Let’s Put Real Teeth In Teen Abstinence Laws!
Tennessee recently enacted the toughest pro-abstinence sex education law in the nation, surpassing in breadth (and this one does take your breadth away) kindred efforts in 30 other states. This Tennessee law aims to do away with “gateway sexual activity” that leads to you-know-what-by teens. What such gateway activity is, however, is not articulated by the state legislature.
Permit me, therefore, to make a modest proposal to further the intent of such legislation. And I must be brutally honest in my choice of words here, because the issue is so terribly serious. The biggest thing that leads to teen sexual activity is masturbation, and the only effective way to beat back the beast is to not only outlaw but criminalize and appropriately punish it.
Oh yes, I can already hear the cavils. All the young folks do it and we can’t send them all to the slammer. Well, that’s not really so. Only 98 percent of teen boys and a lesser percentage of teen girls (I know the number but refuse to cite it in this family-friendly medium), practice masturbation on a regular basis, so several young people would not have to be incarcerated.
Critics might also say the law is unworkable because parents are the only ones likely to come upon the crime directly, and they would shy away from turning in their youngsters for sentimental reasons. However, if a corollary of this law made uncooperative parents attend two-week mandatory reeducation sessions, with the inevitable consequence that they would lose their jobs and be unable to support themselves and their remaining children, they would almost certainly be inclined to do their moral duty.
Beyond righteousness, there are a host of sound economic reasons to pursue this path. Strained middle- and high school budgets would be eased dramatically by the immediate absence of most students. A lot more teachers could be fired as class sizes shrink.
On the other side of the ledger, private prison populations would swell and generate a great many new prison worker jobs — and one can speculate, a fair number would be filled by parents of the teens actually in lock up. What good would come out of this? A 14-year-old might argue with his mom about cleaning his room. But when mom is in a guard’s uniform with the power to send junior into solitary on bread and water, the kid’s manners would improve pronto.
While criminalizing masturbation for teens might seem a tad hypocritical considering most adults also do the deed from time to time, my suggested legislation should be viewed as a gateway law with adult versions to follow. And any adult offenders reading this should understand that the old “consenting adults” excuse won’t wash here, you being the only adult in the room at the time of commission.
Though I’ve no doubt that everyone but serial self-abusers will immediately see the merits of this modest proposal, even would-be supporters might offer all sorts of political reasons it could not become law. To these doubters I need just say two words: “tough love.”
There is nothing so cruel, so inherently stupid and destructive, so hypocritical and removed from reality, that it can not be passed by an American legislature these days if it’s labeled “tough love”. Stick that label on an anti-masturbation abstinence law and watch legislators’ eyes glaze over, their lips go loose and wet, and their hands reach automatically for the yes vote button.