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Thursday, September 04, 2008

FREE BRISTOL PALIN

Friends, I have a serious, topical question today. We will be returning to disco balls immediately . . . trust me. I have one on my desk right now, locked and loaded and ready to go.

But let’s just talk for one second, okay? Because I am worried about you guys. And I want to try to answer the question . . . why are people talking about Bristol Palin?

Brisol Palin, for those of you who have managed to avoid all forms of media for the last 48 hours, is the daughter of Republican Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin. Bristol is seventeen years old and five months pregnant, and she has the extreme misfortune to be in the middle of a contentious presidential race.

This makes me so queasy, I find it hard to type.

A lot of people are saying, “Isn’t that wonderful! What a nice family to support her!” I’d bet my Abba collection that most of you saying that are probably pretty nice people, who do a lot to support others. But I respectfully disagree. I think this situation is nuts. I don't think she's getting support at all, and this is one of the most messed up messages I have ever seen put across.

Let’s leave the issue of abortion well, well aside. I happen to be pro-choice, but if you are not, I respect you for that. That’s not an issue I want to approach, because that’s something that everyone holds personally dear, one way or another. Let’s just talk about teen pregnancy in general.

The simple, plain old fact is . . . you really don’t have to get pregnant. No, REALLY. We have had the technology for MANY, MANY DECADES now to prevent pregnancy. It is not expensive. It is not hard to get. It is not hard to use. It comes in many forms. And some of it protects you from disease. Hooray! In the U.S., you can go into any drugstore and buy birth control. It’ll set you back maybe $5. That’s, like, a cheeseburger.

But okay . . . you’re embarrassed. You didn’t plan this. It just kind of came up and . . .

No, my friends. No, no. I do not want to hear it. If sex is in the picture, you need to get over this misplaced embarrassment. If you get pregnant . . . you are in for a world of exposure beyond your wildest dreams. Your body is also going to expand in nineteen different directions. Your internal organs will rearrange. You may develop conditions that restrict what you eat or do. In time, you will not be able to sit with your legs closed, and eventually you will end up on a table with your feet in stirrups and about fifteen strangers coming in and out of the room and looking at your you-know-what like they are looking at the town clock . . .

So you really should get over that “I don’t want to face the checkout person” embarrassment now.

The majority of teen pregnancies are unintended, largely because this is not 1317, and we are no longer dying of old age at forty. We have long lives now, and seventeen is not really an ideal time to settle down. For some people, there’s money and support for the new baby. But that’s actually uncommon. What about all the people whose parents would kick them to the curb if they got pregnant? (And believe me, these people exist. Lots of them. I’ve met quite a few.)

But okay. Say your parents don’t kick you to the curb. Say you are greeted by loving arms. But what if your family doesn’t have complete medical insurance? What about school? What about the fact that your time to grow up is kind of getting a line drawn under it, because now you have a mouth to feed and a human life to nurture . . . and you’ve only recently figured out how to make French toast without burning it, or how to stay awake through all of sixth period Spanish?

If you have a baby as a teenager, you’re a lot less likely to finish high school. You’re a LOT less likely to go to college. Which means you’ve just drastically increased your chances of living in poverty. Even under the very best of circumstances, you’ve just lost a lot of opportunity. And it didn’t need to happen.

And really? Don’t look to your boyfriend. It is a simple fact of biology that guys more or less get off scott-free on this count. There may be social repercussions for them, or there may not be. They may experience guilt, or they may not. But the bottom line is . . . they won’t experience a belly full of baby. This is all you.

As if that wasn’t bad enough . . . let’s look at it from a cold, clinical, beancountery way.

In Alaska alone (you know why we are talking about you, Alaska) . . . teen pregnancies cost the state at least $30 million in the year 2004. AND THERE ARE NOT VERY MANY PEOPLE IN ALASKA. (And no, it is really not that helpful that Governor Palin slashed the budget for the program there for teen mothers.)

Overall, the costs to the nation ran to about $9.1 billion. Yes. $9.1 billion. Oooof. And that’s just government money. The burden of a lot of this is on families, and who even knows what that runs to. This is all for something that could have probably have been prevented by a small piece of rubber or a pill that costs pennies to make.

