Is Iowa’s New Proposed Divorce Law Really About Teen Sex?

NoWeddingIf some Iowa lawmakers have their way, The Hawkeye State will be at at the forefront of taking the nation’s divorce laws back to the 1950s. An Iowa State House subcommittee has approved a bill that, if passed, would make it harder for couples to divorce.

Specifically, the bill would make “no fault” divorces — the kind of divorce that means neither spouse has to allege grounds, such as adultery or physical violence — illegal for couples that are parents to minors. The idea is that divorce harms children, so obviously parents should just suck it up and stay together. One of the sponsors of the bill, State Representative Ted Gassman seems to have a personal stake in this potential law — it seems that Gassman’s daughter just got divorced and because of this, he is very worried about his 16-year-old granddaughter’s hormones and his perceived connection between divorces and teenage promiscuity.

Gassman said in a recent interview:

“There’s a 16-year-old girl in this whole mix now. Guess what? What are the possibilities of her being more promiscuous? What are the possibilities of all these other things surrounding her life that a 16-year-old girl, with hormones raging, can get herself into?

I don’t know Rep. Gassman, what are the possibilities of her becoming more promiscuous? Are there studies that you can cite that say that girls become “more promiscuous” after their parents divorce? Also noteworthy is that this bill is sponsored by seven Republicans. For a political party that idolizes small government, this bill seems pretty invasive.

Gassman’s implication that divorce leads to children of divorce becoming promiscuous would be enough to write about. I am not trying to mitigate the effect that divorce has on children. But studies have shown that couples that stay together just for the sake of staying together actually harm their children more.

In fact, many studies have found that children of divorce are better off than children whose parents stay in an unhappy marriage. This makes sense to me, and to most rational people. If unhappy, fighting parents stay together they are probably more likely to feel depressed, frustrated and trapped. It is not unreasonable to say that children might be better off if their parents are better off.

Also, what about boys? Is Rep. Gassman worried about young boys becoming promiscuous? So far, no word about that. As usual, it is female sexuality that lawmakers are concerned with. The comment about promiscuity made by Gassman isn’t so far removed from the debates that go on in Washington and in state governments across the country about birth control and a woman’s right to choose.

No one questions Viagra being covered by health insurance, but birth control coverage sends everyone into a tizzy.  It is time to stand up and tell our government that female sexuality and women’s bodies are no longer subject to legislation, in the same way that male sexuality and men’s bodies never were.

Until that message is received, women will continue to be monitored in a way that their male peers never were.

Guest contributor Leigh Ann Renzulli is a senior journalism major and women’s studies minor at the University of Maryland, College Park. She is a feminist with a blog and is on Twitter @lerenzulli.

Image via Wikimedia Commons/CC license

  • Lola-at-Large

    OMG, this article is one progressive cliche after another. How about this: Let’s concern ourselves with monitoring males’ sexual behavior, too, especially if they are teens. Teen girls aren’t women, and teen boys aren’t men. Is it really that important for females whose bodies aren’t even developed enough to have vaginal orgasms to have a right to unfulfilling sex? Because that’s what you’re arguing.

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