There's a bit of brouhaha in Australia this past 200+ years.
It's been happening - off and on - since Captain Cook first spotted Botany Bay and subsequent hordes of disadvantaged and desperate "criminals" left English shores to be bound forever to the land Downunder.
It's not new but every generation judges women on the basis of it.
Interestingly, it's always; always; always the young women who are "at fault" for this "alarming and unthinking act of irresponsibility". Rarely have I heard pop culture news and current affairs shows on TV, such as A Current Affair, Today Tonight, or other reports of this ilk decry the actions of the males involved.
Apparently, despite all the work of the feminist movement since suffrage, it is the fault of a girl when she has sex. It is always her fault if she has a baby.
Time this idiocy and shaming stopped.
Not the pregnancies per se: there will be pregnant females throughout time and history. Some of the mothers will be young, some will be old. This isn't the problem. The thing that MUST be stopped is the judgement. It is time to stop the unnecessary judgement of teenage mothers.
It is time to provide these young people with responsible sex education which is health and pleasure centred. I'm not insisting on abstinence only sex education but I am insisting that our young people - both male and female - are given the information they need to make an informed choice about their sexuality. They need to understand how to respect the autonomy and rights of others, including those they are sexually attracted to.
Young women who insist that remaining a virgin at age 12, 13 or 15 is "really uncool" must be asked why this is so important?
My hunch is that it's about male hegemony even now days despite the apparent progress women have made for equality. Female competition for male attention comes about through a socially embedded belief that females "control" male desire and attraction. This belief has been around it seems, forever. Women are consistently and subtly blamed for having sex, being sexual beings and inducing sexual behaviours in males.
Our young women have been, too long, educationally and emotionally ill equipped to assert their rights. This is especially true with regard to contraception and even sex itself. Our male dominated culture has ensured that sexually active young females are not only shamed, vilified or made objects for sexual gratification for males, but that they will also be prevented from making good choices under the duress of this shaming. This shaming occurs if a young woman says yes or even, no to any kind of sexual expression.
To this day, the problem is society's insistence that men are weak and entirely incapable of showing restraint in the presence of female sexuality*. It's a lie and our kids are not learning that this is a lie. It means that young men are let off the hook and are abnegated of their responsibilities. It's always the woman's fault right?
So, our young men need to have this embedded myth and their beliefs about female sexuality challenged. Young men need to understand that women are not responsible for their "need" to have sex, let alone their decision to indulge in risky sexual activity. Regardless of physiological erection, a man is quite capable of making a compassionate ethical choice as to how he will engage with another person in the act of sex. Another person, by the way, includes a woman.
Young men need to be given permission to say "No" too. They need to be taught that they are capable of engaging with females respectfully, with empathy. And if desire and attraction are mutual and consent is given with no coercion, in sexual pleasure. They need to be taught how to recognise genuine female desire and not its culturally stultified version which is often one of compliance as a favour done in return for masculine attention. Sometimes it is very hard for young women to know the difference between their real desires and the culturally imposed ones via this myth of male weakness.
Young men need to understand that young women are their equals in every sense and that that equality demands they respect a woman's right to say no if she so chooses. Young men need to be given the social and emotional tools to ensure they do not turn a sexual rejection into a backlash of sexual violence. Young men need to be educated to the fact that contraception is a mutual decision and that practising safe sex is equally their obligation.
And on the other side of the coin; young women cannot be counted on to say "No" to sex while there is buy-in to this myth of male weakness. As a society, we cannot have it both ways. We cannot expect males on the one hand to be wanton and destructive forces of nature when it comes to sex and then expect young women to be the epitome of virginal purity on the other. It cannot work like that.
Women are entitled to their sexuality and its expression. It is not their fault for owning a clitoris or a vagina. These are however, things about being a woman which should be amazing and wondrous with their discovery one of immense mutual satisfaction for both partners.
Women need and want to feel safe around men. They need to understand that sex has been created to be a mutually joyful experience; an experience they can say Yes or No to when they are ready. They need to feel that they can express their personal sexual identity without needing to use it as a form of competition against other females and as currency for male attention. They need to know female sexuality and its expression need not be attached to shame. They need to know that their sexuality is a thing to be celebrated and enjoyed; a wonderful aspect of the human experience.
So, let's stop this idiotic ranting about taking away the Baby Bonus for teenage mothers. In fact, let's include the young fathers in this payment. Let's give our young men - who are helping to create the next generation - permission to step up to their obligations as parents, empowering them to become good fathers.
On another point: let's also stop our cultural obsession with promoting the youngest of models in our advertising; portraying girls as sexually alluring objects of desire and yet vilifying women of the same age for being sexual, having sex and giving birth! The confusion is too much so let's just stop that now shall we?
Let's work to develop healthy sexual expression in our teenagers. Stop the shock, horror and judgement and instead, teach our youth, effectively, about sex and sexuality with open honesty and compassion. Let's stop being coy about sex and give it full candour in discussion. Let's provide the youth of today with healthy pleasure-centred sex information which empowers them, helping them to see themselves as precious, wondrous beings, capable of choosing for themselves how they want to express their personal sexuality, safely and joyfully.
* With thanks to Hugo Schwyzer of Pasadena City College U.S.A for teaching me this.