Tennessee Passes Bill To Tamp Down ‘Gateway Sexual Activity’

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You’ve heard of gateway drugs — smoking marijuana supposedly leads to harder, more addictive substances. But what about “gateway sexual activity”: the hand-holding, lip-locking and light-grazes that can lead to … other things?The Tennessee Legislature on Friday sent a bill to Gov. Bill Haslam’s desk that, according to the Tennessean, would require sex-ed classes to “exclusively and emphatically” promote abstinence and ban teachers and outside groups from promoting “gateway sexual activity.”

The bill defines “gateway sexual activity” as: “sexual conduct encouraging an individual to engage in a non-abstinent behavior.” The bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Jim Gotto, said the bill wouldn’t address things as innocuous as holding hands, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. But critics of the legislation say the offending behavior is not clearly defined. Gotto did not immediately return TPM’s request for comment.

According to the News Sentinel, groups like Planned Parenthood and others who provide sex education information in schools could face a $500 fine. Planned Parenthood did not immediately return TPM’s request for comment. But the organization’s Director of Education Elokin CaPese told TIME that “If the state of Tennessee gets to create the [sex] curriculum, it has to create something that umbrella reflects everyone.”

Image from Shutterstock / Sonya Etchison.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

David Taintor is a news editor at Talking Points Memo. Previously, he worked at NBC News and Adweek. He's a native of Minnesota. Reach him at taintor@talkingpointsmemo.com.
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