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October 5

Teen pregnancy: not so glamorous

Filed under: Celebrities,issues,media,News,pop culture — posted by Breakup Girl @ 10:45 am

Do reality shows like Teen Mom and 16 And Pregnantglamorize” 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.

And now we have the numbers to show it: according to two brand-new studies commissioned by The National Campaign To Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, “most teens (79% of girls and 67% of boys) agree that when a TV show or character they like deals with teen pregnancy, it makes them think more about their own risk of getting pregnant or causing a pregnancy and how to avoid it.” Other findings:

·         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.

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September 23

Take this sex ed quiz and win awesome prizes!

Filed under: issues,News,Treats — posted by Breakup Girl @ 9:41 am

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?

(And now, New Yorkers, join the campaign!)

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May 27

When teen pregnancy is no accident

Filed under: News — posted by Breakup Girl @ 5:27 am

We all know the fable of the conniving woman — call her the femme fertile — who schemes to “trap” a man by “accidentally” getting pregnant. This story at TheNation.com from BG’s alter ego, on an issue we’ve long been tracking here, turns that tale, and our understanding of “unwanted” pregnancy, on its head. It’s an important read for anyone interested in, or touched by, domestic violence or sexual abuse, especially when they — all too often — overlap.

Leyla W. couldn’t figure out where her birth control pills kept going. One day a few tablets would be missing; the next, the whole container. Her then-boyfriend shrugged and said he hadn’t seen them. She believed him—until she found them in his drawer. When she confronted him, he hit her. “That was his way of shutting me up,” says Leyla, who is in her mid-20s and living in Northern California. (For her safety, Leyla wishes to withhold her last name and hometown.) He also raped her and, most days, left her locked in a bedroom with a bit of food and water while he went to work. (A roommate took pity and let her out until he came home.) Thanks to the missed pills, she got pregnant twice, the second time deciding against abortion. (more…)

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January 26

Really, really unwanted pregnancy: the scariest cause

Filed under: News — posted by Breakup Girl @ 2:42 pm

We’ve seen, earlier today, the troubling numbers on teen pregnancy. Now we have to ask: how many of those pregnancies were coerced? Not just “unwanted” or “unplanned,” but actually forced? Forced — contrary to cliche — by the men, on the women?

In the first larger quantitative study of its kind, researchers at UC Davis have found (as they have in smaller studies, which BG covered here) that “young women and teenage girls often face efforts by male partners to sabotage their birth control or coerce or pressure them to become pregnant — including by damaging condoms and destroying contraceptives.  These behaviors, defined as ‘reproductive coercion,’ are often associated with physical or sexual violence.” The study, published in the January issue of te journal Contraception, also finds that “among women who experienced both reproductive coercion and partner violence, the risk of unintended pregnancy doubled.” [Emphasis added.] Here, I’ll add it again: DOUBLED. This is possibly the clearest link yet established between domestic violence and really, really, really unwanted pregnancy.

The researchers surveyed over 1200 women aged 16-29 (so yeah, not just teens) who sought care at the five family planning clinics in Northern California. More than half the women surveyed reported physical or sexual partner violence. One-third of those who reported partner violence also reported pregnancy coercion or birth control sabotage.

As BG’s alter ego reported here several months ago, based on earlier data: “The problem is so widespread…that public-health advocates are working to cast teen pregnancy in a whole new light: not as a measure of ‘promiscuity,’ or a failure of cluefulness, but rather as a canary in the coal mine of partner violence.” In other words, these girls don’t just need to be reminded of how to put a condom on a banana. They need to be asked whose idea this pregnancy was, and whether they thought it was a good one. Oh, and if anyone at home is hitting them. Or at least lying about pulling out.

What’s going on? In all modern fables, isn’t the girl the one who wants to get the guy to get her pregnant? Well, first of all, no, not all women in relationships are against getting pregnant. But not all of those women are in healthy relationships. And here‘s the guy side: “In one 2007 study, some boys acknowledged outright that they insisted on condomless sex as a way to establish power over female partners. (There is evidence of analogous male-on-male sexual violence, but it hasn’t been studied in depth.) Other research found that some men took a woman’s request for a condom as an accusation of cheating, or an admission that she had slept around or strayed. And for some, yes, the goal is fatherhood — but not so much of the ‘involved’ variety; rather, it’s a desire — as with Janey’s ex — to mark one woman as ‘mine’ forever. Or, [according to one anti-violence advocate] young men in gangs say, ‘I’m not gonna be around forever. I’ve gotta leave my legacy.'”

This is not NEWnews, as a phenomenon; those who work with teens have known about it for years. Only now, finally, is it drawing attention as a serious public health issue. Let’s hope, then, that the real legacy is this: “It doesn’t make sense to talk [at school] about substance abuse use this week and pregnancy next week and STDs the following week and then healthy relationships the week after that,” said UC Davis researcher Elizabeth Miller. “We need to be talking about how they’re all linked together.”

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June 18

Thanks for nothing, “abstinence-only”

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.

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August 15

It’s not you, it’s my histocompatibility complex

Filed under: News,Psychology — posted by Breakup Girl @ 6:52 am

The BBC reports that while a woman is naturally attracted to men who smell like a good genetic match (this, to me, would be a musky mix of garlic, teen spirit, and his excellent dog), the hormone havoc wreaked by the birth control pill may turn her on to the wrong guys. “Wrong” here meaning too genetically similar for species diversity, not (necessarily) “that unbelievable douchebag I can’t believe she likes.”

(more…)

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