Sunday, August 17, 2008

This is a fascinating and saddening study.

It demonstrates a shockingly strong link between teen pregnancy and sexual violence--that is, that girls who have been sexually abused or raped are likely to have sex earlier and engage in more dangerous behaviors, and, not surprisingly, get pregnant.

What's so incredible about this isn't the link--the link really isn't that surprising--but rather the sheer numbers. The disparity between groups of abused girls and not in terms of behaviors (age of first intercourse, use of protection) is incredible, and what gets even worse is when you look at the statistics by ethnic group. Teen pregnancy rates among Latina and black girls are much higher, as is the incidence of sexual violence. Native American girls experience sexual assault at TWICE the rate of other groups, mostly by people outside of their ethnic groups. (How much you wanna bet these guys are white? The more things change, the more they stay the same.) This has a lot to do with the way our culture positions these girls and their bodies (sexy, exotic, "spicy"; girls of color are seen as "bad" or not as buttoned up as white girls and so are sexually available; old colonial narratives about conquest and sex with conquered women).

A big part of why this is important is that teen pregnancy is largely seen as an issue of promiscuity--"Those durn teenagers just keep having sex! Weird!"--and morals ("OH MY GOD THEY'RE HAVING SEX AND SATAN WILL TAKE THEM FOREVERRRRRR! THEY MUST NOT HAVE CONTRACEPTION OR ABORTIONS SO THEY CAN BE PUNISHED FOR THE ERROR OF THEIR WAYS WITH BAYBEEEEZ!"). This study makes it clear that in large part, the public debate on this issue is missing the point.

I highly recommend that everyone click through. And remember that a teen mother or young mother is not necessarily an irresponsible slut (and even if she is, it's none of your business); she's a person struggling, that's all. Or hell, maybe she decided she wanted a baby. Like I say, none of my business.

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