The AP is highlighting a program recently enacted by the State of Tennessee to help lower the number of teen pregnancies in the state, one of the highest rates in the nation.
The bill is being called the “No Holding Hands Bill” because it makes it illegal to teach anything except for abstinence, and it puts an emphasis on preventing what are being called “gateway sexual activities”.
Rep. Jim Grotto insists that Tennessee’s new program isn’t abstinence-only, but rather, abstinence-focused and does allow for teaching children about contraception… But that’s pretty much it.
Critics are up in arms over this bill and many experts offer opinions that the state’s high teen pregnancy rates would be lower if they would enact a comprehensive sex-ed plan. Elizabeth Nash, state issues manager for the Guttmacher Institute, elaborates:
“What we know … from the research is that comprehensive sex education works. It delays sexual activity, it reduces the number of partners teens have, and it increases contraceptive use. There is very little in the way of any rigorous research that shows that abstinence education has any of these long-term benefits.”
Tennessee sees things differently. Teen pregnancies declined 10 years ago when they enacted abstinence programs in the state. But since then, the programs have become more progressive. One parent reports that an AIDS-education group demonstrated safer oral sex using a sex toy and condoms.
Now, I can get behind criticism of bringing sex toys into classrooms of 17 year-olds. To me, that seems a little bit graphic. Why couldn’t they have used a banana like every other high school sex ed program? Teens have different levels of sexual experiences, and showing some teens a sex toy might feel violating to them and is certainly not necessary in order to show they proper application of a condom.
But this law makes it illegal to talk about sex acts, the definitions of which are based upon the definitions of what constitutes sexual assault. To be clear, the law does not make the mention of said “gateway sexual acts” into sexual assault, it merely uses those acts to define what acts educators are not allowed to mention. The AP story explains further:
he sex ed law now uses the criminal statute on sexual assault to specify acts – such as groping or fondling – that fall under “gateway sexual activity.” It also says family life curriculum must not “display or conduct demonstrations with devices specifically manufactured for sexual stimulation.” If such incidents do occur, then a parent can sue and a fine can be imposed of at least $500.
So, for instance, if I were a sex educator talking to 17 year olds, I couldn’t mention oral sex in order to tell teens that oral HPV is now known to be linked to throat cancer (the rates of which are rising in men), and is most likely transmitted via oral sex. Saying “oral sex” would result in me being slapped with a fine of a minimum of $500.
Now, does that make sense? Will teens learn that herpes and other diseases can be transmitted via non-penetrative sex if you cannot explain what non-penetrative sex means?
What do you all think of this new law? How will this affect boys, specifically? Do boys need a different type of sexual education than girls?