Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Teen Pregnancy: Not Caused By Makeup

This charming (by which I mean "really gross") image came across my facebook feed yesterday:


Ew. While I know that these particular memes are often intentionally offensive for the purposes of being oh-so-edgy, I also know that the attitude that teen pregnancy happens because omg, the slutty, slutty girls is a pervasive attitude. And I know that it's incorrect. And I know that since the slutty slutty girls are not the reason teen pregnancy happens, slut shaming is not part of the solution.

I digress. This meme is gross, and I'll explain why. But first, since an increasing number of people are missing out on comprehensive sex education, it seems a little biology lesson is in order:

Teenage girls to do not become pregnant by wearing make up or "provocative clothing" or by dating. Teenage girls become pregnant by having unprotected sex. With boys. 

I know. I was shocked too. That boys are equally responsible for teenage pregnancy. Except, no, I wasn't shocked, because, SCIENCE.

If I need to spell it out, that's why the photo is gross. It places the onus for teen pregnancy entirely on girls and their parents, and as we all know, females do not become pregnant without males participating in some fashion.

So if you don't want your daughter to wear make up at 10 or date at 12 or wear certain clothing at 14, cool. I, myself, am likely to discourage my daughter (daughters?) from wearing make up or "sexy" clothing as adolescents. Not to prevent pregnancy, but because I do everything in my power to counteract the constant messages that in order for a woman to have worth, she must fit into a little box that society has labeled "sexy". (And hey, perhaps if more of us did more to counteract the messages that women are expected to be sexy, young girls wouldn't be so interested in such things in the first place, hmmmm?) But don't kid yourself into thinking that prohibiting those things will keep her from becoming pregnant. And don't think that if you have sons, you're off the hook in this whole teen pregnancy thing.

The way we prevent teen pregnancy is not by telling girls that they have to be "good girls" and that that "good girls" don't dress "like that". The way we prevent teen pregnancy is by teaching our children, boys and girls, to respect their own bodies and the bodies of others. By teaching our children, boys and girls, about how to have sex safely and responsibly. By providing our children, boys and girls, a safe and non-judgmental environment in which to discuss such matters.

When I started having sex, in my late teens, I didn't wear much make up, and coming of age in the grunge era, I certainly didn't wear provocative clothing. I also didn't become pregnant. Why? Because I'd had comprehensive sex education in school. I knew how babby is formed. I knew the myriad of birth control options available. And I knew that I could talk to my mom about it. When I did, we had a discussion about making sure I was ready, and then she made me my first big girl doctor appointment, and she paid for my birth control.

So if you're wondering why your daughter got pregnant at 16, it's not because she wore make up, it's not because she went on dates, and it's not because of her clothing. It's because she had unprotected sex, with a boy, who is equally responsible for not preventing the pregnancy, and whose parents are equally responsible for making sure he knows about safe sex. 

***
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54 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. This is very short-sighted. Of course make-up does not cause pregnancy. But that is not the point. The point is that if you teach your daughter how to be sexy and beautiful before teaching her the power and responsibility that comes along with those things, then you are setting her up to be placed in situations she is not ready for. It is easy to tell children to just say no to sex and drugs. But if we encourage them to go to the bounds of temptation before properly equipping them to handle the temptation, it should not surprise us when they fall.

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  2. I love everything about this, and I am in total agreement with this. As a teenage, I barely wore make-up, definitely did not dress slutty (always jeans an a t-shirt), and honestly I started having sex at 15. I'm 21 and I'm still not pregnant. Even though my partner of nearly 4 years and I are planning on getting married some day, we STILL have protected, safe sex. We learned the right way of doing things, and that is why we have never gotten pregnant. I just wish more people understood this. I couldn't have said it any better than what you did.

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    1. Yes! And on the flip side, there are plenty of virgins who do wear make up and dress in sexy clothing.

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    2. Obviously, we do not share the same standards. I would not say that the mere fact that you have not become pregnant means that you are a moral person. That is one of the most vital role of parents - to teach children morality and virtue.
      The fact that you have been "responsible" enough to avoid getting pregnant does not mean you have practiced responsibility with your heart, or the hearts of those with whom you have become involved. Sex is about much more than just bearing children...
      As to the author's response about virgins who wear makeup and dress sexy, that could be due to the very reasons I stated above: that they were taught to be responsible with their beauty and their sexuality.

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  3. i am going to send everyone who posts this on my facebook to your blog :P

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  4. Love the snark - it was totally deserved!

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    1. Thanks Dionna, sometimes I put my snarky pants on and can't get them off again! ;)

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  5. Yeah, that is the most ridiculous picture ever! I have not seen it on my facebook, but if I do, they are coming here too!!