A lot of people say, “ABSTINENCE! IT IS THE ONLY WAY! THE ONLY THING TO TEACH! All of this fornication is a horrible modern thing brought on by television and video games and BOOKS!”

Har har har! GOOD ONE! I don’t know how these people missed hearing about all of human history . . . but this sex thing has been going on for a while now, and frankly, it’s probably going to continue. It’s the world’s oldest form of entertainment. We come pre-installed with all kinds of hormones and squishy bits. Maybe this will be improved upon when Human 2.0 is released, but this is what we have so far. And in general, it works pretty well. There is lots of fun and comedy value, and we get to continue as a species!

My bottom line is . . . sex is something we really need to deal with. Not shamefully. Not through hiding information. It’s up to every individual to decide when he or she is ready for it. And at WHATEVER age you make that decision, you should really be informed about how to manage it.

There’s this argument that comprehensive sex education is going to make kids want to have a lot of sex. Clearly these people have never sat through a comprehensive sex ed class. There is pretty much nothing in the world that is less sexy than your teacher talking about condoms, which are completely stupid looking to begin with. You have to be a very special person to sit there under the antiseptic, florescent glow of third period, your mid-morning crash setting in, staring at a plastic cross section of a uterus and think, “I have GOT to get me some of this.”

I speak as someone who was actually never in that class. I only saw them later, after I graduated. I went to a high school that taught abstinence only—in a kind of “have sex and will lock you in the basement and unchain the wolf” way. They were REALLY serious about this.

The only exception was that for ONE DAY in senior year, the health teacher was allowed one period to come in with a big black box. She had to lock the door, and then we got about a half hour crash course on everything in the entire world related to birth control. Which is pointless, because it takes you at least an hour to stop snickering. It was intentionally designed to be ineffective, because the official doctrine was that birth control was bad.

Did any of this help? Errrr . . . no. We had loads of people who got pregnant. It would have helped a lot if someone had really hammered home the statistics and said, “Girls who have sex without birth control have a 90% chance of getting pregnant within a year.”

So what was the solution in my school? I’ll tell you about something that really happened.

In my senior year, there was a very sweet, kind of innocent sophomore. After a dance one night, a guy started paying her a lot of attention. They started making out, and she ended up getting pressured into having sex. And got pregnant. In one shot.

Devastated and unable to talk to her parents out of fear, she turned to a teacher. This teacher, though incredibly kind, was obligated to tell the administration. A day later, the girl heard her name being called over the speaker to come to the office, which was always a bad, bad sign. When she walked in, the principal was on the phone, and what she heard was, “I think your daughter has something to tell you.” And she was handed the phone to talk to her parents. Then she was expelled, just like every single other student who ever got pregnant in my school and was found out. Every single one. That was the policy. For the most part, people kept it quiet. They got abortions on the downlow, and they got zero support, because they couldn’t tell anyone. That’s how it was managed. LOOK! WE HAVE NO TEEN PREGNANCIES! SEE HOW EFFECTIVE THIS IS?

I was three months away from graduation at the time. When I heard this, I turned to my mom and said, “I am leaving this school. I don’t even care anymore.”

And I think for maybe an hour, I was serious. I wanted to walk away from the place and go to some other high school for another senior year. My mom is pretty conservative, but she is also a nurse, and she is very practical about the matter of pregnancy, as nurses tend to be. She was, to my amazement, almost as outraged.

“That is NOT how you handle a pregnancy,” she said. “What goes on in this school? Don’t they teach birth control?” Because she hadn’t realized up to this point that they didn’t.

When I explained that we had no such class, her jaw dropped. “Sometimes,” she said, “I think we made a real mistake in sending you there.” This is from the woman who still claims that the stork brought me and loves to tell me how she has never smoked a cigarette or had a drink IN HER ENTIRE LIFE (and she is not joking whatsoever) and is thoroughly scandalized by anyone over forty who wears footless leggings. I mean, she has an entire drawer of SLIPS!

