The Penetrating Thoughts of Phil Kline


Over the course of a federal trial that so far has lasted two weeks, Slate's Dahlia Lithwick notes, Kansas officials have offered at least five different interpretations of which sexual activity among teenagers must be reported to the authorities. The case stems from Kansas Attorney General Phil Kline's demand that abortion clinics report the pregnancies of teenagers younger than 16, which he says constitutes evidence of rape. Kansans under 16 who have sex are breaking the law, even with mutual consent. But what sort of sex qualifies is a matter of dispute, not only between officials but between Kline and himself.

In a 2003 advisory opinion, Kline said reportable offenses include "any lewd fondling or touching of the person of either the child or the offender, done or submitted to with the intent to arouse or satisfy the sexual desires." Yet during the trial he said kissing and petting might be legal, and he sided with Bill Clinton–a brave stand for a conservative Republican–by agreeing that fellatio may not count as sex, although cunnilingus definitely does.

Addendum: The male/female oral sex distinction seems to be based not merely on most boys' preferences but on a definition of rape requiring genital penetration. Hence according to Kline's (latest) interpretation, two under-16 girls who performed oral sex on each other would be breaking the law, while two boys in the same situation would not.

[Thanks to Kenneth Wagner for the link.]