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    1. Thanks for your comment and support Lauralee! :)

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  6. I thought 20- something men where mostly responsible for teen pregnancy.

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    1. Please note that I did not indicate the age range of the boys, and that I hesitate to refer to anyone having sex with a teenager as a "man". ;)

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  7. I think that you are missing the point. The image, I am guessing, was not meant to give a full account of teen pregnancy. Rather, the image's designer chose to concentrate on the role of girls' parents as that role pertains to sexual activity in their daughters. The image does not say where or not boys or their parents are responsible for teen pregnancy.

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    Replies
    1. In order to miss the point, there would have to be a valid one in the first place. ;)

      The role of parents of girls, in terms of sexual activity and teen pregnancy, has nothing, whatsoever, to do with makeup or clothing. It has entirely to do with the aspects I brought up here. There are many girls who wear makeup and provocative clothing who do not have sex. There are many girls who do not wear such things who do have sex. Clothing and makeup are not relevant to sex or pregnancy.

      Of course the image doesn't address the role of boys or their parents. Discussions on teen pregnancy rarely do. THAT is the point.

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    2. Fine if it will make you happy I will make one covering teenage boys.

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    3. Which will say, "If you don't talk to your teenage boys about sex and how to prevent it, don't be surprised when they father children." ???

      But, probably not, because where's the "joke" in that reality?

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  8. Especially as someone who WAS pregnant at 16, GREAT POST! Birth control as well as all pregnancy-related responsibility is always placed on the girl... perhaps because she has no choice but to deal with it in one way or another.

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  9. Thank you!!! That image has been driving me crazy, I am so glad to read such a concise and measured response.

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  10. Yes! Thank you for this wonderful post.

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  11. I think the whole point of the meme was the idea of age appropriate behavior for our daughters. Not the make up causes pregnancy or that boys are not equally responsible. We all know that safe sex needs to be taught to our daughters but they also need to learn self respect. Dressing sluty attracts asshats. I can see your point of view but I think you missed the point of the meme.

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    Replies
    1. "Asshats" are "asshats," period. How a woman dresses has nothing to do with how an "asshat" behaves.

      And putting the responsibility of another person's behavior on the shoulders of a woman is one of the problems. That's essentially saying a woman has to dress /for/ someone else in order to (possibly) prevent someone else from (possibly) behaving inappropriately towards them.

      It's also saying that no matter what happens, the woman provoked it. She didn't consider the "asshat" when she got dressed that morning. She didn't consider the "asshat" when she chose certain words. She didn't consider the "asshat" when she did or didn't put on makeup.

      Hmm, and what happens if there are multiple "asshats" that are attracted by opposite things? One loves make up, one loves no makeup? Geez, should a woman just stay inside so she doesn't "tempt" either one?

      Your point does make glaring the real shudder-worthy message in this meme: it's a girl's fault for unwanted pregnancy. She musta dressed/acted in a certain way, and she got what she deserved.

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    2. But this meme doesn't put the responsibility on the "woman" at all. This meme refers to a CHILD, and the responsibility of her parent.

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    3. If you'll take the time, I highly recommend this piece explaining what slut-shaming is and why it is problematic.

      http://finallyfeminism101.wordpress.com/2010/04/04/what-is-slut-shaming/

      The point of the meme was to slut-shame. I did not miss that.

      "Asshats" are responsible for themselves and their own behavior. Claiming that they are provoked by certain clothing is a cop out that does a disservice to males and females alike.

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  12. "Dressing sluty attracts asshats"? You make that point directly after saying that our daughters need to learn self respect. One's style of dress to level of respect for one's self is, in fact, not always directly correlated! Furthermore, your comment seems frighteningly close to "dressing slutty attracts/causes........"-----YOU fill in the blanks here, you've probably heard them before.

    If you haven't come up with anything, the word "rape" pops into mind.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for your comment. <3 I was beginning to think that "anonymous" was synonymous with "doesn't get it". ;)

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  13. YK what, I keep making points to friends of mine who have sons and daughters, who say they worry far less about their son than their daughter who could become pg. I say no, that is the WRONG way to look at it. Yes she could get pg. She would PROBABLY only do so once unless she is also addicted to drugs and prostituting...and then you have WAY more worries on your hands. So assuming one pgcy and very LIKELY a singleton one...you have one unplanned grandchild.

