The “Give Everyone a Goalie” Kind of Sex Ed

XanderAndAnya Buffy sex edSex ed is a hot button issue in America because certain folks believe it’s not a good idea for public schools to acknowledge that unmarried humans also have genitals, so we have an alarmingly high teen birth rate compared to other developed nations. That costs everyone money. What if instead of arguing about whether it’s acceptable to have high schoolers roll condoms onto bananas, we gave every lady a goalie instead, i.e., went straight to funding long-term, reversible birth control?

Between 2007 and 2012, Colorado saw the highest percentage drop in birth rates among teens 15 to 19 in the country, according to a report released today by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics. During that time, its teen birth rates dropped 39 percent compared to 29 percent nationwide. Abortion rates in the state among teens fell 35 percent between 2009 and 2012 and are falling nationally, as well.

The CDC’s report comes on the heels of Colorado’s own study, which reported a 40 percent decline in births among teens 15 to 19 from 2009 to 2013. The stunning decline in teen birth rates is significant not just for its size, but for its explanation. State public health officials are crediting a sustained, focused effort to offer low-income women free or low-cost long-acting reversible contraception, that is, intrauterine devices or implants. The Colorado Family Planning Initiative, supported by a $23 million anonymous donation, provided more than 30,000 IUDs or implants to women served by the state’s 68 family-planning clinics. The state’s analysis suggests the initiative was responsible for three-quarters of the decline in the state’s teen birth rates. … The state also saw a 50 percent drop in repeat pregnancies among teens. With a second child, the already-high odds are ratcheted up that a low-income mother will not finish high school, remain trapped at the low-paying end of the economic ladder and reliant upon public assistance. (You, taxpayer, may read this as ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching.)

Women who elected to go with condoms, the pill, or the patch instead were twenty times more likely to get pregnancy accidentally than those who got the implant/insertion. Shifting more of them to the long-term methods saved taxpayers $12 billion just in 2010. TWELVE BILLION!@!#!! Several other states are following suit, expanding Medicaid to cover the costs of long-term devices for postpartum women.

God, I hope this is something we can all get behind. Progressives/Lefties, Independents, Fiscal Conservatives, and Libertarians: we can unite behind this common-sensical program, right? It works, it saves money, you could argue it saves lives. Hey, it should lower the abortion rate! Fewer unwanted fetuses –> fewer terminations. It gives young women more control over their bodies and their destinies, and while I know that isn’t the top priority for a lot of people, it has great longterm effects for the economy.

With the money we save as a country, maybe we can continue to have Social Security beyond 2037!

I’d be willing to do a trade-off: we’ll teach “Abstinence Only” sex ed programs in school if we can also outfit any young woman who wants it with long-lasting, reversible birth control. We’ll tell them not to have sex and at the same time protect them, and society, in case they do. Win win, right? Oh, and we should give everyone a set of Jean M. Auel’s “Earth Children” series, which is basically a fictional version of The Guide To Getting It On and did more to teach me about sex than any official education in school ever could.  

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26 Comments / Post A Comment

I am ALL ABOUT comprehensive sex ed, condoms in the nurse’s office, information about birth control options freely and widely available at high schools (even middle schools), but I have a lot of problems with this.

1.a) It doesn’t solve the problem of young men having sex with girls who don’t have an IUD. It doesn’t empower (god I hate that word, but…) MEN to take responsibility to not get their partner pregnant. It teaches men and women at a young age that it is the women’s full, sole, and total responsibility to protect against pregnancy and gives their male partners, I think, a free pass from having to take responsibility for that.

1.b) Along those lines, I feel like this sets up a possible scenario exactly like what Ester described – people can keep burying their heads in the sand about teenagers having sex, but they know their teen is protected. It’s a band aid (albeit an effective one!) over the larger problem of the state of sex ed in this country. What happens if the women react badly to the IUD and get it taken out a year later? They’re still just as uneducated about sex as they were before AND they have no long term protection.

2) It is also too close to state sanctioned sterilization for me? I don’t know, maybe I’m cranky today (okay, yeah, I’m cranky today), and I know IUDs are reversible, etc etc, but this is the state putting a medical device in your body with no plans to take it out any time soon and….I don’t know. Just rubs me the wrong way.

