Wednesday, May 6, 2009

You're not putting that there!

Funny title no? I heard today about how the daughter of Alaska's governor - Bristol Palin has been going around talking about the issue of teen pregnancy and how abstinence is the best thing, and something I've always thought is that there are things missing from arguments on both sides of the issue. Those who argue for "abstinence only" are leaving out information that needs to be said, and those who argue for "safer sex" are leaving things out as well.

I was once a teenager, and growing up as a member of the LDS faith has taught me that contrary to the "safer sex" school of thought - teenage hormones are not always out of control and they can be controlled, and there are thousands, no, hundreds of thousands of teens who successfully abstain from sexual activity not just throughout their teen years, but until they are married, so to me, anyone who says that it's not realistic is not telling the truth, because I have seen it time and time again amongst those I know. Is everyone able to do it? No, of course not, but I think there are some things that can be done to help increase the odds of success.

1. The idea of abstinence definitely has to be something the teen WANTS to do for themselves. If it is merely imposed on them by outside sources - parents, school, whatever, - they will be less likely to follow through with it. Teens can be pretty rebellious so if something is imposed that they don't really care too much about, they're probably not going to do it - even if on a purely cerebral, intellectual level they "get" the good reasons for it.

2. Once a teen has decided they WANT to go that route, then it becomes very important that their friends and acquaintances are aware of it and support them and their decision. If there is pressure from friends and those they date to abandon their stated goal, then they will be likely to give in at some point. If they hang around with people who share the same goals, then it will be a lot less difficult.

3. Any situations where it could become difficult to stick to this decision need to be consiously avoided - if this means putting off dating when it seems as though everyone else is doing it then so be it. There's a lot worse things in this world than being single in High School. High School boys are pretty uniformly not worth it anyway so why bother? Junior High even more so! When I was in high school, I would go to my boyfriend's house, but his family did not share the same ideals as mine, so even if his parents were there (and they usually were) they didn't care what he did, so they would stay in the living room and what would we do? Go in his room and shut the door. RECIPE FOR DISASTER! Had his parents been a bit stricter and said "no you either stay here with us or keep the door open" I doubt we would have done some of the things we did. Staying out too late, being by yourself, etc. When you've got raging hormones going on, all these things need to be watched and avoided.

4. This list by no means excludes the "safe sex" options. Another component that is crucial for success - or at least a better failure - is a good relationship with parents or other "authority figures". I was lucky that I didn't have any "unintended consequences" in High School because I did not have a good relationship with my parents and I did not go to them and say "hey I need to go get birth control pills" or something like that. Because I saw it as a failure on my part to stick with my goal, I thought that any move on my part to get condoms or pills, or whatever would be like admitting to myself that I was going to do it anyway, and why bother trying not to. I think if my relationship was better with my parents and I wasn't so scared of how they would react I might have not felt the way I did.

Looking back on my life - if I had avoided the first 2 boyfriends I had, or if I had been able to avoid the "dangerous" situations with them, life would have turned out differently.