July 28, 2010
Serious stuff from BG’s alterego, capeless, on GritTV.
Further/background reading here.
Tags: dating violence
, domestic violence
, Elizabeth Miller
, reproductive coercion
, sex ed
, sexual health
, The Nation
January 26, 2010
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.”
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.)
April 6, 2009
From yesterday’s New York Times: New research — well, not that new — shows that as men age beyond about 30, their chance of fathering a child with an autism-spectrum disorder or schizophrenia increases, just as their overall fertility decreases. According to NYU psychiatry researcher Dr. Dolores Malaspina: “It turns out the optimal age for being a mother is the same as the optimal age for being a father.”
As the Times’s Lisa Belkin writes: “The push and pull between timetables and dreams, between our bodies and our babies, is at the core of many women’s worldview, which also means it is at the core of relationships between the sexes. This tension feeds the stereotype of woman as eager to settle down and men as reluctant, and it’s the crux of why we see women as ‘old’ and men as ‘distinguished.'”
Indeed, says Dana Goldstein of The American Prospect. “Imagine a world in which the stereotype of women rushing men to the altar, biological clocks on overdrive, simply disappeared, as men took full 50 percent ownership over the reproductive process. Or in which wealthy 50-year-old divorced men ceased to be such catches for 30-year old women, because of weakened sperm. I wouldn’t want to return to a society in which both men and women are pressured into settling down and having babies at an unduly young age. But I do like the idea of rejiggering our notions about the intersection of gender and aging. It isn’t just women who have a lot to fit into their lives in terms of career, romance, and parenthood. Science is beginning to tell us that men are facing the same pressures.”
This is not to say we want men to have reproductive challenges. But given that science shows that they do, it’d be nice if culture would catch up.
March 24, 2009
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.
August 26, 2008
News from The American Sociological Association: “For years, researchers have known that adults who have swapped rings say they are healthier than their never-married peers are. According to a recent study, though, singles are catching up when it comes to good health.”
Among self-reports by adults ages 25 to 80, never-married folks reported a quality of health close to that of all those hale and glowing married folks in the New York Times.
But wait! The ASA article is all about “never-married adults” and “people” and otherwise gender-neutralicious until paragraph 5. Then this: “This narrowing health gap between the married and the never married applies only to men, but not women.” Hey! No fair burying the lede, and … no fair! The piece also doesn’t mention that the apparent health benefits of marriage apply predominately to men in the first place.
July 10, 2008
When it comes to sex smarts, the youngish generation has — at least in theory — an advantage. We come from the school of sex ed that — never mind the condoms passed out like candy and the environmentally evil towers of pamphlets — scared the living crap out of us with horrifyingly explicit medical details and threat of death by French kiss.
So at least we came out with bit of a clue. But (never mind these folks) what about those who went before? A new study has revealed that the rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among those over 45 more than doubled in less than a decade. Genital warts was most commonly diagnosed; men in general and people between the ages of 55 and 59 were significantly more likely to have an STI than anyone else.
Experts say that once you’re beyond fearing pregnancy (or so you might think) it’s easy to forget that you need protection for, you know, other stuff. They also stress the importance of equating sexual health only with young people.
“The almost exclusive focus on the sexual health of young people has tended to ignore older age groups, who are also at risk,” say the study’s authors. “Programmes aimed at preventing sexually transmitted infections should be tailored toward different age groups and do more to dispel myths and assumptions about the level of sexual activity among older age groups.”
Hey, this other new study shouldn’t hurt either.
March 12, 2008
Via BG’s alter ego at Broadsheet:
Hey, kids, how’s that abstinence-only sex ed going for you? The answer, if you ask the grown-ups, often has to do with how many teens simply don’t abstain and how many get pregnant (PDF) as a result. But the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention remind us that there are other consequences to sexual cluelessness, and right now, they’re pretty darn dire. That is, the first study of its kind on this demographic has revealed that one in four American girls has a sexually transmitted infection. At least one STI, actually. Mostly HPV (which can cause cervical cancer), then chlamydia (linked to infertility), plus herpes simplex and trichomoniasis. Nearly half the black teens surveyed had an STI, compared with 20 percent among both whites and Mexican-American teens.
Man. Be careful, you guys! Don’t think you can’t get something because it’s your first time, or because you used a condom (HPV can be wilier than that), or because you just, like, think you can’t. I’m certainly not trying to perpetuate the ridiculous — but still deeply hurtful — stigma associated with STIs. But these things can harsh your mellow, cramp your dating style, and, in some cases, compromise your health down the road. Get checked (some STIs are asymptomatic), take precautions (less than 100 percent effective in certain cases is way better than nothing, which is ZERO percent effective), and while you’re at it, lobby for your state to join the 17 others that have refused funding for abstinence-only education (which, you see, has also been less than 100 percent effective).