So I am not coming from some elite, super-progressive upbringing. I am coming from the abstinence/denial program, and it is ONE BIG HOT MESS.

Your school is probably not like that—or, at least, I really, really hope it’s not. I just want you to understand why I am so baffled and enraged by people who take tools away from girls, take away knowledge and protection. It’s Medieval and illogical and makes the world look at us like we are its insane hillbilly cousin who washes himself with a rag on a stick.

So we return to Bristol Palin, who is standing there with a spotlight the size of the moon shining on her, all of seventeen years old, with the entire Republican National Convention hanging on the fact that she has to have this baby she probably didn’t intend to ever be pregnant with and marry her boyfriend. She will now be saddled to this dude whether she wants to be or not. And she can’t have an abortion even if she wants one because the PRESIDENT WILL PROBABLY CALL AND YELL AT HER and three thousand news cameras would follow her.

Bristol Palin has no choices.

This is the very definition of suck. I feel for her. When I was seventeen and newly released from the aforementioned high school gulag, I basically acted like someone who was in full-time training for the Stupid Olympics. I woke up each new and glorious morning and asked myself, “What mischief today?” Seventeen is when you get to date ALL THE WRONG PEOPLE so you can learn important lessons. Not when you marry them because there’s an election. Not when you have babies you aren’t ready for so a political machine can roll on, right over top of you.

So why are people talking about Bristol Palin? Because it’s an election, and this is what happens. But most people are talking about the messed up system that backed her into a corner. This isn't to say that this is everyone else's fault. Mistakes were made here. I think these kinds of mistakes tend to happen a lot when girls have to fumble around in the dark, when they aren't armed with facts and realities and treated like full human beings, reproductive system and all. To hold her up as a shining example of things being done right is beyond my comprehension.

On a day to day basis, Bristol will be taken care of. The girls like her who aren’t the focus of media scrutiny . . . not so much.

And I’m saying this to you, because a lot of you are girls, and a lot of you are seventeen or younger . . . and these things will sooner or later come up in your life, if they haven’t already. There is no reason why your options should be taken away. There is no reason why you should be denied knowledge or care. And there’s no reason for you to be moms yet, not if you don’t want to be, which I imagine many of you don’t. Whether it is abstinence or contraception . . . either way, this does not have to be your fate. And you’re not dirty. And you’re not bad. You’re human, squishy bits and all.

If anyone tells you otherwise, I really, really hope you have the natural presence of mind to turn and walk away from them.

Wow. I need to shake it off. And I have just the thing. Whenever I get stressed now, I think about the subject that stresses me out, and I superimpose it over this video. Try it! Imagine that test, or dreaded conversation, or horrible deadline . . . imagine it in detail . . . and that this is the movie someone has made of you going through this problem!



It WORKS, doesn’t it?

Now, today’s winner of Suite Scarlett is . . . Summer Marie.

And I’ve decided that I have to give away one more, because there were very few shiny things in this post. I didn’t know this rant was coming on. I will post again soon, and there will be LOADS OF SHINY THINGS AND SEKRITS in it!

So, if you want to win, leave a comment! Fire away! What do YOU think about all of this? ALL OPINIONS WELCOME, as always!

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222 Comments:

1 – 200 of 222 Newer› Newest»
Anonymous Pippa said...

I'm 17 and a senior at a school just like yours. Except that there has never been a single word spoken about birth control ever in my school, not even for one day. B/c the official Catholic doctrine is that birth control is BAD.

It's a pretty sucky system and hasn't stopped us from having sex.

I agree 100% with everything you said.

12:46 AM  
Anonymous Vikki Terrile said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you!! Your words gave me the chills and I really, REALLY hope your readers take everything you said to heart. You're the best!

Vikki Terrile, YA Librarian in NYC

12:47 AM  
Blogger Madison said...

GREAT post. Seriously awesome.

