Archive for Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Government should ‘butt out’ of young people’s sex lives

February 14, 2006


Dr. Wes: Why should teens study current events? How about the current wrangling over underage consensual sex? Kansas Atty. Gen. Phill Kline was in court last week trying to prove that the state mandatory child abuse reporting law includes consensual sex if one partner is under 16. He argues that if you are under that age, you can't legally consent to have sex, no matter how adamantly you feel you can. If you can't consent, sex constitutes child abuse because it is inherently harmful.

If you study the testimony online (, search "Phill Kline") you'll find "experts" claiming that sexual exploration before the age of 16 is abnormal; that sex can lead to depression, drug abuse and even suicide; that girls should not be allowed to access birth control, but boys should; that pregnancy and adoption for young teens teaches them a lesson about their sexual behavior; that being reported to the government creates a "painful consequence" that will stop kids from having sex; that girls younger than 16 are "powerless in making decisions about sex"; that race plays a part in the ability to consent, and so on. One of Kline's witnesses even admitted that his testimony has been excluded in other courts - but claimed this was because he was "politically incorrect."

Kline claims that state law requires professionals to report as child abuse suspected instances of underage sex - even if they involve willing partners of similar ages. Thus, anyone seeking services for STDs, birth control or therapy would be at legal risk by disclosing sexual contact. Kline now claims he's only been referring to intercourse and oral sex, but another witness (Sedgwick County Dist. Atty. Nola Foulston) said she would include "fondling" in this definition. Another of Kline's witnesses (Professor Allan Josephson) actually admitted under cross examination that doctors would be better qualified than an entry-level SRS worker to decide whether consensual underage sex between age-mates constitutes sexual abuse. Indeed. So why isn't he recommending it?

Health care providers always have agreed that sex is abusive if the other partner is much older or coercion is involved. However, no one previously has considered it child abuse when two 15-year-olds choose to have sex - only the bad judgment of youth. Moreover, about a third of teens have had sex before age 16. Many more have had oral sex, and most have "fondled." What shall we do with all these new "sex offenders?"

Some welcome this move. Others see it as another intrusion of government into the private lives of families - something Republicans like Kline claim to abhor. For my part, I have many serious concerns about teen sex. I just hadn't considered using SRS or the police to address them. Who will be charged if two young teens are caught having sex? What branch of government will address the issue: SRS, Juvenile Justice, family court? What will younger teens do to access sensible advice from professionals in making their decisions to have sex or to abstain? Apparently they'll write anonymously to this column. Not quite what we had in mind.

There is nothing worse than silence when it comes to teen sex. Thanks to Mr. Kline's attempt to gag teen communication on the topic, that silence may soon be roaring.

Marissa: Report teens if they are having sex? This is about the dumbest stunt our government has tried to pull yet. In what ways will our youths benefit from this? The answer is very few. In fact, it will hurt them.

In some cases, teens rely on their doctors or therapists more than they do their parents. If anyone under the age of 16 is reported for being sexually active, the chances of them seeking needed medical attention will be next to nothing. Teens need resources such as medical professionals and counselors. This new policy would practically eliminate those options. Why does Phill Kline want to jeopardize the health of young Americans? I am not saying that a person is ready to be having sex before the age of 16, but the majority of people that I know did.

There are some things that the government has a right to know about. But in the case of two consensual partners under the age of 16 having a sexual relationship, the government needs to butt out. This whole thing is rooted in the personal agenda of Mr. Kline, not in the public's best interest.

There are plenty of other issues out there on which Kansas needs to be focusing. Our public schools need more funding. Teachers' salaries are at an insulting level, and the list goes on and on. The time spent on this endeavor will be wasted and dangerous.

What are they planning to do to teens who are not legally allowed to be having sex, yet are having sex anyway? A slap on the wrist? A "sex ticket?" If teens are having sex, chances are that no matter what the government tries to do to them, they are going to continue to have sex. The government has no right to try and regulate who can and cannot have sex, no matter their age. It is a personal decision, not a federal one. Hopefully, the courts will realize that this is an issue for families to work out, not Mr. Kline.

Next week: What younger teens and their parents should do if Kline's view is upheld by the court.