    Your SON on the other hand, if you don't teach him well (and even if you try to but fail since we all know how much these teens actually listen to us!) could knock up 10...20...+ girls in the time it takes your daughter to get pg...once. And ALL those girls could potentially come after him for child support. And if he is a poor starving student working at a gas station or convenience store, who would end up being on the hook for helping out? Yep. You, as a parent, if possible. For potentially dozens of unplanned grandkids? I mean the chances of it being dozens are probably relatively slim, like the chances of her being knocked up and it being a twin pregnancy. But still, that is only 2 babies if that fluke happens, vs. maybe 7, 12, 18... And yes, we could take it a step further and say her pgcy MIGHT even be a natural quintuplet or sextuplet pgcy. Fine. Lotteries happen. ;-) To the "lucky" rare few. The possibility of him having sex 4x a day if he is a total stud, with 4 different girls, and knocking up well over 100 in just a couple of months is also there, but also quite unlikely. But him knocking up a few in the time she gets pg once is not only entirely possible, but even quite *probable* if he doesn't use protection and is a bit of a cad...so watch your SONS. Yes, teach your daughters about sex ed and how to protect themself against rape, but really REALLY instruct your SONS on how to prevent becoming a dad if they aren't ready.

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    Replies
    1. Interesting point! I hadn't thought of it that way, but I work as a substance abuse counselor with criminal offenders, and anecdotally, the men have fathered overwhelmingly more unplanned children than the women have mothered.

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  14. Let's be honest, boys have the hormones to make them want to have sex with everything. If the daughters wouldn't publicly display "insert here" all over themselves then maybe some teen sex wouldn't be happening. A boy having unprotected sex is a bad decision, and a girl letting him do it is also a bad decision. Both equal in their own rights. But dressing like you live with a street full of hookers and then opening your legs and getting prego for some dumb teen boy whose just eager to lose his virginity is not equivalent. One is a decision, one is an attitude. The parents should be on all that, its ridiculous to not educate your daughter and then trying to pass the blame on to some young horny boy when your parenting was clearly less than par.

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    Replies
    1. This line of thinking always takes me aback. First of all, it assumes that girls bear some responsibilities for boys being able to control themselves. They don't. Second, it assumes that boys are somehow incapable of controlling themselves. They aren't. It's simply that society doesn't expect them to.

      I'm not sure if you actually read what you responded to before commenting, but what part of "equal responsibility" makes you think I'm placing all of the blame on "some young horny boy"? And why are the parents of the young horny boy who supposedly has no control over where he inserts his penis absolved of all parenting responsibility?

      Finally, slut-shaming is gross and is not welcome here.

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  15. It's a dumb meme. Of course boys are equally responsible for teen pregnancy. But, at the end of the day - who will be making the though choices? In reality, the responsibility IS bigger for the girl. She is the final say on what happens to her body, and the myriad of choices that follow a positive pregnancy test: abortion or not? adoption? where will I raise the kid? do i stay in school? can I go to college?

    Like it or not, the boy gets a pass on all of the tough questions, so yeah.... it does become a bigger responsibility for the girl. But, no - the makeup has nothing to do with it

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    1. So, as parents, do we just accept that society places the bulk of this responsibility on our girls, or do we work to instill an increased sense of responsibility in our boys? No son of mine will get "a pass" on such questions.

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  16. But does that mean it's a good idea to let girls act like women at a young age? There's a bigger picture here the meme is alluding to, and it's valid, but it has more to do with parenting and fathers/daughters and cultural pressures...

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    1. I would love to hear more about the valid bigger picture you believe this meme alludes to it. All I see it alluding to is that slutty sluts are slutty and deserve what they get, and that is not valid.

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  17. People are expecting a lot out of a one-sentence graphic. The obvious focus of this meme is on parenting, and on said parents allowing their child to be sexualized beyond her age. The only responsibility alluded to in this sentence is that of the girl's parent, not that of the girl, nor that of the boy, nor that of his parent. There are tons of variables intersecting to result in teen pregnancy. We allow our children to consume media that ties a female's worth to her sexual desirability, and that ties a male's worth to his sexual conquest. We teach our daughters to be chaste, sequester them in their rooms, interrogate their dates, but we fail in so many ways to instill the same values in our sons, and to prevent them from engaging in unsafe sex. We could create a hundred of these cards, with a hundred different snarky sayings, without ever leaving the parental responsibility arena.

    Male responsibility, sex education, and birth control are all valid points, all things that need to be addressed...and all completely outside the scope of this one little 25-word meme.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. In terms of parenting, as it relates to sex and pregnancy, clothing and makeup are not relevant.

      Those things are not just out of the scope of this 25-word meme, they are conspicuously largely out of the scope of the entire discussion on teen pregnancy.

      Delete
  18. I heartily agree wtih Anonymous and want to tack this on to my previous post: I didn't interpret it as cause and effect, but as a slippery slope. Either way, it is still a generalization but I see truth in it (in fact, I lived it with friends), though it's rooted in the bigger issues I mentioned earlier. Growing up too fast is a symptom of deeper problems as well as permissive parenting.

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    1. I agree that slut-shaming is a slippery slope (to victim-blaming, particularly), but I have a feeling that isn't what you meant.

