Should Children See These Dancing Cartoon Genitals?

Jan 12, 2015 at 1:48 PM ET

A cartoon for kids that features dancing and singing genitals has roused the Swedish population into a frenzied online discussion about morals and parenting.

Created by Swedish Public Television and meant to be watched by 3- to 6-year-olds, the cartoon starts with a dancing penis and a song featuring the lyric, “Popi-dip-pop snippedi penis! Here comes his dick in full gallop!”

It doesn’t cover much ground beyond girls having a vagina and boys having a penis, but the cartoon has prompted enough debate for Swedish papers to dub it “moralpanik”—bizarre in a nation famed for its openness when it comes to sexuality. As one columnist for Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet noted, his daughter simply asked him, “Why is Willie up?”

A children’s show called Bacillakuten teased its third season with a minute-long clip of the cartoon on Facebook and quickly racked up thousands of comments, ranging from “What the hell?” to “My children, 6- and 9- year-olds, say the song and the video are great and that it’s important for children to learn about the body.” They followed up with a video of a viewer’s child, grinning ear to ear as he danced to the song, which was playing in the background.

With the clip approaching a million views on YouTube over the weekend and comments now sensibly closed, the video platform bafflingly deemed the cute cartoon too risqué and slapped it with an age restriction warning until Monday. When editors at Bacillakuten complained, the restriction was removed.

“Although we received some criticism, so we are very, very happy today, because the impact of the video is awesome!” said an editor at the channel to Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet. Many of the comments are positive on the Swedish version of Reddit (Sweddit) and on the show’s Facebook page. As one Sweddit user wrote, “Can’t believe people even bothered to get upset over this. I think it’s fun!”

The musician behind the video, Johan Holmström, told Swedish media that he tries to use music to satisfy curious questions from inquiring minds. He says previous songs of his—“Pee, Farting and Pooping,” “I Like Slime” and “Mollusks in My Pants” among them—have resulted from children’s questions.

He said the big problems may be with the visual side of the cartoon. Talking about sex with young children can be tough, Holmström said, and he hopes the video will help make light work out of difficult questions.

“I have a 3-year-old daughter,” he told Aftonbladet, “and after she listened, she wanted to hear it again and again.”