Teenage pregnancy: Bad attitude, college dropout, PREGNANT. You see these words and think of teenage mums lining up at the Job Centre for their weekly cigarette money. That was what BinaBean was led to believe, until she fell pregnant at 16.
See the words ‘teenage pregnancy’ and you imagine Croydon facelifts and teenage mums relying on handouts. That was what I was led to believe, as I grew up in a family with high standards, strict rules and dizzying expectations. That is, until I fell pregnant at 16, joining the statistics for teenage mums in the UK.
Teenage pregnancy is a phrase that’s loaded with connotations, most of them negative. It carries so many stigmas behind it – stigmas that provoke a reaction in people that like to surround themselves in a glass bubble. In reality the UK has the highest percentage of teenage mothers, so why is it still such a taboo?
In no way am I promoting unsafe sex, getting pregnant young without pre-thinking it or being pro-life because these are all very personal decisions. But we live in a society which promotes sex as the biggest marketing tool, so why is there so much surprise and disparagement when the neighbour’s daughter turns up with a bump under her school jumper?
Is it fear? Is it disgust at being confronted with facts – such as the fact that sex happens between adolescents as young at 12? Well, it does happen. It’s a fact. It will continue to happen until sex education not only teaches you how to put a condom on but also that it should only go on the person you actually care about enough to commit to something so big and the responsibility that comes with it. Sex is treated like such a flippant event that it’s no wonder our society has everyone doing it. And that’s alright, but society should then not be surprised when you get teenagers becoming pregnant. What did society expect?
Im not saying I became pregnant because of a lack of boundaries. Trust me, in my case there were big boundaries. But there is so little help available from society to young mums. I’m not just referring to financial help. In some cases, a teenager might make the decision to have a baby because she has a chance of being supported by the social system in terms of housing and financial aid. I’m talking about society offering fear and general antipathy rather than beneficial, neighbourly social support.
Society’s hypocrisy in the face of teenage pregnancy is appalling because its facetious attitude to sex ends up creating these situations. Stereotypes are built and it is assumed that the teenage mum’s life is over and she will just stay another woman dependent on the government to survive. But maybe some standards would be built if the government stopped ridiculous products being sold, like Argos g-strings for girls as young as nine, or like padded bras for seven year olds… “bust boosters” for children who still have milk teeth.
Sex education is now controversially being taught in some primary schools and to my mind this is good. When I was younger I got taught about birds and bees. Teenage mums are, in a recent study, shown as seven times more likely to commit suicide, eighty nine percent more likely to be unemployed and 60 percent more likely to be impoverished during pregnancy.
With the proper support they can do better than these statistics show. With the right people at hand, teenage mothers can prove they’re better than the media portrays them to be.