debra Franc and David Shepard

Date: 1983

Publisher: Avon Flare

The Back Cover Promises: “All of a sudden I have hair growing where it never grew before and sometimes I get an erection for no reason at all.”

Representative Quote:

Before I even sit down, Barry’s asking me, “Where’ve you been? We were looking all over for you.”

“I’ve been learning things,” I tell him.

“What kinda things?”

I glance at tony. “About my body.” I take a deep breath. “About the penis.”

As far as your Crap Archivist can tell, the history of American sex education goes like this:

1776 to 1976:
Any pleasure felt in your night-regions will engulf thy breeches in Godfire.

1976 to 1986:
Hey, have some rubbers!

1986 to present:
Any pleasure felt in your night-regions will engulf thy thong in Godfire, but someone will televise your pregnancy.

A well-intentioned but frequently insane explanation of why all the juices in your adolescent body suddenly have the ready-to-foam feeling of Coke in a can shaken up in a paint-mixer, Am I Normal? exemplifies the frankness of the longgone middle period.

Working from images and a script from one of those puberty films for which schools today demand permission slips, Betancourt dishes some plain-spoken common sense like
“Talking honestly about sex seems to be an okay thing to do.”

But then Am I Normal? also has pages like this:

The book continually ticks back and forth between helpful and hilarious. It points out that boys in the junior high locker room often make misleading statements bout sex. But then, just when adolescent readers might start to feel that Am I Normal has some connection to their own lives, this happens:

Finding your name in that is much more prestigious than Who’s Who! And trust me, there’s a full page in Great Moments in Sex dedicated to the way his short shorts straddle that bench.

That’s Tony, the sex-obsessed friend of Jimmy, our shy narrator. Jimmy’s body is starting to flower, which leads him to experience wet dreams (we see him nervously stripping the sheets from his bed) and sudden erections.

These experiences inspire another of the book’s bright truths: do not say the following to your gym class, as Jimmy does:

“I got a hard-on in the hall for no reason. It happened the other day during math, too. Am I normal? I mean does this ever happen to you?”

The result:

Soon, the goofy strikes again! Jimmy checks a book out of the library and discovers:

Of course it’s not a bone! It’s actually an unfinished gingerbread man!

Jimmy spends a lot of time reading. In a scene that probably wouldn’t fly in schools today, he holes up in a bathroom stall and pages through a classic.

His friends read, too!

Here, Tony enjoys the latest Scientific American while lounging outside on a sketch of toilet.

In his quest to find out more about his body, Jimmy continually strikes up awkward conversations with grown-ups. Some of these encounters serve as good examples for young readers:

But others don’t. Here, Jimmy consults with a zookeeper:

For a second I try to think up a different question, like what do you feed the monekys, or something. But my courage comes back when I open my mouth. “Does the size of a penis tell you how much of a man a guy is?”

Admirably, Betancourt and the original filmmakers address some of the pressing questions that young boys might have. The nurse explains to Jimmy why urine and semen do not come out at the same time. Unfortunately, the prickly issue of masturbation is addressed not with straight talk but an all-caps riddle.



So much of Am I Normal is so honest and helpful that it’s something of a shock when it lurches into complete and utter Crap in the climax.

After reading his sex books and checking in with his zookeeper, young Jimmy has grown more confident in his new body. While walking through a busy park, he encounters Tony and all the boys who had laughed at him in the locker room.

Jimmy then does what almost any twelve year-old would: has a go at public speaking.
“Look guys,” he says, “I thought I was a pretty cool guy and all, but then my body started acting all crazy on me.”

Over the next four pages Jimmy declaims in public all he has been through. This includes:

  • “When I was talking to Susie in the hall at school I got an erection, and we hadn’t even touched. Turns out it’s normal.”
  • “Then, after [Tony] made those cracks about masturbation, I looked that up. And it turns out that if you do it or you don’t, it’s normal.”
  • “Then I had this wet dream, and that was normal, too.”
  • “And now today, Tony is giving me a hard time about penis size making a difference, nd it just isn’t true.”

The response:

Kids, this is exactly what happens when you start hollering about penis size in public parks.

Also, if you’re like Jimmy, you’ll immediately be picked up by sexy tomboy Han Solo.

Seriously, though: Crap or not?

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