According to a new study, sexual content on TV is linked to teen pregnancy rates.
As someone who grew up in a European country, let me just throw in my opinion that this conclusion is a bunch of bullshit.
Look: where I grew up, the commercials for deodorants often feature naked female bodies, breasts and all, without causing a public uproar. The nudie magazines in the gas stations are right in with all the other magazines, without wrappers to shield young eyes from the covers. Television programs get edited for violent content, but not for nudity, and lots of prime time TV drama content over there would be shunted to the after-midnight slot–or over to HBO or Pay-Per-View–in this country. Girls routinely get a prescription for the pill when they’re fifteen or sixteen (as a matter of public and personal health, not as a license for parentally-sanctioned promiscuity.)
All of these ingredients should turn young girls into sluts, and make the teenage pregnancy rate shoot through the roof, right?
Well, the teenage pregnancy rates in oh-so-sexually-permissive Germany and the Netherlands is 5 per 1,000, less than a tenth that of the United States at a proud 57 per 1,000. These are the comparatively prude United States, where the appearance of an uncovered breast during a national live broadcast can cause a countrywide public uproar. Teenagers in Germany and Holland not only get pregnant far less often, but they also have sex at a later age than American teenagers.
What’s the difference here? Well, in the place with the much lower teen pregnancy rate, teenagers generally get all the information they need about how their bodies work, they get access to contraceptives when they need or want them, and their sex education isn’t limited to abstinence-only (which doesn’t work for priests–how well is it going to work for teenage hormone bombs?), or telling them “if you come home pregnant, I’ll kill you.”
(I never knew anyone who got pregnant or became a father in high school, and I attended a dozen different schools before graduating. It was almost unheard of for a high school girl to get pregnant unintentionally.)
The same people who generally oppose proper sex education and contraceptive access for teenagers are usually the ones who are stridently anti-abortion as well. The teenage abortion rate in Europe is similarly lower by several orders of magnitude, which sort of suggests that if the “abstinence only” and pro-life crowds truly cared about reducing the number of abortions, they’d put their daughters on the pill with a smile, and stuff their sons’ pockets with condoms. Instead, a lot of parents treat the matter like the Brady campaign treats the subject of kids and firearms: pretend it doesn’t exist, don’t talk about it or show it on TV, and don’t ever educate your kids, because it might encourage them. (Honestly–do you remember your teenage years? Do you remember needing encouragement to think about sex pretty much non-stop?) As a result, the United States competes with sub-Saharan Africa for the highest teen pregnancy rates, something that should clue people in that the way they’re doing it is not working particularly well.
So, no–boobies on TV, access to contraceptives, and proper sex ed don’t cause high teenage pregnancy rates. All this is a roundabout way of stating that the available data does not support the conclusions of the study in the least–or, to put it in common parlance: that dog don’t hunt.