miracle prevention

Tennessee Close To Banning Any Sex Education That Involves The Word ‘Sex’


What? Yeah, Tennessee is very busy, now and always, with a bill that intends to ban the discussion of sex in sex education courses. Isn’t education without sex just…math? This bill, which passed the House Education Committee Wednesday, and whose “companion” bill passed in the Senate last month, is now going before Tennessee’s House. It’s intended to update the state’s very old abstinence-based sex education bill with…something equally anachronistic. Its sponsor, Rep. Jim Gotto of Hermitage, evidently lives in a hermitage of his mind if not the world, in which he thinks that the only sex education children and teens should be taught involves topics like family and maybe American Girl dolls, and team sports and burlap sacks. So how did this all start, if you dare to care? Well apparently actual teachers in Tennessee are so unskilled or blasphemous that they don’t even teach sex-ed, some outside “vendors” do. They probably vend God, for the most part, but apparently there have been “complaints” about some of these vendors, because they’re not vending God hard enough or what-all.

From AP:

Gotto said he proposed the legislation after complaints against some outside vendors that were teaching sexual education in schools. He said in some cases students were being told that any kind of sexual activity is permissible, as long as it’s not sexual intercourse.

These “vendors” clearly did not realize that if a boy thinks about sex, then looks at a girl for more than five seconds, she will get a baby. Likewise if a girl looks at a poster of Justin Bieber, or takes more than eight Advil in a 24-hour period.

What the bill plans to say is that sex education must fall under the banner of “family life education” and it must be “abstinence-centered.” If it turns out not to be:

a parent has the right to sue the vendor under his proposal.

Bolded for your pleasure. The bill has been debated considerably because of the definition of “gateway activities,” the type of thing that the evil vendors have been apparently encouraging. Some say “gateway activities” refers to “sexual contact other than intercourse,” while others say kissing and HAND-HOLDING could be considered “gateways.” Gateways to boredom.

So. The kids are doing sex and babies, MANY OF THEM residing in Tennessee and its close friend Arizona, but they can’t talk about either or ask about either or anything related to either, because all of it is taboo, and sex is not family, family is family, but miracles do happen, etc., cue slideshow of the Santorums. [AP, The Tennessean]

About the author

Liz is a writer. She has written for this site, evidently, and also The Awl, The San Francisco Chronicle, NPR, The Economist and others. She is the author of a short story collection, Cover Story.

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  1. Chichikovovich

    Removing "sex" from "sex education" is just one step toward the Tennessee legislature's ultimate goal of banning education.

    1. user-of-owls

      Silly man. They are not going to ban education. They are just going to ban any education that involves the act of educating. See?

      1. Fare la Volpe

        You can't get out of the army unless you're crazy, but only a sane person would request to get out of the army. Foolproof!

          1. not that Dewey

            The Kingbirds showed up this weekend. Four or five of them will go at it in mid-air, in what Mrs D calls "Bird Fight Club".

            Yesterday morning, my Phaenopepla came back. He was standing in that same tree, staring at me with those creepy red eyes, alerting me that he had returned.

            And last night I saw the first hummingbird of the season. He was eating from the blackberry flowers, totally ignoring the feeders that we put up last weekend.

    1. Fare la Volpe

      I wish I could defend my state and tell you to stuff your prejudice where the son don't shine.

      Then I remember everything you said is true, and thank Yahweh Jeebus I'm not a native Tennessean. Fuck this state.

      1. Barb

        Fare, I love you. I grew up in Tennessee, my daughter was born there, I went to school there and my father's family is from there. I am not prejudiced. I am a product of the school system there. I graduated high school at age 17, functionally illiterate and I taught myself to read at age 23. I was married off at age 17, by my father, to an older man that I had never met before.

        I'll never snark about Tennessee again, I promise.

        1. Fare la Volpe

          I love you too, hun. But fuck, your Tennessee horror stories are way worse than mine. The worst I get is the occasional "FAGGOT" lobbed my way (once accompanied by a baseball to the head), or a racist boss whom I have to silently tolerate when she refers to our pretty black waitress as a black b**** (that waitress always gets a massive tip from me, God bless her).