I'm actually homeschooled (for academic reasons, NOT religious reasons) so I don't really have a sex ed class, but I agree with pretty much everything you said. I mean, sex is part of being human, and I think instead of treating it as something bad, people should start treating it as part of being human. What's bad about it? I've never quite understood it. And I've never quite understood the need to giggle over this stuff. (I was that girl in elementary school who didn't get the sex jokes because I was vastly uneducated in such topics. Not that a third grader has to be educated in such topics.) And you know, I think if society changes its views on this, maybe things would be different. Or not, but society would be more accepting. And wouldn't that make the world a better place? We don't have to like it and we can speak against it, but we can still deal with it rationally. And teaching abstinence only or expelling girls or whatever is NOT dealing with it rationally. It's trying to pretend it doesn't happen.

12:54 AM  
Blogger Paula said...

Nice! I have been too busy loving all the drama to think about what this girl is actually going through. It does totally suck and I HOPE with all my heart that Sarah Palin is never the VP, so Bristol won't have to be in the spotlight for the rest of her life.

12:56 AM  
Blogger Kiki said...

Thank you for this post. I do feel really bad for Bristol Palin, because her soon-to-be shotgun marriage is going to be held up as the morally correct thing to do in this situation by certain Americans and there will be no focus on how to prevent teenage pregancy and shot gun marriages.
Do you know what prevented me from having sex in high school? My biology teacher showing footage of a baby being born. There was no snickering, just boys and girls going EWWWWW, aw man! Education and protection is the key.

Thank you so much for this post.

1:19 AM  
Blogger Stephanie Perkins said...

GO MAUREEN!!!!!!!!!!

This was an incredible post.

THANK YOU. (I am at work, so I'm trying not to cry, but . . . sniff sniff. This was amazing.)

1:19 AM  
OpenID killersmile said...

I think it's interesting. The one reason I think that McCain shouldn't have picked Palin as VP (I don't really care who he picked, since I can't vote and would be voting democrat if I could) is because he's putting her and her family through SO MUCH CRAP that they really don't need. Besides Bristol, there's so much other gossip going on about that family it really isn't fair. I've heard at least three different rumors about it today alone. Don't get me wrong--I understand why people are obsessed with it. Not only is it slightly amusing (though most won't admit it) to watch people trip over themselves, but it's really interesting to see how others work, particularly those with different viewpoints. It's a kind of sociology check, I think. The Palin family is a great way to look at how one's choices affect one's actions, and vice versa.

[And I would like a copy of Suite Scarlett. Please :D]

1:32 AM  
Blogger the dragonfly said...

My mom went to a Catholic school where, of course, birth control wasn't talked about. Sex wasn't either. And sex wasn't talked about at her house either...so one of Mom's sisters truly believed that a girl got pregnant when she sat in the back seat of a car with a boy and he blew in her ear.

That is messed up.

And you’re not dirty. And you’re not bad. You’re human, squishy bits and all.

That is my favorite bit. You're right. Thanks for pulling for young women everywhere.

1:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Three cheers for Maureen!
Honestly, teenagers need more people like you who care about them and understand that they are people who have opinions.

1:35 AM  
Blogger Caroline said...

You rock, MJ. You are seriously amazing.

I'm from a Catholic family, but until somewhere around eighth grade I was (blissfully) unaware of the religion's doctrine on birth control.

I think my exact words upon being informed of the doctrine went something like:
BUT THAT IS SO STUPID WHY NOT?

I was actually IN sunday school class at that point, so everybody stared at me funny and the teacher (an uber-conservative lady in her sixties) was clearly biting back a "BLASPHEMY!". I talked to my mom about it when I got home, and she just shot me this really accusatory look and said that people should only have sex if they wanted kids.

I think I managed to hold back my second,
BUT THAT IS SO STUPID
of the day, but it was very difficult.

I hope that the spotlight eases off of Bristol quickly; I can't imagine what it's like to be forced into such a situation.

Thanks for a great post- one of the best that I've read on this issue. :)

1:51 AM  
Anonymous Daphne Unfeasible said...

Brilliant, brilliant post, MJ. Go you. Thanks for saying what needs to be said, and in your own inimitable style.

1:52 AM  
Anonymous Erin W. said...

