Okay, most people might be aware by now of Tennessee’s new Taliban-inspired abstinence education policy. If you’ve just come in from Kabul, go back to whatever you were doing; you’re already familiar with all this. The rest of you, listen up. This is important.
First of all, throw out all your references to first base, second base, third base and homerun – that’s out. There will be no French kissing, “feeling up”, oral sex, let alone actual penetration. For a long time now we’ve all felt that first base was the “gateway sexual activities.” Turns out we were wrong. The “gateway”is a long way before french kissing – turns out holding hands is a real viper’s nest of sin.
Don’t do it!
But seriously, we really have to figure out what a “gateway sexual activity” is – and isn’t. I mean you’re not slipping anyone the tongue until you can get this down. And it’s not as easy as you think. Virgins manage to fumble their way to sex but I’m not sure Republicans can manage it, not after reading both the bill summary of SB 3310 and its House version, HB 3621 or the bill itself. Don’t even think about leaving a reading of the bill’s justification by the Family Action Council of Talibanessee – er, um…I mean, Tennessee, and leaving with your sanity intact.
Okay, I get that teenagers in Tennessee are getting it on in record numbers and I understand (I think) the Republican concept of abstinence. I do: that’s when Bristol Palin says “no, no, no, keep that nasty thing away from me!” and gets pregnant anyway. See, I get it. So did Bristol.
But for the record, here is what the Tennessee bill says about abstinence:
“Abstinence” means not participating in any activity that puts an individual at risk for pregnancy or a sexually transmitted disease…Abstinence-centered curriculum” means that the majority of the content of a curriculum promotes sexual risk avoidance as the primary goal. Supplemental topics in the curriculum, such as healthy relationships and substance abuse, reinforce the goal of primary prevention;
Wow…I guess abstinence doesn’t work very well, does it? Or was Bristol’s an immaculate episode? It’s possible I suppose – a lot of what comes out of Wasilla seems to stand outside the bounds of accepted science and sanity.
I’ve got to say though, all this sounds more like “common sense avoidance” to me. Clearly you’re not going to get pregnant if you don’t have sex. They really have to teach that? Isn’t it kind of self-evident? Isn’t it kind of, oh, I don’t know…obvious?
Look, you can’t stop kids from having sex; they’ve been doing it since Day One and they’re not going to stop once they discover the delights of their naughty bits coming into contact. The sane thing to do is to teach them all about the birds and the bees and because you know they’re going to ignore you, give them contraceptives so they can avoid the worst consequences of their lusty but ill-thought out activities.
This bill says it’s proven that comprehensive sex education curricula don’t work. Sure, it doesn’t stop teenage sex and pregnancy altogether. What they fail to point out that abstinence only education works even less well. They’re certainly not going to tell you that Mississippi, which teaches abstinence-only, has the highest teen birth rate (55 births per 1,000 girls) while New Hampshire, which requires comprehensive sex education (abstinence + contraception) in schools, has the lowest (16 births per 1,000 girls). And kids who go through abstinence-only education are less likely to use condoms (and no, they’re not going to admit to that either).
Honestly, I think if they just make kids read this bill summary and bill that they’ll lose all desire to have sex. They might even lose all desire to breathe. I’m struggling with it right now, to be honest.
Let’s see if we can nail this sucker (rather than the sexual partner of your choice) before I lose all desire to perpetuate the species and repent of the steps I have taken in that direction.
49-6-1304 (b) (7) “Gateway sexual activity” means sexual contact encouraging an individual to engage in a non-abstinent behavior.
What exactly, we might ask, is “sexual contact”?
That is never really explained. We do find, perusing further, the following, defining “sexual activity”:
49-6-1304 (b) (11) “Sexual activity” means sexual penetration or sexual contact, or both;
Oh dear, this isn’t terribly helpful. Do you mean to say that sexual contact IS sexual activity, and that therefore if you’ve engaged in sexual contact you have already engaged in non-abstinent behavior? Is this sorta like being pregnant before you’ve ever conceived, like in Arizona?
I mean, if a gateway sexual activity is sexual contact and sexual contact is sexual activity which is sexual penetration then does this mean that penetration can lead to a non-abstinent behavior? At this point I have to admit I am utterly lost. At this point I’m thinking chicken and egg, which is appropriate I suppose, since one has to come before the other, right? I mean honestly, it sounds to me as if a gateway sexual activity doesn’t LEAD to a non-abstinent behavior but that it IS a non-abstinent behavior.
What is really amusing is a bunch of Evangelicals (who have the highest divorce rate in the country, and as I noted above, seem to get pregnant more often as teenagers) trying to sell us on the idea that they can “Teach students how to identify and form healthy relationships, and how to identify and avoid unhealthy relationships. “ Seriously?
I suppose that must mean jetting off with your girlfriend to South America or driving around with strippers (who aren’t your wife) and booze or visiting same-sex prostitutes while ingesting illegal substances while married and preaching family values. I mean, this is the sort of behavior we’re witnessing from this crowd.
Now, obviously a few questions come to mind and bear with me here (but don’t touch!). Many have written that holding hands qualifies as a gateway sexual activity though of course there is no penetration involved in holding hands, at least not the way I hold them (perhaps I’m just not creative enough). Another problem might come on the football field or in any athletic endeavor in which male or female athletes whack each other on the bottom as a form of encouragement.
Should we perhaps understand this encouragement to be other than what we have always thought, that they are in fact encouraging each other to engage in non-abstinent behavior? Perhaps on the basketball court or on the football gridiron?
And if so, will they sell tickets? Allow photos?
Can students dance at their proms? If holding hands is a gateway sexual activity than certainly ballroom dancing is out, as is the waltz and even square dancing. Hoedown develops entirely different connotations in the light of gateway sexual activities.
It is easy to see where this is headed: covered hair as in the early Church and even covered faces – this sort of thinking leads straight to Kabul. It’s a small step from physical contact to even looking at a member of the opposite sex in a “gateway” fashion. Many cultures have cloistered their young women or covered them up in ways most Americans find unusual but I suspect people in Tennessee will not be finding all this unusual at all if the Republicans maintain control of the state government.
On top of all this comes teaching superstition (creationism) instead of the science of evolution…whew!…the good people of Tennessee have my sympathies (really, they do), but c’mon, can we think about quarantining them already? Like perhaps fitting a giant condom over the state so the rest of us don’t get what they have? Seriously, America, it’s time to put triage principles to work.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.