If it sells newspapers or gets people to click a link, it’s usually got something to do with sex. Then if you add teenagers into the mix, everyone has an opinion, especially adults who like to claim ‘they were teenagers once’.
So when I found myself reading a headline today that said, ‘Teens and sex: what’s going on in our schools,’ I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to click the link or keep scrolling. Nothing surprised me about the research, eg. those who have easier access to contraception are more likely to use it and there is a socioeconomic link to those not able to access. But I also wonder about the kinds of conversations that communities and schools with strong beliefs around sex are having.
One of the research ideas that really stood out for me was this:
“Youth development literature suggested one of the best ways to reduce teen pregnancy was by making sure young people were engaged in school and had goals for the future.”
So schools are a form of contraception? Concentrate on getting NCEA and staying in school is as good as going on the pill? Plan your career and you won’t be interested in sex? I’m confused.
Something that has changed since I started high school 30 years ago is the age most students leave school. When I went to school, most of my mates left at 15 and went to work, so they were seen as adults once they left school. Now to get into university you have to finish year 13 (7th form for anyone older than 35) so more youth are ‘adults’ at school.
I’m also still struggling to understand why shame is used as an excuse for not talking about sex. It’s just so lame in the 21st century. Teen sex happens, so how about some media focus on addressing the cultural and social assumptions, fears and beliefs that prevent open healthy experiences of sex and sexuality, rather than statistics and freaking out.