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?
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, issues — 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.
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.”