- Dr. Wes Crenshaw is a board-certified family psychologist and director of the Family Therapy Institute Midwest. Marissa Ballard is a Lawrence High School senior. Opinions and advice given here are not meant as a substitute for psychological evaluation or therapy services. Send your questions about adolescent issues to All correspondence is strictly confidential.


mrblifil 12 years, 3 months ago

Uh oh. Phill made a whoopsie. By concentrating on late abortion procedures on teens, as if that were evidence of child rape, he let the cat out of the bag that the overwhelming majority of teen pregnancies in Kansas are carried to term. Therefore the real trove of evidence is in the state's delivery rooms and neo-natal care units. But then everybody would know that Kansas is rife with teen immorality, so he changed horses in mid-stream and started "crusading" against all teen sex. This way he has the luxury of avoiding accountability for his actions by being laughed out of court, in hopes that people will forget the precepts under which he began his witch hunt in the first place. Nice job, citizens of Kansas. You really elected a winner there in good ol' "Double-L" Phill.

Confrontation 12 years, 3 months ago

I think the bigger concern here should be STD's. I definitely don't think these kids should be having sex, but we need to focus on the fact that most of them aren't using protection. The #1 killer of African American women between the ages of 25 & 35 is AIDS. That means many of them are starting to become infected with HIV at a very young age. Caucasian kids and those of other races are definitely not immune to HIV, either. Our horrible abstinence only programs are really hurting these kids. I agree that abstinence should be the #1 option, but not informing these kids about STD's and protection is really stupid. Not only will be we be paying for more babies with our taxes, we will also using our taxes to cover STD treatments (herpes, warts, HIV, chlamydia, etc.). If kids see disgusting pictures of things like perianal warts, and realize that condoms don't always protect you from getting STD's like herpes and genital warts, then maybe they'll think twice. By just ingnoring the issues and not educating them, parents and schools are setting them up for failure.

reunitedmom 12 years, 3 months ago

Hello:: If it is against the law for a teen to have sex why doesnt that apply for her to sign adoption papers? Why not? Here is why Not. Our governement with the help of "The Infant adoption awareness act "wants more infants to be surrendered to the adoption industry. This current very tied in with the adoption industry. Soon after this bill passed a large adoption agency in Texas who then built a new "campus" to house pregnant Moms.You can read my article here:

Richard Heckler 12 years, 3 months ago

The bottom line is that a Pro-Active stance is far more practical. Roe vs. Wade has never been the problem. Pro-life is certainly not the answer for all with their extremely limited choices for reducing abortion. Let's think Pro- Active.

Sex education is definitely Pro-Active.

The discussion should not be about Roe vs Wade. Instead a Pro Active platform concerned about reducing abortions. Roe vs Wade is more about a medical procedure that some women need. Let's get back to a practical Pro-Active discussion.

Planned Parenthood offers a variety of Pro-Active means to effectively reduce the number of abortions. Planned Parenthood is the most Pro-Active and effective approach on the table to date. Bear in mind that abstinence is number one on Planned Parenthoods list of Pro-Active selections. Abortion numbers are declining.

Pro-Life might might make individuals be they parents, grown single adults or whomever feel intimidated about being Pro- Active thus more pregancies. Pro-Active is a healthy approach.

Sex education and a variety of birth controls methods is far more Pro-Active than any other platform on the issue. Parents and women of all ages need to know and feel it is acceptable to be Pro-Active. "Pro-Active" is practical.

The ultra conservatives at the moment are using this Bushism...either you are for abortion or you are not. Very very untrue,intimidating and bogus. Pro-Active is pro abortion reduction and sex education.

Linda Endicott 12 years, 3 months ago

I think sex education is very important. You'd be surprised, even in this modern age, how many kids don't know that you can get pregnant the first time you have sex...or how to properly use a condom, or where to get them. Some don't know that HIV/AIDS can be spread even through oral sex, or that a condom is not 100% effective against HIV. I'll bet there are even still some girls who think you can get pregnant by kissing a guy. Some boys think that only women can get AIDS, or that you can't get it the first time you have sexual contact with someone who has it.

Kids talk amongst themselves, and there's a lot of misinformation out there. I think it's only responsible of the adults to make the correct information available. If the kids aren't well informed, then how can they make an informed decision?

As for teenagers having sex...I'd just like to see anyone try to stop them from doing it, if they want to. You'd have to lock them up until they were 18. Think back to when YOU were that effective were your parents in stopping you from engaging in sexual activity?

Teenage hormones and peer pressure have far more influence on kids than their parents ever will. Be realistic. At least make sure your kids have the information and the means to have safer sex, if they're going to have sex at all.

Yes, abstinence should be stressed. But also realize that kids have minds of their own, and they're not always going to listen to you.

Kids tend to think that they're invincible, and that they know everything.

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