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A Ban on Kissing? The Right-Wing Sexual Fears in New Abstinence Bills

Attempts to ban talk of birth control and homosexuality from classrooms reveal conservatives' deepest sexual fears.

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Speaking of negative consequences, the Utah and Wisconsin bills share a focus on STIs and unwanted pregnancy as the inevitable result of premarital sex. The Utah measure requires that human sexuality classes underscore “the importance of abstinence from all sexual activity before marriage and fidelity after marriage as the only sure methods for preventing certain communicable diseases.” The Wisconsin initiative mandates that human sexuality classes “promote abstinence and marriage over contraception” and “emphasize that abstinence is the only reliable way to prevent pregnancy and avoid sexually transmitted infections” (which is patently false).

Even the acknowledgement of hormonal changes and natural urges is dangerous. Earlier this month, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed into law  a bill that removed not only contraceptives but also puberty — puberty! — from the list of required topics in sex-ed classes. The concept of puberty itself makes natural what abstinence-only advocates desperately want to seem unnatural.

More relatable is the concern guiding the push for greater parental power in some of these bills. The Utah measure requires that guardians make up the majority of review committees for human sexuality curricula and that they be allowed to participate in the development of abstinence-only classes. This year, Arizona introduced  a bill that requires schools to obtain written permission from parents in order to teach any form of sex ed and secures parents’ rights to opt out on behalf of their kids. Adults are desperate enough to control sex in their  own lives — from the content of their, or their spouse’s, fantasies to the threat of infidelity. And, of course, there’s that universal desire to protect our kids from the dangers of the world (and you don’t have to be a right-winger to believe that sex can be dangerous)

Together, these recent bills make clear several fundamental fears — of the power of sex, of losing control of our kids and of the allure of non-procreative sex without consequences. Aside from their magnitude, those worries aren’t a uniquely right-wing phenomena. What is uniquely right-wing is taking such extreme attempts to legislate against those fears.

Tracy Clark-Flory is a staff writer at Salon. Follow @tracyclarkflory on Twitter.

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