3) I don’t love the idea of so totally messing with young girls’ hormones? I mean I know that happens with the pill already, and see point 1.a – the onus on safe sex is ALWAYS, ALWAYS on the woman. I only know my body now because my hormones weren’t being artificially messed around with as a teen, and I am sad that the only effective option is to mess around with these girls’ bodies like this.

TL;dr version – patriarchy hasn’t made a male birth control yet.

Fuck it, though, if it’s working, it’s working.

peacheater (#733)

@polka dots vs stripes I have almost exactly the same issues with this – thanks for articulating it so well. Still, overall, it probably is a net positive.

@polka dots vs stripes I totally get what you’re saying, but yet again I guess this is meant for those who want to stick their heads in the sand. But also don’t want their teenage daughter to get pregnant. It’s a band aid but its a working band aid until people are willing to admit their children are having sex and it’s everyone’s responsibility to be protected.

cryptolect (#1,135)

@polka dots vs stripes You bring up so many salient points! My one quibble: not all IUDs are hormonal. But yes, you are right, right, right.

garli (#4,150)

@polka dots vs stripes

1. a) I’ve always felt re: birth control that since pregnancy is going to happen to *my* body I am the one who will make sure that prevention is in place. Like skydivers and SCUBA divers check their own equipment before they get started? It’s clearly an imperfect analogy but you get the point.

1.b) Fair.

2. It doesn’t sound like they’re making anyone chose an IUD, just that funding has been provided for them.

3. Hormonal birth control changed my life (for the better) and I love my IUD more than I can logically explain but they do come with out hormones. The non hormone version lasts longer as well.

Also I don’t think it’s fair to assume that men wouldn’t utilize birth control if they had the chance. I have 3 friends who had vasectomies very young because they knew they never wanted to have kids. It’s an extreme position but if they were willing to have surgery on (near) their balls I’d be other men would go for a temporary fix as well.

@garli My point exactly – both parties are responsible for sex and its consequences. Yes, obviously, as a woman I am going to care more about preventing pregnancy, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to instill a healthy fear of getting their partner pregnant in young men and supporting them in taking responsibility for preventing it.

Also I don’t think it’s fair to assume that men wouldn’t utilize birth control if they had the chance. I don’t think I did that, and if I did, I didn’t mean to. I am upset that there are no long term reversible birth control (much less short term but effective (ie the pill)) options for men. What 16 year old guy would have a vasectomy? Men’s birth control options are condoms or surgery and I think they deserve better.

(This is starting to get off topic, but: There’s also a flip side of vasectomies being available, where many childless women are refused tubal litigations because “what if you change your mind?” Women are 100% responsible for their state of pregnancy, until they’re deemed too uneducated or too “Ladies be changing their mind!!!” to take advantage of the option that works best for them.)

garli (#4,150)

@polka dots vs stripes I don’t think it’s that off topic and I totally think that’s BS too.

femwanderluster (#6,947)

@polka dots vs stripes

This is a thing that happens in the world:

Woman and Man want to have sex, consensually.

Woman has remarked before, in the presence of said Man and not in a sexual context, that she has an IUD, from the sheer joy that the ‘set it and forget it’ method has given her.

Woman did not foresee that this remark would be taken by said Man and stored forever in his head, to be used in a sexual context as a pretext for not using a condom.

Woman is outraged an affronted.

Said Man is a scientific researcher and also hot, so Woman was forced to argue with said hot science Man (and casual, emphasis on casual, partner) for half an hour in order to get him to wear a condom before Woman would agree to engage in the steamy sexual intercourse, which she very much wanted.

So now Woman tells all Men that she doesn’t take ANY birth control despite secreting the all-powerful, all-period stopping Mirena IUD within her uterine walls so the that Fuckers will wear condoms without whingeing. Because, while she doesn’t want babies and she doesn’t want STIs, either, she DOES want to have the het sex.

@femwanderluster Ah yes, but we are talking about young men and young women (teenagers, kids really), who are not Scientists and are Not Thinking Clearly and have Shitty Sex Ed, and we are failing them.

femwanderluster (#6,947)

@polka dots vs stripes

You are correct.

