The past few weeks I have been seduced by the TV programme Midwives as it comes on straight after my guilty pleasure The Great British Bake Off. Last week the story of a 16 year old first time single Mum got me thinking that despite100 years of liberation and fighting for the right to control our reproductive system, we are still slaves to our biology.
Here was an all too typical scenario of a 15 year old getting pregnant and not even realising till she was 7 months gone so only having a short time to come to terms with the huge shift about to take place in her life. The question of contraception was dismissed and the boy was nowhere in sight. The responsibility for caring and financing this situation now fell to her Mum, also a single Mum, who was also a teen Mum and no doubt us, the State.
It was impossible not to feel this young girl’s fear at the situation she now found herself in. School had to come to an abrupt end, her future was uncertain, she was now responsible for this whole other life even before she really knew what she wanted to do with her own. The scene where she talked about feeling depressed after giving birth because all her friends were preparing for their end of school prom that she could not go to, was heart breaking.
Whilst this is becoming an all too familiar theme in our society what strikes me is the lack of parental responsibility we demand or even ask of the boys. At no point in this story was he mentioned. It was assumed he was not involved and the full burden was automatically hers to deal with. Now I am not suggesting they move in together and are forced into a relationship they clearly did not even have in the first place, but where is the responsibility factor? Are we saying it is OK for boys to go around impregnating girls cos there are no consequences?
I cannot tell you how many conversations I have had with teen girls who tell me boys categorically refuse to wear condoms because they don’t like them so it is left to them to take full responsibility for contraception or risk pregnancy. Not sure what happened to the word No or **** off then? And in todays so called equal society how have we have even allowed ourselves to set it up this way?
The contraception they talk about is either the pill, the patch or the implant – all of which are hormone related and may well create health problems for them in later life. Their young bodies are not ready for this harsh intervention, but I accept it is better than an unwanted pregnancy. However, what about the boys?
What do we do about the boys? If we, as a society allow them to believe that unprotected sex is OK and getting girls pregnant is responsibility free, we are taking several giant leaps back on our journey towards empowerment.
Whatever happened to male contraception? I understand the trust issues here, no good developing a male pill. My husband cannot even remember if he closed the freezer door or where he left his glasses so I get the concerns around him remembering to take a pill or us even believing he remembered! Surely we need to invest in other methods. Personally I would like to see a male implant developed that is positioned in clear view (forehead, nose or adams apple) that flashes green when he is in the safety zone! No room for doubt there eh?
But seriously, why can’t we develop an implant or a patch for boys that girls can see? Failing this technology ever making it to the market in my lifetime at what point do we even suggest the boy’s parents take some responsibility for the babies he creates? The girl’s parents have no choice but to support the mother and the child. It feels unfair that the boys simply carry on as usual.
Now, before you reply telling me the positive stories where this does happen, I know there are some responsible young adults out there male and female and I also know mistakes happen. Unfortunately these stories are not presented by our media and therefore do not become the norm. We show girls the opposite story and they accept this as their lot. We let boys continue to behave irresponsibly and this becomes their legacy. All our story lines on soaps, all the scenarios on reality TV all our press stories etc all focus on the young, teen, single, first time Mum, scared, alone and living with Mum.
It is heart breaking and our sex education in schools needs a serious overhaul to show a better way. It is no longer about the act of sex we need to talk about intimacy, boundaries, responsibility, perceptions of what is right and wrong , the recognition that porn is fake and fantasy, the joint ownership of contraception and the repercussions of an unplanned pregnancy.
Breath Jane, breath!