Instead of “hugs not drugs”, the legislatures of Tennessee have gotten a new abstinence only education bill to the house floor. It promotes the abolishment of any and all “gateway sexual behavior”. Say what? Yep, it’s apparently “no hugs, no sex”.
Rather than the promotion of healthy physical contact and critical thinking skills that allow teens to learn boundaries, communication and healthy physiological response to their ever raging hormones, there’s no hand holding, hugging or kissing allowed in the curriculum suggested in this bill because we should all know that any of that behavior is considered foreplay and will lead to sex.
Down with all outer-course!
Which as a sex educator who used to have to kowtow to occasional funding sources when I worked at sexual health clinics throughout the years, was my go to strategy for teens. Dry humping? I was ok with that. Oral as an option? If need be. But now the state of Tennessee (and previously Utah) says those behaviors are too tempting. And I think it’s a pussy move on their part to not define the “gateway” behaviors as well, so it could mean virtually anything. “Oh no, no little Timmy. We discourage eye contact!” Is that what’s next? What kind of kids are we as a culture trying to raise here? We seem to be setting our kids up for failure over and over again. Um, hello Mr. Republican politico, it’s not like teens don’t still have raging hormones to contend with. Why not chemically castrate them until they are “of age” and married? The return of chastity belts? Don’t laugh I’ve heard it proposed. You think I’m being extreme? It doesn’t feel far off folks.
Let’s for a moment pretend that abstinence only education is sometimes successful (in fact, we know it often has the opposite effect, leading to kids who are not only more sexually active but kids who also have higher STD and teen pregnancy rates because they have no clue about their bodies or safer sex. But yet, we feel the need to throw massive amounts of money at it every few years because we think we’re doing the right thing by protecting them from themselves), but I digress. Where was I? Oh, yeah…if it were successful even sometimes we know that not every safer sex strategy works for every kid. So, we would still be screwed. To borrow from another anti-drug slogan, “just say no” simply doesn’t work when it comes to sex. We’re talking about body chemistry not some outside substance that we can take or leave.
I’m “Anti” What You Are (Mostly)
Do kids need to learn to make smart decisions when it comes to their bodies and to sex? Yes. None of us are fans of teen moms (not even the TV show, really), abortions or STDs. Funny enough, we’re all in agreement about that. But there’s a bigger issue here and that is the issue of training our children to not be able to function as healthy adults. Are we setting our kids for potential sexual dysfunction and poor relationships later on? You betcha! Could they potentially put themselves in far more dangerous positions by not having an understanding of their bodies or how to communicate about them? Sad but true.
If you didn’t catch Stephen Colbert’s bit about this topic last week, watch it. How I wish this parody wasn’t so close to reality. It was funny and painful at the same time. Healthy sexuality is a birth right as far as I’m concerned. This means no adolescent should ever feel rushed to have sex but it also means that we need to prepare our kids for the realities of the world. Not giving them the tools is downright dangerous and shameful and it is more a statement about how fucked up these legislatures are about their own sexuality than anything. Can you imagine what goes on (or doesn’t in those bedrooms)? I can’t help but to envision a hole in a sheet being involved. Eck. Again, I digress…
Dr. Kat is the resident sexologist at Adam & Eve and also runs a private practice and media consulting business. She has a Doctorate from the Institute for the Advanced Study of Human Sexuality. Her professional affiliations include AASECT, SSSS, and the American Board of Sexologists. She also has a Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology and completed a postgraduate degree in Marriage, Family and Addictions Recovery Therapy.
© Copyright Dr. Kathleen Van Kirk