How to reduce teen pregnancies

Teen Pregnancy Decline:

Teenage pregnancy rates continue to drop in Hackney, new figures reveal.

The Office of National Statistics shows the number of teenage pregnancies has dropped by 28 per cent since 1998, compared with a national average of 13 per cent.

Current teen pregnancy strategy includes peer mentoring for young mothers, one-to-one advice on contraception,and counselling in schools.

Cllr Rita Krishna, Cabinet member for children’s services, said: “More and more young people in Hackney are showing maturity and responsibility for their own sexual health.

Well done, Hackney (although it would be nice if the journalist could mention that the only way these programs work properly is by teaching the boys about contraception and protection as well as the girls, which I’m sure Hackney is actually doing).

Not a single mention of abstinence-only sex education as advocated in the USA. Because most of the rest of the world recognises that simply wagging fingers at teens doesn’t help, but a comprehensive sex education about how to protect themselves from pregnancy, HIV and other sexually transmitted infections does help teens to look after their own sexual health.

This is especially important in light of the most recent research on the rates of premarital sex now and in previous generations: despite social shaming, 9 out of 10 Americans have engaged in premarital sex for the last few generations (and probably before that too). While figures for other countries vary, it appears that the majority of adults in nearly all societies have engaged in premarital sexual activity. If we restrict the American population to ages 16-21, on average 63% of that age-group will engage in sexual activity, nearly all of it premarital, no matter what kind of sex education they have had. The main difference is that the rate of teenage pregnancy and STIs is much higher amongst those who have had an abstinence-only sex education, which is surely not the result that caring parents wish for their children to experience.

Even if teens do manage to abstain during high school (a goal with which I have some sympathy), how are they going to protect their sexual health as young sexually active adults unless they have had an accurate and comprehensive sex education? How are they going to transition from a position where they are told “no sex until marriage” to the position where everybody’s winking at premarital sex without feeling shame at losing their previous “virtue” instead of responsibly enjoying their adult sexuality?

From a feminist perspective, comprehensive sex education focussing on sexual health rather than sexual purity better empowers girls and women to negotiate sexual practises: a reality-based objection to unsafe sexual practises based on physical consequences is a strong stance which can be continually repeated in future encounters, whereas faith-based objections to “impure” sexual practises fall as soon as the first “impure” act is performed (once virginal purity has been sullied, few other objections to further sexual practises will be considered valid, making it much more difficult to protect sexual health). The more our daughters know, and the more open the discussions on the likelihood of premarital sexual activity and the consequences thereof, the more responsibly they can protect their sexual health (including abstaining until marriage if that is what they choose).

ObSatireQuotient: check out the Iron Hymen program – “Abstinence-Only Coolness for Girls” and its brother program for boys: Sex is For Fags. Think about just how far they’ve had to take the joke in order to be more ridiculous than the actual programs are.

Categories: culture wars, education, health, relationships

Tags: , , , , , , ,

7 replies

  1. Yay for someone getting it right!
    For myself, I prefer the term “extra-marital” to “pre-marital” since the latter implies that marriage is somewhat inevitable, which it isn’t– you can’t have pre-marital sex if you never get married after all. 🙂 And, of course, legal marriage isn’t even an option for a lot of couples, due to homophobic marriage laws.

  2. I’ll go for “non-marital”, if the distinction must be made at all: “extra-marital”, to me, means “adultery”.
    The whole language is utterly heterosexist given the lack of gay marriage recognition, as you say. And monogamismist (or something).

  3. That’s quality nitpicking on “premarital”. You’re quite right, I fully adopted the terminology of the reports I was summarising, and they chose not to acknowledge the large number of people who will partner without marriage, whether opposite-sex or same-sex. I also find that “extra-marital” does have those connotations of sexual infidelity, so I’d prefer “non-marital” too.

  4. Fair enough, that occurred to me too– while technically it means anything “outside” marriage, the social connotations associating it with adultery are quite strong.
    The assumptions present in the term “premarital” are something that I only stopped being blind to after years of volunteering at Scarleteen, and even then only when someone pointed it out to me.

  5. In Corio (a suburb of Geelong that is close to teenage pregnancy capital of Victoria, and butt of the joke about thongs being “Corio high-heels”), a program that met with considerable success, but relied on unfortunate existing conditions, was the introduction of a creche in a high school for the babies of students who had children and were of normal secondary school age.
    Once the other girls saw what was actually involved in parenting, the demands on fellow students, the teenage pregnancy rate for students of that school dropped measurably! (I’m not sure if other students – girls and boys – were assigned time in the creche to increase their exposure).
    This program had the serendipitous advantage of helping girls to complete their education, ameliorating some of the harmful consequences of teenage pregnancy: dropping out of school. This resulted in better future options for those girls, and also the kids, who grew up in households with better-than-otherwise education levels.
    This program was covered by ABC’s 7:30 report a few years back, but I don’t know if it is still runnning, or whether similar programs have been introduced elsewhere.
    Dave Bath’s last blog post..Regulations on LUV required


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