Roughly one in four teen girls become pregnant at least once by age 20 and fully half of all pregnancies in the United States are reported by women themselves as unplanned. Not too good.

By posting some intemperate thoughts about sex, love, relationships, pregnancy, childbearing, the media, public policy, our dogs, and other topics, we hope to spark a two-way discussion about how best to bring down the high rates of teen and unplanned pregnancy in this country. And who knows…from time to time, we might even offer up a few cogent thoughts that will be helpful.

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Contraception, Education, Parents, Teens
September 29, 2015

When we think of consent in a middle school or high school context, it’s typically parental consent for sexuality education. The scary consent conversation is the one happening on college campuses across the country and, increasingly, in state legislatures as incidences of sexual violence on campus are in the news with appalling regularity.

Maybe we’re seeing so much bad behaviorrunning the gamut from foolish to predatorybecause we failed to prepare our kids in middle and high school. In August, the New York Times reported on a young man at an exclusive private high school in New England, already accepted at Harvard to study theology (irony anyone?), accused of raping a 15-year-old girl. 

A university of Michigan professor quoted in in the story said, “This is not filtering down from college to high school. It’s always been there in high school.” In this instance, the girl was a 9th grader, the boy a senior. Among the many heartbreaking elements of this encounter, after being assaulted, she was reportedly worried about offending him. Please note the defendant in this case was recently acquitted.  

This story is at least as old as I am, and I’m a grandmother. Older boys flattering younger girls, girls looking for love, boys looking to score. Completely different agendas, huge power imbalances. There are many variants on this story and I’m not suggesting girls are the only victims. 

The point, however, is consent and, as the story above illustrates, 9th grade can be too late. Personally, I think we’re abdicating our responsibility as adults by not preparing kids—starting in middle school—for the challenges of sexually-charged situations. We worry way too much about encouraging sex and way too little about protecting our kids. Our priorities are backwards.

Nothing, not a single study, not a shred of evidence, suggests that teaching kids about sex, love, relationships, and contraception encourages kids to have sex. Just the opposite is true. And conversations about consent are pointless in the absence of conversations about these topics. Why? Because without these predicates, it is almost impossible for young people to develop the competence and confidence to set sexual boundaries, and the self-confidence to speak up when those boundaries are being crossed.

Wondering where to start? Perhaps a good first step is this charming Vimeo video:

Cindy Sesler Ballard sits on the board of the Texas Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy.

Other Recent Posts

September 28, 2015
Authored by: Liany Elba Arroyo

Liany Elba Arroyo is the Director of Partnerships at The National Campaign where she identifies strategic partnerships that strengthen initiatives to prevent teen and unplanned pregnancy.  In addition, she manages the Latino Initiative Advisory Group and the Personal Responsibility, Religion, and Values Advisory Group.  

Prior to coming to The National Campaign, Liany spent over 13 years working in the government and non-profit sectors developing programs and promoting public policies that aimed to improve the health status of Latino communities across the nation.  Most recently, Liany was the Associate Director of the Education and Children’s Policy Project at the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), where she worked on advancing NCLR’s education priorities and policies affecting Latino children and youth.  Liany has published several pieces on children and Latino health and has been cited by Spanish and English media, including The New York Times, Newsweek, and Univision.

Originally from Bridgeport, Connecticut, Liany currently resides in Landover, Maryland with her husband and daughter.  She holds a BS in psychology from Wellesley College and an MPH from Columbia University.

According to research, I should not be where I am at today: a masters-level educated Latina woman.I was raised my mamí and my mamá (grandmother) after my parents divorced. I lived in a neighborhood that was poor, overwhelmingly minority, attended public schools, and didn’t have immediate family...
Education, Latino Initiative, Unplanned Pregnancy
September 26, 2015
Pope-apalooza took over the nation after Pope Francis arrived last week for his first ever visit to the United States.  Since becoming Pope, Francis’ words and actions of compassion have intrigued and captured the attention of people around the world, including non-Catholics and lapsed Catholics...
Contraception, Unplanned Pregnancy
September 22, 2015
Authored by: Katy Suellentrop

Katy is the Senior Director of State Support at The National Campaign. She works with an awesome team to support states and communities on all aspects of teen and unplanned pregnancy prevention including evidence-based programs and the latest data and research on these topics. In particular, her team works with grantees funded through the Office of Adolescent Health, the Family Youth Services Bureau and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Her favorite part of the job is helping people connect the dots and try something new to address teen and unplanned pregnancy in their communities. She’s also a research geek and loves sharing new data.

Katy received her BA from Northwestern University and her MPH from Emory University. Katy lives with her husband Mike and two sons, Liam and Connor, in Arlington.  She usually spends her free time outside with the boys. 

Sex education—a perennial controversy and often ridiculed class that is supposed to provide students with everything they need to know about reproduction and sexually transmitted disease prevention. It could be argued that no other topic generates as much controversy per minute of content provided...
Education, Teens