Wait — I Thought Abstinence-Only Wasn't Working?

Via NPR, we see the latest version of media-induced panic. Namely, that movies such as Juno and other young and pregnant celebrities are driving up the teen pregnancy rate


Jane Brown, a journalism professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, says the Juno effect is real.

Brown runs the Teen Media Project, which recently completed a study into the images seen by girls between the ages of 12 and 14. The research showed that kids who had “heavier sexual media diets” became more than twice as likely to become sexually active by the age of 16.

Part of that stems from teens’ natural curiousity about sex. Teens are often seen browsing through web pages like tubev.sex, which often comes as a result of their sexual curiosity. Kids who are more interested in it seek information from a variety of sources, Brown says, including movies like Juno. “In the context of parents still not comfortable talking with their children about sex, with schools talking only about abstinence until marriage and with religion saying it’s still a sin, the media have become very powerful sex educators,” she argues.

Brown says teen pregnancy rates had been falling

, but she worries that the numbers are again on the rise. She says the generation of girls raised in abstinence-only education programs may not know as much about contraception as kids used to know. Meanwhile, images of unwed mothers have gone mainstream.

So let me get this straight. Teen pregnancy rates have been falling, statistics are backing this up, and instead of attributing this to a shift away from contraception-based sexual education… we blame abstinence-only education and movies such as Juno?

To be perfectly blunt, it’s not the government’s responsibility to teach my kids anything about sexual mores. Still, a line of argumentation that treats the symptoms (teen pregnancies) without addressing the root causes (sexually active 13-19 year olds) then band-aiding a solution by saying 95% effective contraception solves the problem… is missing the point.

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