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.
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 @ 10:22 am
In a new poll by teen expert Jennifer “Dr. Jenn” Austin Leigh, PsyD., 98% of teen boys said they’d rather be in a relationship with “a girl who is a great listener than [with] a ‘hottie’.”
Okay, we’re listening. “If boys want more love and less sex for sport, this is really good news because teen pregnancy is up, teen girl-on-girl violence is going up [reports thereof are going up -- Ed.], emotional abuse in teen relationships is rampant…any trend towards more civility is welcome at this point,” Dr. Jenn said in a press release that just hit BG’s inbox. “Kids want something more substantial in their lives…to be loved, respected, seen and heard deeply.”
Still listening. “We do our boys a huge disservice by not talking about male virginity or their romantic, tender emotions about sex.” says Dr. Jenn. “Our boys are more than just their plumbing. Parents need to address their boys’ hearts and souls when they discuss sex with them.”
And! “The wonderful possibilities of where we go as human beings and the future of our planet depends on whether or not we learn to honor our girls. It’s that simple.” (Just ask The World Bank.)
But. BG has to wonder: how much honor is there in being called a “hyena”? Mmm, a hyena. Kind of like a lil’ cougar. Indeed, according to her website, “Dr. Jenn” has “coined the term ‘hyenas’ to describe the new phenomenon of sexually aggressive girls, taking as her model the female spotted hyena, which is far more aggressive than its male counterpart, right down to sexually explicit taunting. It is now not uncommon for girls to strong-arm boys for sex, and that includes oral sex. Some teenage girls even collect ‘V cards’ (virginity cards) to keep score of the number of boys they’ve deflowered. It’s a growing trend. Girls like the power and thrill of being a guy’s first, even if they don’t have any feelings for him.”
Okay, now we’re not laughing. Surely there’s more than enough aggression to go around, and more than enough reasons why, in today’s porn-tastic culture, that aggression becomes sexualized, even by girls. But, you know, this aggro-girls “trend” story comes and goes like the locust. Several years ago, it was girls as perpetrators of violence, which — not that some girls weren’t perps — turned out to be more about increased reporting through zero-tolerance policies, etc. Before that, some of you may recall, it was sexually aggressive girls calling their crushes on that old-fashioned gadget, what do you call it, the corded phone? “Mean Girls.” “Do-me Feminists.” You name it. (Also, apparently, simultaneously, girls are getting more goody-goody. Go fig.) While our society has absolutely, definitely, indubitably become more more sensitized and prone to glamorized sex, violence, and sexualized violence, seems to me there have always been, and will always be, girls on both sides.
Also…hyenas? Hyenas. (Girls acting like stereotypical horny boys. Can it be coincidence that the female spotted hyena mates through a “pseudo-penis?”) Listen: you can argue, at least, that the “cougar” is, I don’t know, a majestic beast. But the hyena? Yes, the hyena is considered a skilled hunter. But the hyena is not pretty. The hyena’s pelt is not prized. There is no sleek, elegant car called the Hyena. The hyena’s vocalization has been compared to a human laugh of the “hysterical” variety.
Dr. Jenn, if you want to honor girls, do not call them hyenas. Do not coin a calculatedly, transparently, sleazily headline-courting term that will do little but promote snickering and stereotype — even if (especially if!) the core of what you’re saying about girls and boys and health and respect has some merit and comes from a place of real and sincere concern. If your message is that kids want respect, then you’ve got to give it to them first.