          Why did Papa Barb do that you, hun? I didn't even know arranged marriages were still a thing in the US.

  2. johnnymeatworth

    Meanwhile they're also undertaking legislation to make the stork the state bird….

  3. Callyson

    Likewise if a girl…takes more than eight Advil in a 24-hour period.

    So, the aspirin between the knees does not work after all? Someone better update Foster Friess, pronto…

  4. Callyson

    And if you click on the link to The Tennessean's story, the ad on the right hand side of the story is a steamy promo for the Nashville Ballet.

    "Sensual…seductive…steamy…savage…" When will Tennessee address the pressing issue of those dancing sluts?

  5. prommie

    So the world epicenter of Stupid must be located in that mystical place where North Carolina and Tennessee come together, the confluence of Stupid, the intelligence vacuum of America, which would be, approximately, Pigeon Forge.

    1. el_donaldo

      I drove through there once while camping on the other side of the Smokeys. It's ghastly and surreal. Every country music star you thought completely washed up has a dinner concert hall on the main drag. And there are people everywhere.

    2. dadanarchist

      Dolly libel!

      No, seriously, Dolly Parton is fucking rad and not in a post-ironic hipster way, she's just flat-out awesome.

      Pigeon Forge? Meh.

  6. DerrickWildcat

    Estrogen is a gateway drug. Ban it!
    P.S. Queen of Outer Space is on TCM right now. Do not watch it because it might be too sexy what with the Zsa Zsa Gabor and her army of Veunsians.

    1. spareme

      Yep. The chillins in Tennessee need to learn about sex the hard way – like their 15 year old parents did! If you don't call it sex, then it ain't!

  7. widestanceromance

    I did not become sexually active until my hands were held–against the mattress, and then, oh, yeah I became very active.

      1. widestanceromance

        It was pre-video, and the cave drawings are so hot, you'd rub the skin clean off if I showed them to you.

    1. Biff

      Amazing how the aspirin between the knees meme persists, when so much sexytime has been avoided by "having a headache."

  8. James Michael Curley

    "if a boy thinks about sex, then looks at a girl for more than five seconds, she will get a baby"
    During lunch hour I took a walk along the water front in Jersey City and at least six girls are now pregnant. One will have triplets, at least.

      1. James Michael Curley

        I look forward for what I call, “June is busting out all over.” at the local swim club. This is the Memorial Day weekend when the less than attentive Mom’s haven’t noticed last year’s two piece is no longer adequate for little janey.

  9. elviouslyqueer

    Is telling Gotto to go fuck himself allowed under the abstinence-only curricula? Because of singularity, is why I'm asking.

  10. niblick77

    And, KIDS, if you feel a burning sensation when you urinate make sure not to tell anyone or they will find out you were having congress. It will probably heal all by itself anyway after you go to church and pray some more.

  11. WhatTheHeck

    The people of Tennessee never, ever place a penis into a vagina because that would promote vulgar, icky human relations which would be against god's intent.
    Godamnit, if people want to have offspring, they should wait for the spirit to descend into the female's lady parts and the stork brings forth a baby.

  12. actor212

    OK, class. Now, that which we can't talk about education will involve talking about that which we can't talk about, so we're going to call it "beer".

    Now, I have to make a confession here…I like beer. I like it every night, but it's best when I can have beer with a partner.

  13. Weallscream

    Next, history class without mentioning the past, English without speaking the language…

  14. SayItWithWookies

    Tennessee legislators obviously got upset when they heard a rumor that at least one product of their educational system wasn't a lousy lay, and have been doing their utmost to ensure said oversight never happens again.

  15. SmutBoffin

    Isn’t education without sex just…math?

    Math should be banned, too. It is just a gateway to…uh…more math. You teach kids algebra then they start asking you uncomfortable questions about differentiation and integration. Next thing you know, they are into kinky stuff like topology, differential geometry, and abstract algebra (gross!).

    Not while you live under my roof, junior!

  16. EatsBabyDingos

    At Our Lady of Perpetual Hoochy Koochy and Toaster Repair, we think stoner sex is great. Why are they interfering with my Reeligeous Rights?

  17. actor212

    Gotto said he proposed the legislation after complaints against some outside vendors that were teaching sexual education in schools.

