“Teen Lobbying Day” turned really weird on Monday at the Washington State capitol in Olympia when a Republican lawmaker began interrogating a group of teenagers about their virginity.
The eastern Washington high school kids, part of a teen council chapter of Planned Parenthood, were meeting with state Rep. Mary Dye, a Republican from Pomeroy, Garfield County, as part of the nonprofit organization’s Teen Lobbying Day.
The high schoolers were there to push for legislation to expand insurance coverage for contraception.
Dye then turned the tables on the pro-choice teens, asking them if they were virgins, according to their chaperone, Rachel Todd, a Planned Parenthood education specialist.
According to Todd and the students, it was a bizarre and awkward experience. As well as asking if the students were virgins, Dye also reportedly suggested that one of them was not.
“After she made the statement about virginity, all of my teens looked at me,” Todd told The Seattle Times. “And I said, ‘You don’t have to answer that. You don’t have to answer that.’”
Shortly thereafter, Dye’s office released a statement apologizing for interrogating the teenagers about their virginity or lack thereof.
“I shared with them that I did not support the issues they were advocating for,” Dye wrote.
“Following a conversation they initiated on birth control for teenagers, I talked about the empowerment of women and making good choices—opinions shaped by my mother and being a mother of three daughters,” she continued. “In hindsight, a few of the thoughts I shared, while well-intended, may have come across as more motherly than what they would expect from their state representative. If anything I said offended them or made them feel uncomfortable, I apologize.”
Todd described the encounter as “so incredibly disrespectful and inappropriate,” and at least one of the students she accompanied thought the “motherly” advice bordered on crazy.
“It seemed kind of insane for her to say that, especially on the record, to constituents,” said 18-year-old Alex Rubino, pointing out that the Republican lawmaker’s sex tip came completely “unprompted” and unsolicited.
“I talked to the teens right after they got out of [the meeting]—they were shaken,” Erik Houser, a spokesman for Planned Parenthood’s advocacy arm in Washington State, told The Daily Beast. (Houser was at the state capitol on Monday with them, and various other student lobbying teams.)
“This was not a normal experience. This was not OK,” he continued. “[The students] were not laughing at first. They definitely got more of a sense of humor about it later in the day, but at first they were just at a loss of how to process it. I mean, this is their elected representative. And they never expected any of this would happen.”
Houser also said that though Dye issued her statement in The Seattle Times, she has not reached out to anybody involved. “She has not apologized to the teens, she has not apologized to Planned Parenthood,” he said.
Dye, a longtime GOP activist who filled the vacated 9th District House seat last year, has many talents beyond discomfiting politically engaged teenagers. She has operated a 3,000-acre wheat farm with her husband, and was active in the “Save Our Dams” campaign, a movement opposing efforts to breach federal dams on the Snake River. (She and her husband even managed to enlist then-presidential candidate George W. Bush into the cause.)
She also served in the Peace Corps in Thailand back in the mid-’80s.
“I truly believe that the bigger the government, the smaller the citizen,” Dye says. “I will be a vocal advocate for limited, but effective government, speaking out against any and all government overreach.”
She did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding whether or not grilling teen constituents about their sexual history counts as a form of overreach.