YAY MJ!! I COMPLETELY AGREE WITH EVERYTHING YOU SAID!!

I go to public school, so we have a sex education program. It's not that GREAT, but they teach us most of the things we need to know. The teacher is strictly Catholic, and she has problems with teaching about abortions, so she only teaches the bare minimum and she says that it's really, really wrong every time she teaches it. I think that teachers should teach in an unbiased manner and they should leave their opinions about religion and politics at home. That was a little redundant, but I needed to get my point across.

One more thing about your post: WHERE CAN I GET MY HANDS ON THAT GAME!?!?!?!?

2:03 AM  
Blogger Kylie said...

In my school, sex ed. is a part of a mandatory health class we need to take. But the extent of our sex ed. was "Here are your body parts; memorize them. If you don't want to be pregnant or get one of these horrible diseases *show millions of dastardly STD's* then don't have sex."
I admire the fact that you actually recognize that sex isn't horrible, it's a natural part of being human--to make babies and, as you noted, "the world’s oldest form of entertainment." Rarely is sex approached in such a way, especially around teenagers. It's refreshing.

I hope Bristol manages to get out of the spotlight with this. I'm sure she's scared and embarressed.

2:07 AM  
Anonymous Julia Rios said...

Right there with you. We had proper sex ed in school, and it didn't get through to a lot of kids, but it certainly wasn't sexy. I wish that there was an even better way to get the word out, and the birth control. I think free stuff should be available to teens everywhere, no strings attached. Because obviously people are not going to stop having sex. Anyway, good post. I'm not pleased with all the people using Bristol Palin's pregnancy to make a point one way or the other, and I'm really not keen on all the sexist stuff directed at Sarah Palin, either.

2:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maureen,

Thank you for posting this. Everything you said needed to be said, and you are the perfect person to say it. Teens trying to find their path in this world need "adult" women who have fun and can think to help show them the way, and you are a great example.

- Amy the Librarian

2:11 AM  
Blogger Joe Iriarte said...

Kudos to you for this post. You have a good eye for the sad details that most people are overlooking.

2:21 AM  
Anonymous Summer Marie said...

whoever mentioned the birthing video...

EXCELLENT PROMOTION OF BIRTH CONTROL. Show more girls that!

ughhh....

YAY I WON SUITE SCARLETT!!! YAY!!!! Maureen I sent you my information. I'm SO EXCITED!!!

2:21 AM  
Anonymous Julia said...

Wow, I seriously hadn't heard of this before now. I don't really know what to think, but my mom was always very open and unashamed of the whole thing, which I think is good. And that video was AMAZING.

2:26 AM  
Blogger Libby said...

this may be the single best Bristol Palin post I've read, and I've read a lot of them. Nice work.

2:30 AM  
Blogger Thomas said...

That is what I don't get about American politics. It is all about the family. I remember a few years back that the son of the former German Chancelor Helmut Kohl is getting married and I didn't even know that he has a son. The next chancelor Gerhard Schröder is married the fourth time and when the conservatives brought that up in the campaign it backfired entirely.

I don't think the pregnancy is the worst thing in this story, it is the way the family and the public dealt with it. As mentioned the public actually shouldn't know about it because Bristol Palin is not the nominee for VP.

And that Bristol Palin has to marry the father might solve the problem for the conservative public but as you said Maureen, in reality it doesn't solve anything it can make it worse.

We should really liberate her, so that she can live happy with her child, finish school, finish university and become the dictator of the world or something like that.

2:32 AM  
Blogger Lauren(wearing a superman cape) said...

MJ I totally agree with everything you just said. In my school a few years ago, this girl got pregnant and had twins. TWINS.
Our school talks about birth control and how bad it is to have teen pregnancy, but I am pro-choice as well, and I completely respect Bristol with her choice to become a mom. People should just leave her alone and not force her to make decisions just because of an election.

2:32 AM  
OpenID serafina-zane said...

Wow. MJ, you're awesome. Seriously.

