Be Prepared

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Social Issues

There’s another new study out saying that teenage ‘virginity pledges’ are ineffective. In fact, they are counter-effective. Teenagers who pledge abstinence until marriage are just as likely to have sex as those who don’t, but they are less likely to use contraceptives than those who don’t.

The fact is that in spite of all our puritanical shudderings about sex, the U.S. has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the industrialized world. The lowest? For several years running, it’s been the ultra-liberal Netherlands. And it’s a big difference, too. The teenage pregnancy rate in the U.S. is 44 pregnancies per 1,000 teenage girls per year. In the Netherlands, that number is 5.

In other words, the little country infamous for legal drugs and prostitution does a better job of keeping its teenagers from getting pregnant than the good ol’ USA, Land of Sexual Repression. I believe the Netherlands also has the lowest rate of STDs among young people on the planet.

From reading several articles I take it the Dutch have what we would call a “permissive” attitude toward sex, and they also provide the kids with frankly explicit sex and birth control education. Middle-school age children practice putting condoms on broomsticks, for example. It seems all the parents are OK with this. Here, it would start riots.

I do not know if teens in the Netherlands are likely to begin having sex at an earlier or later age than American teens, but when they do have sex they are prepared for it. Our teens wrap themselves up in so much denial some of them probably can’t admit to themselves they have sex even while they are having it.

I don’t think most teens have sex because they read about it somewhere and they are curious. I think they have it because nature built into us all manner of bells, whistles and hotspots that make the act extraordinarily compelling. And I don’t think we’re being helpful to young people to allow them to spend time alone with potential sex partners and expect them to just say no. This takes self-discipline and maturity, and we’re talking about teenagers. Be real.

If it’s of paramount importance to parents that their children remain chaste until marriage, or at least until they graduate high school, the kids are going to have to be chaperoned. Our great-grandparents realized that. If we could dig them our ancestors and reconstitute them, they’d tell us we are nuts to allow young people of opposite sexes to spend so much time alone together.

If they’re not going to be chaperoned, then teach them to be prepared.

My personal opinion is that promiscuous behavior among emotionally immature young people is not good for their psychological and emotional development, and I would encourage them to postpone sexual activity as long as they can stand it. But HIV or pregnancy isn’t good for them, either.

Maybe we should be thinking about how to provide young people with more supervision while Mom and Dad are both working. But our current policy of allowing teenagers to be unchaperoned and unprepared at the same time doesn’t seem to be working.

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10 Comments

  1. Mrs. W  •  Dec 29, 2008 @3:00 pm

    The instructor I had for my human sexuality course in college a long-ish time ago (at ASU, a woman psychologist specializing in sexual disfunction and an instructor I had the highest respect for) discussed teen pregnancy as an “oops, it just happened” problem. Teen girls in particular are taught that they have to say no to sex-crazed boys and that only sluts and whores plan to have sex. As a result, girls don’t carry condoms or take birth control pills because that would indicate pre-planning for sex, which makes you a slut even if you don’t use them (having birth control and not using it just makes you a failed slut, which is seen as being somehow worse than being a successful slut). Then, when she gets into a situation where she has sex, it becomes an “oops, it just happened” moment. She didn’t plan for it, she wasn’t prepared for this because good girls don’t prepare for this sort of thing, she just got “caught up in the moment” or “was afraid of being seen as a tease”. It’s not her fault, it “just happened”.

    This, unfortunately, is how many teen girls reconcile the message of “good girls don’t choose to have sex” with the message of “HAVE SEX NOW” that their own bodies are screaming in every vein. It’s also the best way to get pregnant or catch an STD.

  2. Comrade Rutherford  •  Dec 29, 2008 @5:29 pm

    Huh. Thank you Mrs. W for explaining the part about “girls don’t carry condoms or take birth control pills because that would indicate pre-planning for sex, which makes you a slut”.

    I never understood that and now I do.

    The next thing I don’t understand is exemplified in Bristol Palin’s baby. The righties are rejoicing that she’s a teen age unwed mother? I thought that they didn’t like those.

    Is it a race thing, unwed teenage white girls whose moms are highly place GOP politicians are good, but unwed nonwhite teen girls whose moms are Democratic supporters are bad?

    I can not keep up with the lack of logic on the right. Unwed teen mothers are bad for society, but unwed teen mothers are a boon for society… Uh… yeah….

