Logic Fail: Wisconsin DA Says Teaching Sex Ed Is LIke Teaching Minors To Mix Drinks

Elizabeth's picture

A few days ago a Wisconsin District Attorney made headlines by sending letters to all the school districts in the state warning their administrators and teachers that if they adopt the state's new sex education standards they risk being charged with crimes against minors.

antibullying signHow's that, you might ask? The new standards, which are now part of state education law, include teaching about the proper use of contraception. This, according to DA Scott Southworth, means encouraging kids to commit illegal acts. Encouraging someone to commit a crime is itself a crime. Thus teaching teens about the proper use of contraception is a crime. He equates this with teaching minors how to mix alcoholic drinks when they are too young to consume them or serve them.

This would not pass the critical thinking test in my Introduction to Sociology course. It fails on a few levels. Most obviously, teaching people about something is not the same as encouraging them to do it. I can teach about illegal drug use, the dangers of the same, the reasons people use the drugs, the routes that they follow to acquire the drugs, the different philosophies around addressing illegal drug use in communities, and the prevention strategies that work and that don't work. This does not mean I am encouraging my students to use illegal drugs.

Second, the parallel case fails as well. Teaching people how to properly use contraception even if they are too young to legally have sex is much less like teaching underage drinkers how to mix drinks and much more like teaching underage drinkers how to recognize that they are too intoxicated to drive. It it teaching people how to minimize the risks associated with a particular behavior. Teaching proper condom use is not at all the same as teaching how to form a connection with another person that opens an opportunity for sex, nor the same as teaching the many different ways that people go about having sex.

I don't see this threat gaining a lot of traction, but it's an example of the kind of bullying that is increasingly aimed at sex educators across a spectrum of locations and approaches. Sex educators are threatened with arrest for corrupting minors and they are unjustly lumped together with traffickers and sex criminals. All this is aimed at driving smart people away from a very important task. Let this be a call to all sex educators - whether you are teaching in schools, in community-based organizations, or online - to stand up to the bullies and support each other. The work of sex education is important and we can't afford to be intimidated.


The image above is from Devin Murphy's Picacasa gallery and is licenced for reuse. My gratitude to Devin for sharing his work.