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.
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.”
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.)
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.
2. Set your TiVos. According to The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, 8 in 10 teens and adults believe the decade-plus decline in teen pregnancy is due in part to increased media attention to the issue. And 75% of teens say that when a character in a TV show experiences a teen pregnancy, it makes them think more about the consequences of sex. The N, for one, is airing pregnancy-related past eps of shows including “Degrassi” and “South of Nowhere,” plus — don’t fast-forward! — lots of cool anti-preg PSAs. Other goodies appear throughout May on CWTV.com, with stats and info appearing online alongside relevant eps of “Gossip Girl” and “90210.”
3. Read Seventeen. The June issue features an honest look at the real lives of pregnant teens.
4. Abstain from saying mean things about Bristol Palin. Poor kid.
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.”