In addition to news today that sex ed is not up to snuff in many parts of the country, the completely fascinating (though not-very-catchily-named) Youth Cohort Study and Longitudinal Survey of Young People in England was published today. It's full of detailed information about the behaviour of 18-year-olds across England, including, for the first time, sexual behaviour.
What did we learn? For one thing, despite not always receiving much support from schools and families, most 18-year-olds are doing their best to stay sexually healthy: over half of young people NEVER have sex without "precautions or contraception", while only 2% have unprotected sex all the time. Furthermore, 97% of 18-year-olds who knew they had an STI accessed treatment for it. We didn't really learn anything new about the fact that young people sometimes face unintended pregnancy, and that some of these young people choose to continue their pregnancies, while others opt for abortion.
What did the media learn? I'll give you a hint: it starts with "N" and ends with "othing". Okay, I'm being harsh. But I couldn't help but be disappointed. Despite all this interesting news, the ever-reliable Metro went with "1 in 8 teenagers girls gets pregnant" for a headline. (Apparently no boys were involved, girls just "get" pregnant. Do you think it's airborne? Dust off your swine flu masks, everyone.) Yes, this is a very interesting statistic, and it's worth talking about. But just once, couldn't we start with a pat on the back for young people? While newspapers are busy shouting themselves blue about the "teenage pregnancy epidemic" (see below), young people have been quietly getting on with being really sensible. As the astute Dr. Petra pointed out, couldn't we have a headline about getting these young people better support and better education instead?
Lest I fall into my same old "dang media" ramble, let me add that Metro at least made the link between unintended teenage pregnancy (which, of course, not all teenage conceptions are) and the lack of sex education. That's actually a great start. But until the media catches up with us, let us simply note that in at least one way (and depending on how you feel about eye liner, in so many ways) Alice Cooper was wrong: 18-year-olds do sometimes know what they want. (And they don't have babies' brains- that's a really weird line anyway). Despite not always having someone to talk to or learn from about sexual health, they're trying to take care of themselves, and props to them.