In my (public) school you get sex ed senior year, which a lot of people think is way too late--I'm kind of inclined to agree with them. They do the reproductive system freshman year though, as they did in fifth and sixth grade (seventh and eighth were allllll about the drugs, because my town is obsessed with the "drug problem").
And about the disgusting part? Oh yes. My health class is taught by a gym teacher who started teaching in 1976, and had a lot of kids' parents. Which is really, really disturbing on a couple levels.
It's like, "maybe if we don't TELL the teenagers about sex, they won't find out on their own!" Ummm, this is reality calling and they've got a message for you. NO.

2:36 AM  
Blogger Jessica said...

I guess what bothers me about this whole deal with teen pregnancy is that it's linked to this idea of purity, feminine purity, the purity of our daughters. That, in turn, goes back to an even deeper set belief that sex is somehow "impure"! WTF? You debunked that so well in your post that I won't try to reiterate it. What's funny is that even as I say that, I'm still totally caught by these cultural (and Christian) views of sex. HOW DO I BREAK OUT OF IT? Waaaaugh!

2:45 AM  
Anonymous Jessica said...

I completely agree with you about Bristol. I feel so, so terrible for her right now. :( She's only seventeen; she must be scared out of her mind... her mom's running for vp, she's pregnant, there must be a million and one rumors flying around her highschool revolving around her and her family: I can't even imagine being in her position. I hope everything works out for her.

I also agree with you about high school sex-ed. It's lacking. My health teacher was horribly nervous the entire time and kept stuttering and mumbling, which of course made everyone in the class laugh at him. Something needs to be done, because I think there's a severe just - lack of how real getting pregnant is, and how it changes your entire world. Nobody really knows about the statistics like the ones you've posted. One of my friends in high school got pregant during her Junior year, and she chose to keep her baby (he's two years old now.) She isn't going to college, she dumped the father because he was abusive, and she pretty much lives on the good-will of her mother. Having a baby is scary and terrifying and I hope Bristol gets support from EVERYBODY. Man, she's only seventeen! I don't know if I could have done it.

3:02 AM  
Blogger David Gerard said...

There's something not right about the idea of Bristol Palin's reasonable fair game. How Sarah got the job OTOH ...

3:16 AM  
Blogger Hollishillis said...

This was awesome Maureen. Really. All week I've wanted to hide under the covers and scream "Leave Bristol Palin Alone!" And this is not just because she has an amazing name. I feel so awful for her. I'm 18 and when I was in high school we had to take sex education once a year. It was uncomfortable but not as uncomfortable as having an entire tiny human body pushed out of your special place haha. I have sex and I use birth control. It's the most effective and safe thing in the world. It's just STUPID to have sex and not use it when it's so redily there and available. Planned Parenthood will even give it to you FOR FREE and give you a regular medical insurance check up. I truely wish Bristol could of made her own decision on the matter. If her mom wasn't running she might have even rebeled and said "no way! i dont love this guy and i'm certaintly not old enough to have or want a family!" It's really horrible that she might be stuck with a life she didn't want because of a stupid election. I feel horrible for her because her Mom is right "she's forced to grow up much earlier than anticipated" and it's just not frickin fair.

Thanks for writing this. I wish the media would just leave her alone.

3:20 AM  
Anonymous Another Libby :) said...

You've said this so incredibly well, Maureen!

I'm going to school for public health right now and am still shocked to see my classmates say they are going to teach abstinence-only. Would I rather see young men and women hold off until they're old enough to speak openly about all the lovely things sexual health encompasses? Heck yeah I would! But we have to prepare for every eventuality, so it's time we break out the *ahem* Straight Talk.

There is a rural town not far from me, where abstinence is taught. One of the cheerleaders was able to get a prescription for birth control, and know what she did? She passed them out to all of her friends so they could take them on the days they had sex. Not only did her birth control fail, but the provider and her parents failed when they didn't sit down and actually TALK to her so she understood how everything worked. She and her friends ended up with babies.

My heart goes out to Bristol and her new family. It's tough enough being young and pregnant, but now she's the topic in every...well, everywhere and probably had very little say in the matter. Now she's got to deal with all of this under a microscope, when pregnancy alone is tough enough.

