Saturday Late Night Open Thread: Gateway Sexual ActivityPosted: April 14, 2012
Are the Arizona and Tennessee state legislatures competing to see which state can pass the most bizarre, backward, and ignorant laws? Yesterday Dakinikat wrote about the latest anti-abortion bill signed by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer that defines gestational age as beginning on the first day of a pregnant woman’s last period. Peggy Sue has written about Tennessee’s new anti-evolution law, which could lead to a modern-day reprise of the Scopes Monkey Trial.
For the moment, I think Tennessee is winning the competition for most stupid, insane legislation with State Bill 3310, which defines holding hands and kissing as “gateway sexual behaviors.” From the Nashville Tennessean:
The Tennessee Senate voted 28-1 to amend the state’s sex ed curriculum by adding warnings against “gateway sexual activity.” Senate Bill 3310 does not explicitly define what those activities are, but it comes in response to controversies in Nashville and Knox County schools over instruction given to high school students that mentioned alternatives to sexual intercourse.
“ ‘Abstinence’ means from all of these activities, and we want to promote that,” said state Sen. Jack Johnson, R-Franklin, the bill’s sponsor. “What we do want to communicate to the kids is that the best choice is abstinence.”
The Tennessee House is working on a companion bill that is also expected to pass. Just one state senator, Beverly Marrero (D-Memphis) voted against the bill, but not because she thinks abstinence education is a bad idea. She just thinks that focusing on telling kids “don’t do it” won’t reach the kids who are most “at risk.”
According to Nashville Public Radio,
The bill, SB 3310 Johnson/HB 3621 Gotto, replaces three paragraphs in the current state law with nine pages of new definitions and rules. The new proposal even defines the word “puberty.”
The bill was rewritten in the Senate to broaden some definitions of sexual activity. The new amendment reads much like the old bill, except it deletes the words “penis” and “vagina” from the definition of “sexual intercourse.”
The Senate also added a further amendment defining “risk avoidance.”
specifically designating the “risk avoidance” means “an approach that encourages the prevention of participation in risk behaviors as opposed to merely reducing the consequences of those risk behaviors.”
The reference is apparently aimed at the post-activity procedure called “morning-after pills.”
Basically, the bill defines any pre-coital activity among unmarried people as “gateway sexual activity.” That means holding hands and kissing would be verboten for high school and middle school kids. The bill also allows parents to sue teachers who don’t follow the curriculum rules exactly or if they “demonstrate” any gateway sexual activities. In effect, while the legislature claims teachers can talk about contraception, they can’t spell out for kids what it is or how to use it.
And yet, in Tennessee:
According to a 2009 Youth Risk Behavior Study, 61 percent of Memphis City high school students and 27 percent of middle school students have had sex. That’s higher than the national average.
Planned Parenthood said these numbers are why a new sex education bill promoting abstinence is not realistic.