If you thought I wasn't going to stay up all night to watch a bunch of Republicans on the House floor scream about "bloodplay" and putting condoms on zucchinis in an insane attempt to block lawmakers from mandating comprehensive sex education statewide, then you are out of your damn mind.
But you'd also be right. I passed out halfway through last night's midnight marathon debate in the House, which carried on past 2 a.m. and ultimately concluded with a 54-40 party-line vote in favor of the measure, which now heads back to the Senate for concurrence and then to the Governor's desk for a signature. But I got up this morning to review the rest of the tape, and it was well worth a gander.
The enormous amount of pearl-clutching last night came after Democrats—knowing they'd face tireless and bizarre opposition from the other side—finally decided to bring Senate Bill 5395 to the floor during an evening session.
The proposal, which was requested by the Superintendent of Public Instruction, would require all Washington schools to teach age-appropriate comprehensive sex ed starting in the 2022-23 school year.
Twenty-four states plus Washington D.C. mandate statewide comprehensive sex ed, but Washington state is not one of them. In fact, according to survey data from the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, 40% of school districts in Washington don't teach sex ed at all.
This is a problem. As I reported last year, 36% of Washington's girls say they were sexually assaulted by the time they graduated high school. And state superintendent Chris Reykdal says we're seeing STIs exploding upward again in our teens.
"We can't ignore the data," Reykdal said over the phone. "The message of healthy relationships and healthy sexual activity is not getting heard because we think it's not getting taught."
The bill failed last year not because of Republican recalcitrance or pearl-clutching, but because of Democratic infighting, which is too ridiculous to get into now. After the bill died, though, House Dems made it a high priority for passing this year.
Republicans still don't like the legislation because they don't want their children to learn about sex and consent in school from qualified professionals, so they tried to kill it by adding an obscene 232 amendments to the bill. Minority parties often hang a bunch of amendments on bills in the hopes that majority parties won't want to spend so much floor time debating those amendments, which cuts into the limited time the majority has to pass other legislation.
Though this display ultimately failed, and though lawmakers ultimately withdrew the most salacious amendments, I don't want to deprive you of the descriptions of the more provocative amendments offered by the Republicans. Some of my favorites:
• Amd 1755: In putting forth this amendment, which would force teachers to reference the "risk" of pornography in any discussion of pornography, Rep. Vicki Kraft offered to show House Speaker Laurie Jinkins Playboy and Penthouse covers and said discussions of porn in class would instill "addictive pornographic behavior" in young boys, which would, in turn, cause them to see women as objects, which would, in turn, cause them to begin abusing women. If Rep. Kraft were truly concerned about porn's influence on sexual relationships, she'd offer to publicly fund feminist porn directors, and yet she offered no such proposal!!! She also said that "drug addicts and porn addicts have the same brain waves," but she failed to mention that porn addiction is bullshit.
• Amd 1986: This one "excludes from the list of comprehensive sexual health education curricula any curricula that directs students to resources that discuss BDSM, bloodplay, inserting vegetables into the anus, or similar sexual behavior." Why Rep. Jim Walsh, who offered this amendment, is so specific about vegetables in the anus and not fruit in the anus or grains in the vagina is beyond me, but if I were his constituent I would press him on this.
• Amd 1973: When Rep. Jesse Young isn't talking about getting beat up by black people in his Martin Luther King Jr. Day speeches, he's trying to prohibit sex ed curricula from "including use of the book Gender Queer," which graphically depicts a boy who has dreamed about giving oral sex to another boy, finally doing it and finding himself dissatisfied, at which point he and the other boy engage in missionary position anal sex, the original boy apparently being more satisfied in a so called "bottom role." I do not know if I can issue public records requests for the browser histories of state lawmakers, but I promise you I will try. But more to the point, Maia Kobabe's Gender Queer is a sweet, coming-of-age graphic novel about a young person exploring their gender identity and sexuality and who they are in the world. It's aimed at "mature teens," and, again, the bill requires any sex ed curricula to be "age-appropriate."
• Amd 1966: Another doozy from Rep. Young that "prohibits a teacher or other instructor from (1) demonstrating how to apply a condom to an erect penis using, as a model, various items such as sex toys, fruits, or vegetables and (2) demonstrating how to use non-microwavable plastic wrap as a dental dam during oral sex." What do you want them to use, Rep. Young?? A statue featuring the erect member of Christ Our Lord???? (Wait, has some artist already done that? I know Sharon Olds got close with her poem, "The Pope's Penis.")
• Amd 1990 “excludes from the list of comprehensive sexual health education curricula any curricula that include lessons about or describe condoms being available in a variety of flavors and colors.” I disagree with this amendment, but only because it prevents teachers from telling kids that condom flavors are gross.
• Amd 1773: Rep. Kraft spent an awfully long time talking about the dangers of teaching teens about abortions being the safe and normal medical procedures that they are. In this amendment she “(1) specifies that, in the interest of academic learning and full disclosure, any reference to abortion in the curriculum, instruction, or materials provided to students requires the students to view an abortion, such as the one dramatized in the movie Unplanned.” Love this request from the party of small government to have the schools indoctrinate children with propaganda.
If you want to read 200 more of these extremely telling amendments, be my guest. Suffice it to say that methinks Republicans protest too much, and I am truly disappointed that I didn't get to watch Rep. Young sweat the details on his queer book.