What… a… surprise. Know what you get when you teach kids that sexuality is off-limits and sinful, as the American conservatives do? You get pregnant, STD-ridden kids! Meanwhile, societies like the Netherlands, where kids are allowed co-ed sleepovers and are taught about safe sex, have drastically fewer underage pregnancies and STDs. And by drastic, I mean American kids’ pregnancy rates are eight times higher. EIGHT TIMES!
Furthermore, Dutch teenagers are less likely than American teens to engage in sex outside a committed, monogamous relationship. To recap: Dutch teens are having safe sex in the context of loving relationships and under their own roofs, while American teens are engaging in alarming rates of unprotected sex in questionable relationships god knows where.
So, why the huge cultural divide, especially given how much time, energy, and money America funnels into the prevention of teenage pregnancy? Essentially, it boils down to this: the Dutch treat their teenagers’ emerging sexuality as normal and healthy, and react accordingly. Contraceptives and reproductive health care are readily available. Conversely, in America we tend to treat teenage sexuality as a demon to be fought. We throw money into unrealistic abstinence-only education programs while simultaneously neglecting to educate our youth on their bodies and sexual health. We throw up barriers to birth control and abortion services.
Schalet believes that this can, in large part, be attributed to religion. Americans are far more likely to claim religious devotion that the Dutch. Shlalet also points to another interesting potential cause for the differing approaches to teen sexuality: the Dutch seem far more likely to validate their teens romantic feelings, whereas American parents tend to trivialize those emotions as “puppy love.”
The study is right here. Funny how sensical the results seem to me, where I am disabused of the notion that only through abstinence can one effectively curb these issues, and that sexuality is a moral vice. Underage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases are not a consequence of moral failing — they are a consequence of inadequate education and pushing kids out of safe and loving environments. The real moral failing is in teaching kids abstinence exclusively.