Monday, October 29, 2007

News from the Weekend: Teens, Sex, and a Premature Obituary

Over the weekend, there was a lot of sexuality-related news:

*The Georgia Supreme Court commuted the prison sentence of Genarlow Wilson. You may remember that he is the young man who has served two years for having consensual oral sex when he was 17 and she was 15, but was sentenced to 10 years.

*The Maine State Attorney General is now investigating the Portland School Board's decision to provide birth control to middle school students and not reporting those students as victims of sexual abuse.

*And the New York Times magazine once again declared the death of the radical religious right.

Both the Georgia and Maine situations indicate how confused the culture is about adolescent sexuality and sexual offenses. Surely, we all agree that there need to be laws protecting children and teens from being abused by adult sex offenders. Let me be absolutely clear: I do not believe that children and teens can ever give consent to adults who want to be sexual with them. But, do we want teenagers going to jail for having consensual sex with each other? Or, to have to report two thirteen years olds, who although by almost any standard are not emotionally or spiritually ready for intercourse, to the department of family services? And if not jail, what might be appropriate punishment?

It seems to this minister and mom that this is where communication with your children comes in and good sexuality education programs. I heard Mr. Wilson this morning on the Today Show say that teens need to know what the state law is about consent, and indeed, I'd add they need opportunities to discuss what it means for a relationship to be consensual. In Maine, I continue to believe that health professionals should act as health professionals, counseling on delay and involving families, but offering services to teens who need them. Let's let the clergy and parents provide the moral lessons.

As to the New York Times, as I said when Jerry Falwell died, reports of the death of religious conservatives is premature. As someone who advocates for the rights of women and LGBT persons, it's not time to celebrate.

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