  3. Marilyn  •  Dec 29, 2008 @5:33 pm

    When my Daughters started dating I made sure that they had the info they needed to keep themselves safe a pregnancy free (like birth control pills). My Sons were also given info on to what would happen if their girlfriends became pregnant, they were also supplied with condoms. I guess is worked because they were all married before they had children (and long married I may add).
    I never understood why you would with hold vital information from the population who needs it most.
    Hurray for the Neithlands for getting it right, boo for getting it wrong.

  4. Marilyn  •  Dec 29, 2008 @5:34 pm

    Last Sentence should be, boo for us for getting it wrong.

  5. Xecky Gilchrist  •  Dec 29, 2008 @6:35 pm

    The Netherlands also has a much more sensible approach to minimizing the impact of drug abuse on society. When this was pointed out in the Drug War Fever of the eighties in the U.S., the warriors just looked affronted and screamed “they’re not us!”

    I suspect the news Maha gives us in this article will be received the same way.

  6. maha  •  Dec 29, 2008 @6:58 pm

    Comrade Rutherford — I don’t have time to look up links now, but there is data going back many years showing that teen pregnancy and STD rates are much higher in “Bible Belt” states than the rest of the country. There is no doubt in my mind that much of the reason for this is that the girls in particular are beaten over the head with the idea that they are bad if they have sex before marriage. So they aren’t prepared for it. They can’t even admit to themselves they might have sex. Sometimes right up to the moment they are coupling, they don’t allow themselves to think they would do such a thing. And of course they go through all kinds of angst and guilt after. And the boys are about as bad. They either are in just as much denial or they convince themselves that if she “wants it” she’s a slut, anyway, and doesn’t deserve the consideration of safe sex. A lot of people go through their entire lives conflicted about sex because of this kind of upbringing.

    On the other hand — regarding unwed mothers — among working-class southern and midwestern families teens getting pregnant out of wedlock is as common as flowers in the spring. I don’t think teenage pregnancy has the same stigma it used to have, but at the same time I think a lot of people have managed a weird kind of mental compartmentalization. Somehow, their disapproval of teen sex and their tolerance for teen motherhood get filed into different cabinets.

  7. joanr16  •  Dec 29, 2008 @7:03 pm

    Comrade, if you re-read Mrs. W’s comment, you’ll see she was merely explaining (accurately) what teenaged girls are taught. She goes on to explain how that teaching is dumb and dangerous. All in agreement with maha’s post.

    You know, I think this is the first time I’ve heard anyone point out the simple and sensible need for chaperones. Wasn’t there an old-fashioned meaning to the term “spooning,” i.e. courtship, where the young couple could be alone in the parlor only so long as they were clinking two teaspoons together? I guess we’re not the first generation to come up with flawed substitutes for the parental presence.

  8. moonbat  •  Dec 29, 2008 @8:22 pm

    comment found on another blog about this topic:

    “What do Americans who took virginity pledges have in common with those who voted for George W. Bush for President? For one, many people in both groups later denied they did any such thing. And to be sure, they got screwed just the same.”

  9. felicity  •  Dec 30, 2008 @11:33 am

    Interesting statistic. In our Colonial Period – prim, puritanical, god-fearing and chaste – over 75 percent of all young marriages produced a baby in 7 months or less. What’s that saying – you can’t (or is it don’t) fool with mother nature?

    Years ago when the ‘sexual revolution/Kinsey/sexual awakening/’open marriage’/free love were the topics of the day across America, yet another ‘study’ came to the conclusion that the male’s sexual drive peaks at age 14 while the female’s drive is highest at the age of 35. Einstein, I think, said god doesn’t play dice with the universe, maybe not but he/she sure screwed up on the sex thing.

  10. Mrs. W  •  Dec 30, 2008 @12:55 pm

    Comrade, I’m guessing that Bristol Palin’s pregnancy was touted as positive because she could have gotten an abortion but didn’t (the battle standard of the anti-abortion sect). I have no clue why the fact that Palin’s abstinence-only training obviously didn’t work doesn’t counterbalance this. African Americans girls who get pregnant are not lauded for not getting an abortion because it’s assumed that they can’t. Because of course all African Americans are too poor to afford an abortion (/snark). Or, it’s assumed that getting pregnant was a choice: she’s having a bunch of welfare babies so she can live off the system.

    I’ve started studying how social problems are affected and perceived by race, so I’m hardly an expert but I’m guessing this is the mindset behind why pregnant daughters of rich White Americans are lauded for getting pregnant and pregnant daughters of African Americans are villified for doing the same exact thing.

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