Tuesday, November 2, 2010

American and European Teen Pregnancy

What's one thing the media loves to talk about? Teens and sex. Teens and pregnancy. Teens and STDs. Obviously, teens are having sex and this horrifies the media and right-wing conservatives. They enjoy taking a shocking story on America's high STD rates among teens and blaming it on birth control and honest discussions about sex.Somehow they ignore the overwhelming statistics that indicate STDs and pregnancy are oftenlinked to abstinence-only education. (For a full rant about that, read The Purity Myth.

Now let's take a look at Europe. In both America and Europe, teens on average start having sex around seventeen. That's where the similarities end. America's teen pregnancy rate is three to six times higher than any country in Western Europe. One in three American girls will be pregnant before the age of twenty. This is a higher rate than those found in poorer countries like China and Sri Lanka. Not only that, but there is a huge gap between Europe's STD rates and America's. As in our rates are twenty to thirty times higher than the Netherlands.

So what are Europeans doing that Americans aren't? Engaging in OPEN, HONEST, and DIRECT conversations with teens about sex and using protection. In America, wejust try to scare our teens into staying abstinent. Anyone remember the health class scene from "Mean Girls?"
If you have sex, you will get pregnant and you will die.
The difference between the European way of dealing with sex and our way of dealing with sex is blindingly obvious in our ads.
This German add reads "give the gift of love." In America, we don't talk about teen sex and love. We ONLY talk about the sex part.

Now what do American ads look like?
The message: sex is dangerous. It can kill you. It's like walking into a full-scale industrial fire. This ad doesn't inspire you to use protection. If you're doomed by sex, why even bother with protection?

What can we do to change this? How do we bring the issue of openly discussing sex to the foreground when most of society is busy slut-shaming?


  1. I absolutely agree with this post! Everything about sex is suppose to be so taboo that a huge proportion of the population is missing out on basic health risk/prevention.

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