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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. Author of FREEDOM OF RELIGION AND THE SECULAR STATE (2012), HUMANITY ENHANCED (2014), and THE MYSTERY OF MORAL AUTHORITY (2016).

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

No holding hands, please - we're Republicans

Now this looks like the stupidest piece of legislation I've read all year, if not in my entire life. A bill passed by the Senate in Tennessee demonises adolescent sexuality to extent that kids are not even supposed to hold hands.

Edit: To be fair - see the thread below - the Bill does not explicitly mention holding hands, although it does define "gateway sexual activity" in a formula that could arguably be broad enough to include petting, kissing, and even hand-holding. I don't know what has been said about any of these by proponents in political debates, but it would have been honest of the site I linked to if it had explained that the Bill does not mention any low-level sexual actvities specifically, and that the inference that "gateway sexual activities" includes such things as holding hands is, well, an inference, even if the debates make clear that it was intended to be caught by the Bill.

This is another example of the perils of relying on reports, rather than actually looking at legislation. Mea culpa. But all that said, the overall intention of the legislation does seem to be to demonise and discourage adolescent sexuality, even in mild forms, as far as possible.


Friend of Icelos said...

The bill doesn't seem to mention hand-holding or kissing specifically, though I haven't read it carefully enough to see if it prohibits the acts in some other way. It does seem, however, to be thoroughly abstinence-only in its focus.

It defines "gateway sexual activity" as "sexual contact encouraging an individual to engage in a non-abstinent behavior. A person promotes a gateway sexual activity by encouraging, advocating, urging or condoning gateway sexual activities;"

Regarding such activities, it says

"(c) Instruction of the family life curriculum shall not:

(1) Promote, implicitly or explicitly, any gateway sexual activity or health message that encourages students to experiment with non-coital sexual activity;"

It also states that

"An LEA [local education agency, I think] shall not utilize the services of any individual or organization to assist in teaching family life if that individual or organization endorses student non-abstinence as an appropriate or acceptable behavior, or if that individual or organization promotes gateway sexual activity."

Russell Blackford said...

Interesting. I'll have a look at the Bill. We always need to be a bit careful about news stories - it's always possible that this is, to some extent, a beat-up. If it looks that way, I'll put an edit to that effect.

Russell Blackford said...

And duly fixed. That definition of gateway sexual activity is broad enough to include almost anything in my opinion - and the political debates might back up what the intention was. And hey... remembering back to my own adolescence, even holding hands with my girlfriend (my first one, say) packed an erotic wallop. So the intention seems like it's pretty draconian to me, i.e. to try as far as possible to de-sex adolescent behaviour.

But the Bill doesn't specify particular activities such as petting, kissing, or holding hands. My edit now makes that clear.