Tennessee doesn’t even want kids to hold hands until marriage

While Gov. Walker was signing a shitty new abstinence-only bill, the Tennessee legislature was quietly outdoing everyone. Last week, the state updated its abstinence-only curriculum to ensure that teachers don’t encourage teh sexytimes with all their wanton hand-holding:

Tennessee senators approved an update to the state’s abstinence-based sex education law that includes warnings against “gateway sexual activity.”

In a new family life instructions bill, holding hands and kissing could be considered gateways to sex.

The bill gives parents “a cause of action” so they can sue any teacher that breaks the rules by “demonstrating gateway sexual activity” and also bans the distribution of materials “that condone, encourage or promote student sexual activity among unmarried students” (why do I have the feeling we’re talking about condoms and not porn here?)

Apparently, this comes in response to recent controversies where students received some sex education that mentioned alternatives to sexual intercourse. Honestly, I thought that kind of thing was standard in abstinence-only programs. I thought even advocates of abstinence until marriage recognized that if you’re telling students who’ve likely already started having sex (and in Memphis, for example, 61 percent high school students and 27 percent of middle school students have) to stop, it’s nice to provide some suggestions on safer alternatives. Even if it’s just something as clearly inferior to sex as fucking hand-holding.

But no, the bill’s sponsor says, “‘Abstinence’ means from all of these activities, and we want to promote that.”

Pic via Thinkprogress

St. Paul, MN

Maya Dusenbery is executive director in charge of editorial at Feministing. She is the author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick (HarperOne, March 2018). She has been a fellow at Mother Jones magazine and a columnist at Pacific Standard magazine. Her work has appeared in publications like Cosmopolitan.com, TheAtlantic.com, Bitch Magazine, as well as the anthology The Feminist Utopia Project. Before become a full-time journalist, she worked at the National Institute for Reproductive Health. A Minnesota native, she received her B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. After living in Brooklyn, Oakland, and Atlanta, she is currently based in the Twin Cities.

Maya Dusenbery is an executive director of Feministing and author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm on sexism in medicine.

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