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CMI Commentary: Iowa Parents Lose to Sex Ed Lobby

When your rights and responsibilities as a parent come in conflict with the liberal education establishment, who wins? Parents in Ames, Iowa just found out, and it's not them.


Over the weekend, the Ames Library Board voted 6 -1 to allow the continued display and distribution of the magazine Sex, Etc. in the teen section of the public library. Sex Etc. is a free periodical written “by teens, for teens,” and published by Answer, a sex education advocacy group based at Rutgers University.


Local parent Joyce Bannantine noticed the magazine display, which encourages teens to take a free copy, in the teen section of the library. After flipping through it, Bannantine started a petition to have the library remove the display and to treat Sex, Etc. like any other periodical. Library Director Art Weeks, and ultimately the Library Board, disagreed.


So what had Bannantine and more than 100 petition signers so upset? After all, Sex, Etc. is a journal published under the auspices of a respected university, with sex education as its subject. "I thought it was too graphic for the age," Bannantine told local TV news KCCI. "Most of the kids that use the teen section are 12, 13 and maybe 14."


A look around the magazine's Web site proves that Bannantine is just a busybody prude.  Why shouldn't your pubescent son benefit from vast wisdom accumulated by the 17-year-old who penned “Telling Your Parents … 'I'm Transgender'”? Why shouldn't your 12-year-old daughter enjoy “I Am Horny,” a comic strip called about a frustrated bisexual girl? Only the most up-tight, kill-joy puritan could seriously be concerned over kids taking quizzes on orgasms or oral sex, or playing “The Condom Game.”


The Sex, Etc. site also includes a blog and forums, so that after baseball practice, little Billy can read threads about herpes, or masturbation or what qualifies a girl to be a slut.


As disturbing as the actual content of the magazine might be, the most troubling aspect of Sex, Etc. and Answer is their aggressive advocacy. Answer's mission is “to provide and promote comprehensive sexuality education to young people and the adults who teach them.” According to its Web site, the organization believes knowledge is “helpful, not harmful,” and that “teens are responsible decision makers.” (Right. That's why the ultimate analogy for tempting fate is “… like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.”)


In the “Sex in the States” section, teens can find out all about laws regarding sex in each state. For example, by clicking on Pennsylvania, they learn that they can go to a “Title X” clinic for confidential birth control. They learn that in California, girls under 18 don't need parental consent for an abortion. Nor is there a waiting period. “GLBTQ” (Gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning) students in Massachusetts can be comforted to know their state has a “Safe Schools Law” to protect them from harassment.


Sex, Etc.'s site has a section called “Your Voice Your Rights!” It tells kids, “You have the right to know all the facts when it comes to topics, like your body and birth control. You deserve a comprehensive sexual health education that gives you honest, factual information so that you can make choices that are right for you!” Teens can share their stories and the truly motivated can “become a Sex, Etc. Teen Ambassador.” Which will no doubt look great on a resume.


Answer and Sex, Etc. are clever. They frame their advocacy for sex education – and, in effect, for sexualizing children and (added bonus!) normalizing all manner of sexual proclivity – in language of “rights.” But they're not just exercising the liberal talent for finding hitherto-unsuspected “rights,” they are playing to the average self-absorbed adolescent's fantasies of repression.


Answer and Sex, Etc. are bypassing parents to directly target teens and the more ideologically accommodating adults in education and libraries. In Ames, Art Weeks said his mission as a librarian is to “provide information on a variety of topics, especially ones that are most important to people's lives,” your bourgeois niceties be hanged. He, an enlightened educator, seems to see the Sex, Etc. flap as one of those “teachable moments” of which the left is so fond.


“It's a window of opportunity to have important discussions with both my son and daughter,” Weeks said to KCCI. When a door closes, a window opens. Too bad the door closed on the parents of Ames.


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