Letter from the Editor

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Legislative whoopie

Every year about this time, with spring in the air and birds and bees about to be flittering about the golden dome, the Iowa Legislature's thoughts naturally turn to...

Well, sex. Once a year, like clockwork, the usually buttoned-down lawmakers venture forth into the bedrooms of Iowa to attempt one piece of legislation dictating something to do with who does what to whom, and how.

It seldom works out.

Anybody remember the time the legislators were poised to pass a law against lovemaking in public places (only to be told that under their law, the guests in every hotel in Iowa, the inhabitats of hundreds of units of campus married housing, and yes, presumably the governor and his wife getting busy down in the jungle room at public-owned Terrace Hill, would be instantly subject to arrest and a year in Slam? Whoops...

Then there was the attempt to redefine marriage. Apparently the traditional definition (1. Ring 2. Cake 3. Shagging 4. Nagging) wasn't holding water any more. If we didn't redefine that bad boy, we were warned, all kinds of freaky-deaky Caligula-type arrangements were going to happen and humanity as we know it would unravel like a bad sweater.

That has been followed by the same-sex marriage brouhaha, a debate that now broached as Iowa politics, will simply never, ever end.

Two sessions ago, legislation was proposed to better regulate the sale of sex toys in Iowa. (I'm rather naive on this industry, I admit - are those mr. potato heads with additional parts, or what?)

At least one candidate's election campaigned on a platform to return Iowa's 1800s sodomy laws. I'm not even sure exactly what sodomy is, but I'll bet our lawmakers will eventually, um, get to the bottom of it.

Last year about this time, like clockwork, a bill to whip sex education into shape sailed through the statehouse and onto the governor's desk.

Now do we really want the Iowa Legislators determining what schools teach our students about human reproduction? On the other hand, I've seen some of these veteran statehouse warhorses, and in at least a few case, just the thought of them thinking about sex might be enough to motivate abstinence in today's youth. Let's put them on a billboard in their tidy whiteys, and watch the birth rates plummet.

Lawmakers say that they want to make sure that what schools are teaching is scientifically correct. "They can't make things up," said Iowa City Democrat Sen. Joe Bolcom. Not make up sex? Where, then, are tomorrow's romance novelists going to come from?

I remember my first sex ed instructor back in sophomore year. I think she was an assistant volleyball coach or possibly a lunch lady. By then there were about six pregnant students sitting attentively in that class who were apparently fully conversant in the subject matter, while I'm willing to bet that the teacher had never seen a date in her life.

So she made things up - like new names for the reproductive organs.

Until the "Vagina Monologues" came along, you just didn't mention the naughty-bit terms in polite company. Strange, nobody would blush at the term "elbow," but we still are a bit less than comfortable speaking of those particular tingly body-parts in the old south-central neighborhood.

As I recall, that teacher substituted "torpedo" for penis and "nest" for the good old va-jay-jay. It took half the nine weeks for anyone to figure out that she was even talking about sex and not World War II or Avian Biology. Torpedos and nests?

To this day, most of the women who grew up in that city in that time period probably remain inexplicably nervous about the prospect of naval build-up, and some of the men probably wonder why they have strangely happy reactions to the return of the robins each spring.

Anyway, Senator Bolcom said that some Iowa school districts are teaching incorrect stuff like:

* Ninety-nine percent of all high school girls who have sex become pregnant. (Does that mean the other one automatically is elected prom queen?)

* Sexually-transmitted disease can be spread by sweat and tears. (Fact: lack of use of underarm deodorant by sweaty high school football players can lead to tears. Enough sweat, and you probably won't have to worry about STDs at all.)

* Depression can be solved by abstaining from sex. (Depression can also be solved by abstaining from Algebra 203 and meatload day in the cafeteria.)

So, which schools are teaching that making out turns people into pumpkins at midnight, and where on earth would they find teenagers today who would listen without snickering? Ah, the senator doesn't say. Surely, he has that list somewhere, right? Because without it, all that would have sounded a lot like another trumped-up attempt by the legislature to put itself in charge of dictating sexuality.

Bolkcom said the bill didn't tell schools what to teach, and that each local community could go on ahead and decide what is true about sex for themselves. Ooh, there's a smashing idea. If we think kids are confused, just think of how messed up some of the parents are.

Schools could even teach abstinence-only sex ed classes, Bolkcom said, as long as they don't fib about how the torpedos and nests do their business, or something like that.

I wonder if we need sex ed textbooks at all. If we really want to show young people in the state how it is done thoroughly, just show them the Iowa income tax form.

I'll let you think about that for a moment.

In the meantime, close the bedroom drapes, people; it's spring, and your Iowa legislators will be home soon.