Filed under: issues,News — posted by Breakup Girl @ 11:49 am
The New York Times reports that a study of middle-school students has “found for the first time that abstinence-only education helped to delay their sexual initiation.” Uh oh? The finding “is already beginning to shake up the longstanding debate over how best to prevent teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.”
Okay okay! Nobody panic! Keep reading.
“[T]he abstinence-only classes in the Jemmott study…unlike the federally supported abstinence programs now in use, did not advocate abstinence until marriage. The classes also did not portray sex negativelyor suggest that condoms are ineffective, and contained only medically accurate information. [This] abstinence-only course was designed for the research, and is not in current use in schools.” [Emphasis added.]
Well, there you go. Look, the debate has never been about abstinence-only vs. “…and, for your homework, please have sex this afternoon.” It’s moralistic, inaccurate abstinence-only vs. comprehensive and realistic: please wait; if you don’t, please be responsible. Though there are those who will misrepresent this research as surely as they misrepresent the effectiveness of condoms, it’s actually yet another vote in our favor.
Update: This (PDF) just in from our heroes at Guttmacher: “While the evaluated program is the first abstinence-only intervention to demonstrate this positive impact in a randomized control trial, it was not a rigid ‘abstinence-only-until-marriage’ program of the type that, until this year, received significant federal funding. The evaluation, therefore, adds important new information to the question of “what works” in sex education, but it essentially leaves intact the significant body of evidence showing that abstinence-only- until-marriage programming that met previous federal guidelines is ineffective.”
Filed under: issues,News — posted by Breakup Girl @ 9:55 am
When second-to-last we checked, teens were getting much better at using contraception. But now, as it turns out, they’re slacking. Yet they’re still having the same amount of sex. Problem.
From a Guttmacher Institute press release today: “After major improvements in teen contraceptive use in the 1990s and early 2000s, which led to significant declines in teen pregnancy, it is disheartening to see a reversal of such a positive trend,” says lead author John Santelli, M.D., chair of the Heilbrunn Department of Population and Family Health at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and Guttmacher Institute senior fellow. “Teens are still having sex, but it appears many are not taking the necessary steps to protect themselves from unwanted pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections.”
Why the decline? “The authors suggest that the recent decline in teen contraceptive use since 2003 could be the result of faltering HIV prevention efforts among youth, or of more than a decade of abstinence-only-until-marriage sex education that does not mention contraception unless it is to disparage its use and effectiveness.”
That’s just what we’ll continue to do about ab-only ed.
Filed under: Advice — posted by Breakup Girl @ 10:24 am
Dear Breakup Girl,
I’ve never seen such good relationship advice on a website. You rule, therefore maybe you can help me. Six months ago I met AMY, a girl who I had intense *POW* chemistry with. I mean it, when we first made eye contact it was like my tongue hit an electric socket. She felt it too, I found out later. Not because either of us is extremely attractive, you understand, it was just “there” you know?
Anyhoo, I am 26, a few girlfriends and one live-in experience that lasted a year. Amy, however, was (and likely still is) a virgin at age 27. She told me right up front that she was conservative, didn’t like public displays of affection, didn’t often date, and had never been in a relationship longer than 3 weeks. I thought this was odd, but accepted it. She also told me after knowing me two weeks that she was NOT EVER going to sleep with me. This stunned me, because I usually don’t go into relationships deciding whether or not I’m going to DO something — I usually just let it happen. This hurt my feelings when she said it, but after we talked about it we decided to keep dating. This was probably my first mistake, but keep reading.
To contradict all Amy told me about herself, our dating pattern didn’t seem to fit. We would commonly meet for lunch, which would turn into a long talk, then a matinee, followed by dinner, followed by searing makeout sessions that would leave my lips bruised the next day. These dates happened once or twice a week, and ended at 2 AM when she (or I) would pry ourselves away (no sleepovers, no intercourse allowed) and drive home. The dates always lasted many hours, and even after spending almost 10 or 12 hours together, she would say “I wish I could spend more time with you etc.” By our third or 4th date she had gone from not wanting to hug me in public to kissing me (with tongue) while we were at a table in a restaurant (in a secluded booth, and I didn’t object).
Do reality shows like Teen Mom and 16 And Pregnant “glamorize” teen pregnancy? That standard hand-wringer has always struck me as weird. Because um, those shows don’t exactly make teen pregnancy/motherhood look awesome. They (unlike, SORRY, Glee) actually make it look pretty crappy — a lot more so than, say, carrying around a sack of flour for a week. Even when cute teen moms glam it up for celeb magazines (which are guilty of overglamorizing post-teen motherhood), teens — who, turns out, are also better at condoms than grownups — still know what’s up.
· Among those young people who have watched MTV’s 16 and Pregnant, 82% think the show helps teens better understand the challenges of teen pregnancy and parenthood and how to avoid it.