My point was an illustration that even when smart people know these things, we can’t expect others to take responsibility for our bodies.

Ideally, yes, men would use birth control made for them.
Ideally, I wouldn’t have to lie about using mine to get men who are good people and who know better to use condoms without a hassle.
Ideally, good men wouldn’t be complicit in patriarchy.
Ideally, even I wouldn’t be complicit in it, but we all are, in one way or another.

As a feminist, my hackles also raise at your point that “patriarchy hasn’t made a male birth control yet,” in the unfairness of forcing women and girls to be the sole bearers of reproductive responsibility. That that leads to fucked up shit like women and girls also being the culturally purported (and concurrently culturally impotent) arbiters of the ‘gates of sexuality’ (see: every victim-blaming moment ever as well as good girl socialization ’til you can’t even navigate your own boundaries in sexual contexts, etc) just pisses me off even more.

Ugh. I agree with you. LOL! This got ranty.

It’s hard to implement solutions that work while other parts of the overall solution aren’t working because nothing’s perfect. It’s not going to be perfect. We aren’t going to have everything aligned in a straight shot in one go.

That’s frustrating.

I’d consider getting an IUD for my daughter – although as of yet I think she’s a little young. But not if it means abandoning the fight for decent sex ed. For all of the reasons above, plus because sex ed courses teach more than just how not to get pregnant. They also teach about STDs, which IUDs offer no protection from, as well as forming healthy relationships: moving from the friend zone to the dating zone, how not to commit rape, recognizing abusive relationships, etc. I want my daughter to learn all that too, and I want everyone else in her peer group to learn it.

SarahRose (#5,702)

I read the “Earth’s Children” series when I was a young teenager and now I give the first book to any young woman that I have chance to. They can find the second book (where it really gets good) on their own…

Beaks (#3,488)

I also received reasonably factual, balanced, and birth-control encompassing sex ed. from my Colorado public school education- so they’re not just addressing things on the IUD front (I’m assuming Colorado is still doing comprehensive sex ed since they’re still rejecting federal funding for abstinence only programs).

cryptolect (#1,135)

Seeing Anya and Xander raises this question: does anyone else think it’s a little weird that Angel (the series) went to the demonic pregnancy well so many times, while Buffy (the series) never did?

Lily Rowan (#70)

@cryptolect Is there something about how Buffy was always the kids’ show, even though they (more or less) grew up, and Angel was always more adult?

cryptolect (#1,135)

Reading the articles about the declining teen pregnancy rates, I would like to see the question of teenage boys’ sperm counts addressed. I have no idea if there is actually there, but I read so many things about how many pollutants we consume that can affect fertility, and it seems like it could have an effect. Does anyone have any research about this?

garli (#4,150)

@cryptolect That seems like one of those things that would be hard to get funded. Getting taken seriously while wanting to study teenage sperm? There would have to be a bunch of historical data as well.

sea ermine (#122)

@cryptolect One thing to remember is that a sizable chunk of teen pregnancies are happening between teen girls and adult men (typically early twenties), so it’s not just teen boys that need to be thought about.

sea ermine (#122)

I’m honestly horrified the billfold would suggest trading abstinence only sex ed for free IUDs?

Look, I have an IUD and I love it but there are so many issues with this idea. If you are combining giving everyone an IUD with abstinence only sex ed that means these girls have no idea what is going into their bodies or why it’s going in there. Not to mention the fact that IUDs don’t protect against STIs? Or the fact that there is so much more to sex ed than just keeping kids from getting pregnant.

Honestly, the thing is I know so so many adult well educated feminist woman who still don’t understand certain things about sex or their bodies or who believe things that are patently false, even among those who had a semi regular (non abstinence only) sex ed, because that is just how bad sex ed is in this country. I have had gynecologists tell my friends things that were false, to shame them out of certain procedures. And they are going to go on and pass that misinformation and stereotypes onto their kids, along with all the other outdated knowledge their kids pick of from friends with less knowledgeable parents. And those are the lucky one’s, I had to recently explain to another adult woman (who grew up with abstinence only sex ed) what a clitoris was and that she had one.

