“Gateway Sexual Activities”?? What are they thinking??

Not too long ago, the Governor of the State of Tennessee signed into law a bill that prohibits teachers from talking about so-called “Gateway Sexual Activities” such as kissing, hand-holding, and genital touching when teaching sex education in Tennessee schools.

According to state Rep. John DeBerry, D-Memphis, in his testimony to the Tennessee House of Representatives, “Everybody in this room knows what gateway sexual activity is,” “Everybody knows there are certain buttons when you push them, certain switches when you turn them on, there’s no stopping, especially for undisciplined, untrained, untaught and unraised children who just want to feel affection from somebody or anybody.”  I have many problems with his uninformed — or at best misinformed — statement.
1) “there’s no stopping”??  Total bullshit.  This feeds rape culture I believe.  That AND the misconception that men (and/or women) cannot control themselves once they find themselves in a turned-on situation.  Bullshit.  We all CAN stop.  Everyone can and should be able to think about what they are doing AND how they feel about it.  To do or think otherwise is ridiculous.   One can’t even call it animalistic because it isn’t; “The animal world is full of species that have sex only during widely spaced intervals when the female is ovulating.… an excessively horny monkey is acting “human,” while a man or woman uninterested in sex more than once or twice a year would be, strictly speaking, “acting like an animal.”  
(C. Ryan, Sex at Dawn, p. 85). As you can see, the reality is totally the opposite of what people think when they say people who engage in sex whenever, wherever, without stopping are animals.  We need to teach about permission.   We need to teach about boundaries (and that we all have them) and how to give and obtain consent from our friends and others.
2) “especially for the undisciplined, untrained, untaught…”??  Um, Mr. DeBerry, that’s completely the fault of the Abstinence Only Before Marriage approach.  How are children disciplined, trained, or taught if no one in the education system in the State of Tennessee can talk about these things?  We need to teach about feelings, emotions, and how to communicate the same to others.   We need to teach about respect for self and others.
3) “just want to feel affection from somebody”??  We all want to be loved.  We all want to be accepted.  Lots of people like to be held close. Yet we live in a society that sexualizes most forms of touch.  I fear we are developing a touch deprived generation.  Lots of teachers in the elementary school level express concern about hugging their pupils – especially men – for fear of being accused of inappropriate touch; This is so sad because a few bad apples shouldn’t spoil the whole bunch.  Not every teacher hug of a student is a gateway sexual activity — or are these the “certain buttons when you push them, certain switches when you turn them on” Mr DeBerry is talking about <sarcasm>.  We do need to teach about pleasure and the healing power of touch – and that it’s not just sexual pleasure.
Teens are going to do what they are going to do mainly because they don’t see the reasons not to engage sexually the same way adults do.  Their adolescent brains are not fully developed to see the potential consequences and/or risks that we adults see.  Teens think those bad things won’t happen to me, they happen to someone else – think back…was that the way YOU thought as a teen?  Why should teens now be any different?
It is exactly the reasons Mr. DeBerry gives that are the justification for accurate, open, and honest comprehensive sexual education.  I’m just not sure why he and other Abstinence Only proponents don’t see that.
The MamaSutra

The MamaSutra

Mother of two girls. Holds a Bachelor of Science (Psychology) and a Certificate in Women's Studies from UW-Madison. Graduate of IASHS as Master of Human Sexuality. The articles you read here have goals in two main areas. 1) I strive to normalize conversations about sex and sexuality between parents and their children. To me this means helping parents accept and nurture their daughters' budding sexuality so they grow and learn to respect their bodies and accept their whole selves as they grow into strong, beautiful, powerful and healthy women. 2) Female Sexual Empowerment. Women deserve to learn about and explore the pleasure that can be felt through a full sexual life - however each of us may define that - without guilt, shame, or embarrassment.

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1 Response

  1. Zoe Sexton says:

    Thank you Lanae, for making several key points about the issues that degrade our society and our communication one touch at a time. To your comment about gateway sexual activities- it is ludicrous. Humans are the ONLY species who choose whether or not to copulate during ovulation. That choice has changed the dynamics of our society (human society) as a whole and posed some interesting aspects in the dynamics of male/female relations. In no culture or species is ‘rape’ encouraged- only in ours is it often ignored or blame placed on the victim. Check out
    The issue of sexualizing ‘touch’ is a serious problem acerbated by sexual harassment cases. If touch is one of the five (listed) senses, why are we trying to eradicate it from our social behaviors? As we discourage it with the labeling you mention and fear of liability, are we not dehumanizing our communications? Without touch and discussions on practices of appropriateness, don’t you think people lack the basis for making good and respectful judgements about it? We set ourselves up for loneliness, where a craving and desire is mistaken as sexual when it is purely human and can be directed appropriately.
    The only button turned on is this moron’s interpretation of touch- its part of the ‘divide and conquer’ methodology for making our society feel disconnected, lonely and dependent on the government to make our personal decisions.
    Thank you for addressing this in your passionate voice!