· 76% of young people say that what they see in the media about sex, love, and relationships can be a good way to start conversations with adults.
· About half (48%) say they have discussed these topics with their parents because of something they have seen in the media.
· 16 and Pregnant got young people talking and thinking about teen pregnancy─40% of those in the treatment group said they talked about the show with a parent, 63% discussed with a friend, and 37% discussed with a sibling.
· 93% of those who watched [a particular] episode agreed (53% strongly agreed) with the statement: “I learned that teen parenthood is harder than I imagined from these episodes.”
This is all information we’re not so sure they’re getting in, say, abstinence-only sex ed — which, while we’re on the subject, glamorizes lies, shame, and fear. (And whose funding just got resuscitated, even as the Obama administration also awarded $155 million in federal grants to support evidence-based, medically accurate sex ed.)
Enough with the mixed messages, as Jessica Wakeman wrote at The Frisky, continuing: “If pregnant teen girls get their moment in the media’s graces, the least we can do is use it wisely. The alternative could be much, much worse.” Of course the media plays a role in the whole teen pregnancy ecosystem, but there are a whole lot of other reasons teens get pregnant, most of which are much, much more complicated and challenging than the simple notion of MTV cause-and-effect (which is exactly why we are reluctant to acknowledge and deal with them). Teens are smarter than we give them credit for. Sometimes, in fact — see phrases bolded above — they just want to talk.
It’s the National Sex Ed Week of Action! Now with PRIZES! (For the first reader who emails me with answers to the quiz below!) But first, a quick true or false:
• The United States has the highest teen pregnancy rate among the world’s developed nations.
• According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at least one in four teen girls has a sexually transmitted infection.
• Half of sexually active young people in the U.S. will contract a sexually transmitted infection by age 25.
• Approximately 750,000 teenagers in the United States will become pregnant this year.
• The health care reform bill included a renewal of $50 million per year funding of abstinence-only education for states until 2014.
• This Op-Ed by an Atlanta teen about the importance of comprehensive, accurate sex ed is awesome.
Answer key: TRUE, TRUE, TRUE, TRUE, TRUE, TRUE.
Which, now that we’re all riled up, brings us to the one with PRIZES!Planned Parenthood of NYC, BG’s local affiliate, is giving away a package of safe-sex goodies to the BG reader who emails me with the correct answers to all five of the following (at least peripherally) sex-ed related questions. Pencils ready?
1. In how many states is it still illegal for an unmarried heterosexual couple to live together?
2. What was the name of the first daytime television show to feature a same sex wedding?
3. What famous female advocate founded the first birth control clinic and later founded Planned Parenthood?
4. Japanese love pillows, which usually decorated with life-size animae characters are called what?
5. What species was the famous gay couple who raised an offspring named Tango together?
Is it or isn’t it? In an article set to appear in the June 2010 issue of Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, researchers found that oral sex is … not.
Only about 20% of university students participating in a 2007 survey agreed that oral-genital contact constituted sex, yet the majority believed that penile-vaginal and penile-anal intercourse did (98% and 78%, respectively)…
While I agree that demoting oral sex to, say, just “fooling around” doesn’t quite work either, I am most disturbed by:
a) The 2 % of university students who don’t believe penile-vaginal intercourse constitutes sex, and
b) The 22% of university students who don’t believe penile-anal intercourse also constitutes sex.
Um, then…what does? Sex obviously feels good — and is, arguably, essential — to many humans of all orientations, but if we want to get biological and scientific, it is essentially about reproduction, propagating the species and all that. Therefore, one would think, college kids, who have had at least high school biology — and social lives — would be 100% certain that penile-vaginal intercourse is mostly the way that happens. The fact that even 2% of them don’t know that makes me hope there is some margin of error with the study’s statistics or there are some smart gay students who are subversively protesting the common perception of vaginal penile sex as normal. Most likely, we seriously need to revamp sex education.
Apparently, the authors of the study also suggest that sex education may be to blame for this oral “sex” business as abstinence-only education as well as more comprehensive sex education programs focus on penile-vaginal intercourse. There is indeed danger — sexually transmitted and otherwise — in disassociating oral sex from “SEXsex.” Oral sex can spread disease more easily than, say, a back rub or a hi-five. So, why don’t we, as a society, recognize that education and making facts available to our young people is the best preventative medicine for both teen pregnancy and STDs? Oh wait: because — as at least the grownups known — addressing even the matter of oral sex is, yes, talking about SEX.
Over the past few weeks, Milwaukee teens have seen and and heard promo after promo for the horror film 2028. There’s blood, screaming, creepy lighting, gravelly voice-over, the works. Over time, though, it became clear that these weren’t trailers for a movie, they were trailers for YOUR LIFE. Your life, that is, if you’re young and knocked up. While the first round of previews ended with “in theaters January,” subsequent edits closed on the following message: “Get pregnant as a teen and the next 18 years could be the hardest of your life.” Then, a Web address flashes on screen: BabyCanWait.com. Oh, snap!