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  19. What is wrong with u people?...... Instead of putting the blame on the boys or on the girls....... It's the parents fault for not teaching them that premarital sex is wrong and unexceptable! If they saved themselfs for the right person there wouldn't be any of this crap going on! children shouldn't be put on birth control and told its okay to have sex! That is just sick! Parent up!

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    1. It is not a fact that premarital sex is wrong and unacceptable. It is an opinion, and not one that a great many teenagers share.

      I'm not sure how saying "Don't have sex, it is wrong!" and leaving it at that is "parenting up". But then, I'm scratching my head at what "parent up" might mean anyway.

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  20. If it was really about parenting, it would say, "Don't alienate your daughter, fail to teach her about sex and her own body, and avoid setting boundaries (and cultivating the respect that gets those boundaries honored), and then act surprised when she gets pregnant as a teenager." But I can see how that lacks a humorous tinge.

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  21. Joella, you already know I love this.

    Abstinence only education doesn't work. If you want to make me do the legwork to find the teen pregnancy rates by state as they compare to types of sex ed I'll do it, but it's fully googleable and recently reported-on. It is just not realistic to expect that teenagers won't have sex and to assume you can convince them all to "save themselves for marriage" is heteronormative, naive and Christian in the exclusive, blinders-on way that gives modern Christianity a bad name. In any case, boys are FULLY responsible for where their penis goes and to state or imply otherwise contributes to rape culture, demeans women AND boys who should be empowered to be the upstanding citizens they are capable of being.

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  22. I don't go along with that. I see what is being said, but I also see society trying to sexualize my daughters to fast that I have to watch out for the clothes and toys my 4 year old gets/wears. It's hard for me to buy that the societal trend of teaching younger and younger girls that they need to cover up their face and flaunt their body doesn't have any effect on the decisions they make about sex just a short time after childhood.

    I think the suggestion from the image is that a parent who doesn't manage the things on the list responsibly probably isn't going to be having the kind of discussions with the kid that will be needed to make sure responsible decisions are made, and that if that is the case, they have no right to complain to anyone but themselves.

    So yeah - letting a 14 year old wear makeup and revealing clothes doesn't get her pregnant, but neither does it provide her with the healthy self esteem, body image, and maturity necessary to make the very real adult decisions that will be coming her way shortly.

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  23. I think that to prevent pregnancy, there needs to be a balance of all things. I come from a large family and I was the only girl not allowed to wear makeup, date at all throughout high school, and I was not allowed to dress provocatively. I also had a great sex education at school and my mother often talked to me about it. I had sex for the first time at age 20 and I can honestly say I have no regrets. I have many nieces and nephews ranging from 9 months-19 years and I have three brothers. I decided to have a child at 27 and now at 28 I have one daughter who is 18 months old. All I can say is that yes, pregnancy takes two and is not caused by makeup, clothes, or dating early on. However, if you teach your daughter to respect herself, to not skip her childhood, and to behave a certain way, it will help her to make wiser decisions. At 16 my nephews girlfriend wore heavy makeup, was allowed to go anywhere with her boyfriend and her mother was open about sex. She had the same sex ed. I had and when her mother found out she was having sex, she took her to the doctor where together they talked about the dangers of unprotected sex. She was prescribed birth control but ended up pregnant soon after her 17th birthday. I am witnessing similar behaviors with my 12 and 14 year old niece. In my experience boys have one thing in mind as teens and they tend to go after girls with a slutty image. I have a daughter and no sons that is why my focus is with my daughter and what I can do to help her make better decisions. I can see with my nephews and brothers that they will turn their heads to the girls with provocative clothing and wearing makeup. I can also see that the boys are not being taught to respect women and treat them like objects so there is big fault with boys. Society has a huge influence on behavior but it is our job as parents to teach our kids so that they have good judgement and can even ignore the horrible things about our society. I will not let my daughter wear makeup at 10, date at 12, or wear provocative clothes at 14!

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  24. Great article! There's just one little inaccuracy or missing detail: NO FORM OF CONTRACEPTION WORKS PERFECTLY. Even a couple who uses their chosen contraceptive method exactly correctly every single time has some chance of pregnancy. It is not *always* true that a pregnant teenager ever had *unprotected* sex with a boy. Therefore, it is crucial that we teach both boys and girls that, in addition to resisting too-early sexual activity and deciding which method of contraception they will use when they are ready, they need to think seriously about what they would do if pregnancy happened anyway.

    I had comprehensive sex education and was very careful as a result. I didn't get pregnant until I was ready. But I have several friends who conceived while using contraception, some as teens and some as adults. It does happen, and kids need to be aware of that well before they consider having sex so that it figures into their decision-making.
    ---'Becca

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