Teenage Sex and Marriage in America
Just like everything else surrounding Sarah Palin, the announcement that her 17 year-old daughter Bristol is pregnant caused quite the stir. Obviously, it would be controversial no matter whom the 17 year-old, but this is different. Sarah Palin’s parenting skills are being called into question, and many have suggested that Bristol’s parents are forcing her to marry the baby’s father. I sit back in awe and disgust. Hopefully this whole scenario will highlight our deep hypocrisy when it comes to teenagers, sex, and marriage.
There are a few things that I know that no one seems to want to acknowledge:
1. Contraception is never fool-proof. The talking heads can suggest that more sex education is needed all they want, but the larger point is ignored. No matter how much you teach teenagers about contraception, there isn’t a form out there, short of abstinence, that is 100% effective. Condemns break, the pill can easily be rendered ineffective (much to the horror of some young couples I know), so on, so forth. I don’t agree with abstinence only education, but I also wish that more attention was paid to actual facts of contraception and sex in general.
2. Our society is hyper-sexualized. This would be OK if it was only focused on adults, but younger and younger children are being exposed to sexual themes. As a result, teenagers need more accurate information earlier and earlier in order to make truly informed decisions regarding sexuality. There has long been lots of peer pressure to have sex in high school, if not earlier.
3. You can’t fight nature. Let’s face it: our bodies are designed for reproduction from puberty on. As puberty comes earlier and earlier in life, younger and younger kids are asked to fight their hormones. A lot of self-restraint and information are needed to ensure that kids going through puberty understand what is going on and the true consequences of their actions.
4. Some people actually do fall in love at age 17. I have a wonderful example of this in my extended family. I have a great aunt who married at age 17 (he was 17 too). She never went to college, but she and her husband raised three children who all went on to receive Ivy League educations. My great uncle went on to have a successful career with Coca-Cola, my great aunt went on to serve her community in innumerable and invaluable ways, and all of their children went on to become very successful. Quite frankly, my great aunt was the very last person in the world I would suspect not have a college education. Obviously, their story has the best possible ending. That isn’t the point. The facts that Bristol is pregnant at 17, decided to marry the baby’s father, and chose life over an abortion does not mean that she ruined her life. It just means that she will have more challenges than most.
5. Forcing a 17 year-old girl to do anything, much less marry, is a challenge to say the least. I’m only 27, and I remember vividly what I was like at 17. I thought that I knew everything. I couldn’t wait to go to college and leave home. I fought with my Dad. There was no way that my parents were going to force me to do anything. It is from this understanding that I conclude that Bristol Palin probably really wants to get married. She probably truly does love the baby’s father. It doesn’t mean that it will work out in the end.
6. No one’s life is perfect. Everyone has challenges, and this is probably one of the Palin family’s.
7. No child is a punishment. All life should be cherished. I commend Bristol for making these tough adult decisions.
I could go on and on, but I think that you get my point. Our society certainly has a double standard when it comes to sex and teenagers, especially when it comes to women.