According to Broadsheet, this is just one of at least 15 anti-teen pregnancy campaigns presented by the United Way’s Healthy Girls program in Milwaukee. “Past print ads included images of teen boys with pregnant bellies and a baby diaper with a brown “scratch-‘n’-sniff” spot. The ads’ creator says the aim is to offer a contrast to high-profile young mothers like Jamie Lynn Spears and “deglamorize” teen pregnancy…and credits the decline in the state’s teen pregnancy rate in part to their “aggressive and provocative” approach.” Note: BabyCanWait.com provides information about contraception and STD’s. This is not an abstinence-only campaign.
But, as Broadsheet’s Tracy Clark-Flory asks, “Are these shock-and-awe tactics the best way to reach kids?” While I sympathize with the goal, and appreciate the clear and creative commitment to it, something about the trailer didn’t sit well with me.
For one thing, horror movies are “glamorous,” too. (Older) teens — and women — like Saw, say. Not saying it’s aspirational, but the genre itself is seen as a double-dog-dare lark, not a cautionary tale about (say) losing your virginity at summer ca — REE! REE! REE! You know? So there’s that.
There’s also something about it that contributes to an ugly stigma. Teen mothers as screaming bloody victims. The baby as some sort of evil spawn. Or something like that. Ick. Not helpful.
Finally, I don’t think kids are running around getting (people) pregnant because Bristol and Jamie Lynn made it look so, like, cute. Or even just because ADULTS ARE LYING TO THEM ABOUT BIRTH CONTROL, which they are. There are so many naive, misguided, melancholy, ironic reasons that teens want to get pregnant, be parents. They’ve seen their sisters and brothers and friends do it. And it’s hard hard hard. But — based on what’s become normal to them — it’s not a horrorshow. I’m not sure you can convince them it is in a one-minute trailer when the rest of their life says otherwise.
Filed under: News — posted by Breakup Girl @ 11:11 am
BREAKING: Our friends over at the esteemed Guttmacher Institute report news that’s sadly about as unsurprising as the lamented John Edwards being Quinn’s dad. That is: “For the first time in more than a decade, the nation’s teen pregnancy rate rose 3% in 2006 [the most recent source of data], reflecting increases in teen birth and abortion rates of 4% and 1%, respectively.”
2006: Let’s plot that on a timeline of SURELY UNRELATED events in U.S. history. Aha: Turns out a long-term decline in teen pregnancy — due in part to increased contraceptive use among teens — flattened out and then reversed…what’s this? The decline reversed at the same time that the Bush administration and Congress ramped up funding for rigid abstinence-only-until-marriage programs that are prohibited from discussing the benefits of contraception. Coincidence, or…? Yeah, gotta be coincidence.
“After more than a decade of progress, this reversal is deeply troubling,” says Heather Boonstra, Guttmacher Institute senior public policy associate. “It coincides with an increase in rigid abstinence-only-until-marriage programs, which received major funding boosts under the Bush administration. A strong body of research shows that these programs do not work. Fortunately, the heyday of this failed experiment has come to an end with the enactment of a new teen pregnancy prevention initiative that ensures that programs will be age-appropriate, medically accurate and, most importantly, based on research demonstrating their effectiveness.”
And: “It is clearly time to redouble our efforts to make sure our young people have the information, interpersonal skills and health services they need to prevent unwanted pregnancies and to become sexually healthy adults,” said Lawrence Finer, Guttmacher’s director of domestic research.
For starters, we’ll need to let them read the dictionary.
(Click here (PDF) for the full report, “U.S. Teenage Pregnancies, Births and Abortions: National and State Trends and Trends by Race and Ethnicity,” and click here for Guttmacher’s Facts on American Teens’ Sexual and Reproductive Health. Also, find Guttmacher on Facebook and Twitter to learn more.)
A judge has thrown a shoe the book at the Bush-era FDA’s restrictions on emergency contraception, ruling that the agency must scrap its policy of preventing young women under 18 from buying Plan B over the counter. He gave the administration 30 days to make the change, snarling — rightly — that the “political considerations, delays and implausible justifications” (not to mention whispers of teen sex cults!) tripping up the approval process for Plan B in general had stinkety-stank to high heaven. Rawk.
As Ellen Goodman wrote in 2005 of the redonkulous restriction: “What no one dared suggest is that just maybe teenagers should have the easiest, not the hardest access to Plan B. Aren’t the youngest precisely those who should be most protected from pregnancy? Or do we still think that motherhood should be the punishment for sex?” And: “If teenagers also need Plan B it’s because Plan A — abstinence — fails more often than condoms. Too many teenagers end up pregnant, facing Plan C: abortion or motherhood. In the name of protection, we are leaving teenagers far too vulnerable.” Now, one hopes, no more.