I was very fortunate to grow up with comprehensive sex ed taught by qualified teachers (I was living in Germany at the time and so this wasn’t uncommon where I was growing up) and I would still want whatever I talk to my kids about to be supplemented by knowledgeable qualified professionals who have access to more up to date research than I do and can provide accurate information. I think people assume sex ed is about encouraging kids to have/not have sex and it isn’t. If you want to talk to your kids about your own idea of when they should have sex go right ahead but they should still udnerstand information about STIs, birth control efficacy rates, information about pregnancy and what happens during a pregnancy, info about their reproductive systems, etc. Just like I would want for a biology class, or any science or health class.

So yeah, I would love for low cost or free birth control (including, but not limited to IUDs) but I don’t want that to come with an agreement that kids will be kept in the dark about how their own bodies work as well as being mislead about a device that’s actually going inside their body.

sea ermine (#122)

@sea ermine Another thing to remember is that the average reader of the billfold is probably more than capable of having a healthy discussion with their child about sex. But that doesn’t mean every parent can and public schools are teaching every child, not just the children of the billfold.

I know kids who were horrified and in tears the first time they got their period because they thought they were bleeding to death because their parents refused to talk to them about what was happening. The fact that you and I and probably everyone else on this comment thread can have a healthy discussion about this with our kids/future kids/hypothetical kids does not mean that every parent can. If you don’t have sex ed, and your parents didn’t, and their parents didn’t and your household has a culture of shame and fear about sex and bodies how are you going to find out this information but not in school?

I think a lot of the time it’s really easy for liberal progressive people, or people with really positive home lives, to forget that the resources they can provide for their children are not resources everyone has access to. This isn’t that much different than a math teacher saying that because he can teach his kids math, math classes should be removed from schools for everyone. Except not knowing math doesn’t deprive you of basic information about how your own body functions.

sea ermine (#122)

@sea ermine Not to mention the fact that the vast majority of teen pregnancies in the US happen between high school girls and adult men. Sex ed can’t stop statutory rape (and neither can a free IUD) but it does give teachers an option to talk to their students about consent and potentially provide students with a safe adult to talk to about their concerns, which they may not necessarily be getting at home.

sea ermine (#122)

@sea ermine I’m sorry I’m posting about this so much but I’m honestly incredibly disappointing that the billfold is viewing abstinence only sex ed + free IUDs as a “win win” scenario and that none of the editors seem to have a problem with that? Abstinence only sex ed is about so much more than just telling kids not to have sex (which is a pointless thing to do anyway) it at best keeps kids in the dark about their own bodies and lives and at worst spreads completely false information.
And I’m just talking about basic abstinence only sex ed, I’m not even getting into the issue of the schools who hire people to come in and tell children that having sex makes them like used piece of tape, or a flower with all it’s petals ripped off (often associated with religious schools but I do know people who received this information in public schools).
That’s not a win for anyone but kids who have parents who have the time and knowledge to do the work of unpacking all of that misinformation, and hoping that their kids haven’t internalized too much of it already. And even then, that’s less of a win and more of an “I guess this situation was sort of saved in the end, maybe”.

I realize this comment is late, I missed the article yesterday but I hope someone reads it and thinks about how they frame these kinds of articles in the future.

@sea ermine Thanks for your comments. I take them seriously. You’re right, sex ed is a big deal, and I was being flip about it because the Fold isn’t a health website, it’s a blog about money stuff. I was rolling my eyes that there is even an ongoing / never-ending argument about teaching basic health info in this country, because it is ridiculous. I got Sex Ed starting in 5th grade and I’m very grateful for it. That said, I probably did learn as much — and certainly more about sex for pleasure — from Jean M. Auel, which is why I suggested, in a tongue-in-cheek way, that every young person get a copy of her books.

But yeah, for the record, I would not trade actual Sex Ed for free birth control and some trashy novels, nor I am empowered to make such deals.

sea ermine (#122)

@Ester Bloom Thanks for responding. I get that you were being flip and I don’t meant to overreact but it really felt way to flip, at least to me, for something that is actually a big issue in this country and does affect a lot of lives. I appreciate your response.

garli (#4,150)

@sea ermine If you ever ran for office near me, I’d vote for you.

sea ermine (#122)

@garli <3 <3

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