    Pssst! Kid! Got pitchers of your mom nekkid?

    Wanna buy some?

  18. BigSkullF*ckingDog

    Hey, if the virgin Mary didn't need to have s*x than none of you sluts need to do it either!

    1. swordfis

      Wouldn't it be better to just have the DOA offer a responsible online course to teens? And mandate that everyone needs to watch it before going on to 10th grade? That would cut out the middle-idiots (how do you strike-through?)

      1. JustPixelz

        You can strike out using HTML strike and /strike tags. Dubya was a (strike)dream(/strike) nightmare. Of course using the angle brackets < and > instead of ( and ).

  19. Chick-Fil-Atheist™

    My fellow Tennesseans:

    The world is seriously fucking watching. I have friends in Australia, the Netherlands, Iceland, and some other places we were not taught about in our high schools. They see this through an electronic medium we don't understand because we were told to question science.

    They see our precious, gorgeous state as a cradled idiot, surrounded by other dysfunctional, cradled idiots, because we're creating laws that go against the very order of nature that other self-aware, introspective cultures know as facts.

    Please, for the love of your sweet baby Jesus that "deserves to go to school too," stop. This. God. Damn. Nonsense.

    Your brother,

    1. Generation[redacted]

      If I wrote that on Facebook, I would get numerous accusations of being "anti-Southern" (I get that accusation fairly regularly anyway)

  20. EatsBabyDingos

    I thought Sex Education in Tennessee was giving the kids a picture of Ol' Daniel Boone having sex with a bear, with a big red circle and a red bar across the picture, and a caption that said "This is wrong. Sheep have small teeth and no claws."

  21. EtchySketchy

    Does dry humping while only wearing Santorum sweater-vests count as a 'gateway activity?

  22. TheGyrus

    in some cases students were being told that any kind of sexual activity is permissible, as long as it’s not sexual intercourse.

    "permissible"? Fucking seriously?

  23. user-of-owls

    involves…family and maybe American Girl dolls, and team sports and burlap sacks.

    Oh, this will end badly.

  24. el_donaldo

    There are some beautiful parts of that state. Tennesseans, please don't breed – it'll make it possible for less awful people to move into the area.

  25. Warpde

    I say leave sexy-ed up to the homeschool'n.
    In Tennessee the only ones who should be teach'n girls about sex are Pa, Junior and Uncle Bobby.

  26. Guppy

    Now their sex education program will be identical to their science program!

    By 2020, the entire high school curriculum in Tennessee will consist of nothing but prayer and football.

  27. Tommmcattt

    Heh. Social conservatives are so cute. They think this kind of thing is going to help them in November…

  28. Gleem McShineys

    "Sex education children and teens should be taught involves topics like family"

    Cousin Fuckin' 101

  29. nirrti_rachelle

    I live in Tennessee and am in the process of getting licensed as a teacher. However, I will be teaching in another state since I can't stand the anti-intellectual morons running the local school boards here. Other soon-to-be teachers are leaving the state in droves since they actually want there students to, you know, learn things.

    Also, there's a high school in my city where 90 girls got pregnant in one year. That's just how "well" abstinence-only is serving the kids in TN.

    1. Chick-Fil-Atheist™


      I also live here… and in case you haven't noticed, you can't leave Tennessee without hitting more redneck and crazy. We're, as people would say in geo-polity, "stupid-locked."

      Now let me say there is a bright side, as I have told a family member who will graduate with teaching creds in two years: the upside is that you're teaching millenials. You're teaching a more skeptical group, and the department heads are slowly coming to realize that their historical curriculum choices are not viable anymore.

      that's why we're seeing this push to legislate. It's blowback, and it will suck for a while — but it can't last forever. You do have facts on your side. Stay here, please, and keep tainting the well with reason and insight, with skepticism and questions.

      1. nirrti_rachelle

        Generation[redacted], I looove your Yip Yip.

        Anyway, I wish I could make it work out here in TN. But I think it may be best for me to head elsewhere, at least for my sanity.

        I'm not even planning to be in the US. for too long if I can possibly get work in the UK or Canada after I achieve tenure.

