Why is there a stigma, perpetuated by the media, about teenage pregnancy? And why does the expression “teen pregnancy” and other terms like “teenage mother” or “young mum” exist at all? It’s because of age discrimination – the only thing pathological about these families is the age of the female parent. Intersectionality – being female, being a parent, and being young – is what creates the prejudice.
But I think we also have to look further. Because how could we stigmatise teens having families if we didn’t stigmatise teen sex? This month’s Cosmo has “Are you getting enough sex?” on its front cover, but where is the equivalent focus on sex in teen magazines? There isn’t one. The media pathologises sexting as if only teens were doing it, or if only adullts should be allowed to sext.
I think we really need to ask ourselves: “Is it acceptable for a teen too have a great sex life?” Because honestly I don’t think it is. It used to be acceptable. In fact, people used to get married as teens. Even Pope Francis – going one step further than teen dads – told a same-age girl he wanted to marry her at the age of 12. When she refused, he became a priest (and as they say, the rest is history.) In keeping with the Catholic teen sex theme, the Virgin Mary would have been an unwed teen mother.
So, if it currently isn’t acceptable for teens to have sex, what’s our justification for sex blogging, sexting and consuming pornography while we force celibacy on our children? Selfishness? Prudery? Or are we competing with our teenage kids for available partners?
Whatever the answer, it certainly won’t be a noble or sensible reason why we’re doing this. Or why we have taken the wider double standard and slut shaming trend into our repressioon of teen sexuaality so that teenage mothers are stigmatised more than teenage fathers.