        I hope this younger generation will change things for the better. But as long as these older people are still alive, they'll do absolutely anything to stop progress no matter who it hurts. And frankly, I've lost any will to fight I had within me in these last 10 years of non-stop BS.

    2. dadanarchist

      Don't leave. I teach college in Tennessee and out of a class of 23 students, all 23 stated that the Cuban Revolution was not only justified but necessary.

      There's hope among the young, even the religious ones.

  30. owhatever

    This is another great step toward totally eliminating education in Tennessee. Kids can learn to masturbate and play the banjo on their own time.

    Monkeys have filed a suit in court declaring, "Don't blame us. We agree that nothing as stupid as you could have evolved from us."

  31. widestanceromance

    All they need to know is, if Daddy's doing it to them, it is biologically impossible to become pregnant. Should Girlene come home knocked-up, Daddy will know she is a cheating slut and will disown her.

  32. Mumbletypeg

    Isn't education without the sex just… math?

    Related: see Benincasa's memoir for a hilarious story of… things.. getting "too hard" during a 9th grade class she was teaching. (Hint: it wasn't the math)

  33. DaRooster

    Yep, let's not allow kids to not ruin their young lives with a gaggle of screaming Redneck twerps at 15… just what we need.

  34. ttommyunger

    To stress the importance of this Legislation it should be noted that was prepared with Red Crayon rather than the usual Blue.

  35. randcoolcatdaddy

    Just when, exactly, did an 80 year old Catholic nun stage a coup and take over the government of Tennessee?

  36. Antispandex

    But wait, I thought this kind of thing could never happen if we privatize education. There has to be some communist component to this story. BTW why do these stories always seem to come out of one of the states we kept from secession? Were we wrong? Is it too late?

  37. coolhandnuke

    …a parent has the right to sue the vendor under his proposal…

    And I thought the Wingnuts were for Tart Reform.

  38. Dashboard Buddha

    Gateway activities? Didn't George Carlin once say that mother's milk led to everything?

  39. outragedcitizen

    If I was one of the "vendors" I would pack my bags and get out of that backward state then sit at the border and laugh my ass off when they are up to their ears in out of wedlock babies.

  40. tessiee

    Part 1:

    Fellow Wonketeers, pay careful attention to the sliding elision here:
    "abstinence-based sex education bill […] Its sponsor, Rep. Jim Gotto of Hermitage, […]
    thinks that the only sex education children and teens should be taught involves topics like family and maybe American Girl dolls, and team sports and burlap sacks. apparently there have been “complaints” […] He said in some cases students were being told that any kind of sexual activity is permissible, as long as it’s not sexual intercourse."

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but I have always understood the word "abstinence" to mean "no sexual intercourse". Sex education in the civilized world teaches students, among other things, how to protect themselves from consequences of sexual intercourse such as unwanted pregnancy, STDs, etc. The christopath/cracker objection to this is that they would want no one to have sexual intercourse, or at the very least, those who *do* have sexual intercourse should be punished.

  41. tessiee

    Part 2:

    To this end, they've spent the last twenty or thirty years pressuring the schools to abandon their responsibility to, you know, actually educate students, in favor of promoting the right's religious theories under the guise of "abstinence".

    Now, having gotten what they've been saying all along that they wanted, they're not satisfied with that either. Rep. Gotto and his ilk have succeeded in replacing "how to have safe sex" with "don't ever have sex", and are now pushing to replace *that* with "don't ever do anything".

    Aside from the obvious conclusion that these cranks never stop whining, even after they get what they want, it's a textbook example of the way they operate. If they ever succeeded in (FSM forbid) getting Roe v. Wade repealed, they'd bitch and moan that that wasn't enough, and go after birth control. Same thing for any and all worker safety laws, environmental protection laws, gun control laws, etc. etc. etc. Lesson here, these people never stop.

  42. bravo_sierra

    I sure hope Planned Parenthood or some similar organization is paying attention and posting comprehensive sex education on their site. As much as the state of Tennessee wants to drag us all back to the time of the Puritans, kids these days know how to tap and click.

  43. DahBoner

    Looking at the Big Picture, Tennisshoe really needs to ban all education.

    Just in case anyone gets some fancy book-learning ideas about logic, facts and history, which all could be used against Conservative values…

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