Thanks for such a wonderful post, Maureen!

3:28 AM  
Anonymous gkh said...

Maureen, you rock. This was the greatest post ever. At my lovely public school, we do have a "Health" class...but I haven't taken it yet. But doesn't EVERY SINGLE GIRL know about birth control? This whole story reminds me of that health class in Mean Girls where the guy goes, "Don't have sex. If you have sex you will get pregnant and die." This does no help to anyone! And I also feel bad that poor Bristol Palin is being forced to do this because of the election and her mom is HUGElY pro-life, and the fact that she was outed by her parents in the national media because there were really stupid rumors going around.
And does anyone else find it weird that she has a 4-month old brother who will be 8 MONTHS OLD WHEN SHE HAS HER BABY? That poor, poor girl.

3:37 AM  
Blogger Reese said...

I go to Catholic school. Scratch that, I go to uber Catholic school. We have dead nuns buried in our chapel, which will forever be one of those eternal holy places or something, and every important room is named after a saint.

But we talk about birth control. We have a sex ed class...(I think. I know we have a health class) anyway, it doesn't matter because we talk about all that in religion too.

I agree with everything you said. Everysinglelittlething.

'twas mooooving.

3:41 AM  
Anonymous Veronica said...

Maureen,

Great post. I wrote a book a few years ago about pregnancy and parenthood, and somehow, not one but TWO very nice girls who never planned to have sex and wound up having it anyway and then wound up getting pregnant the same night they had sex for the first time found me. I talked them through going to Planned Parenthood, telling their boyfriends, telling their parents...wow, rough. Those girls had such incredible courage.

What it taught me is that abstinence is not a plan. Even if you're married and having sex that's blessed by your church, you probably don't want to conceive every time.

Girls and boys need sex education. They need to learn to talk about it TOGETHER. Enough with this boys-in-one-room, girls-in-the-other crap. As I told the poor kids who wrote to me, if you can't talk about sex, you really, really, really shouldn't be having it.

Bristol Palin's situation happens when sex is merely something that's "saved for marriage." People can definitely do that, and more power to them, I guess. We all make mistakes and do things we didn't think we'd do, and it's a terrible thing to end up a mom because of it.

4:03 AM  
Blogger Chelsea said...

Our school teaches abstinence only sex ed. Not only is it a public high school, but it's the high school where the pregnant students in our district are sent. I think that's stupid. Teenagers are going to have sex. Not teaching us how to protect ourselves isn't going to stop it. It's just going to make the problems of teen pregnancy and STDs worse and more widespread.

Now to Bristol. Both of my parents are extremely conservative people. I'm 16, and if I got pregnant now(which I really don't plan to do... I don't even date, and that's completely my choice), you'd better believe they'd make me marry the father. I think that if a teenager has made the mistake of getting pregnant at such a young age, they shouldn't make another big mistake and be stuck with the father for the rest of their lives. It's very likely that the relationship will fall apart because of all of the responsibilities that are placed on people who are just too young to deal with them yet. That's TWO life-changing mistakes in a row. Not worth it, man.

I think because Sarah Palin is a very conservative Republican candidate, and Republicans tend to be less tolerant of things like this, they're trying to handle the situation in the way that's least likely to lose McCain a vote. That's just how I see it. I think it's not smart, and I think it's going to make Bristol miss out on some of the best years of her life, but I don't think it's really my place to judge.

Also, I'd like to say something about my views on abortion. I'm pro-choice, but I don't think abortion should be used as a method of birth control. If a woman constantly forgets to protect herself and keeps getting pregnant and aborting the baby because of it... Well, that's something I think is just not right. I just don't think the government has a right to control what their citizens do in that case. The same thing goes for gay marriage.

I really enjoyed reading this post. I always like hearing about your views on serious issues such as this, especially since you're an adult. Adults are rarely honest with children and teenagers, and I really appreciate that you are. Thanks for sharing with us. :)

4:16 AM  
Anonymous K. said...

Thank you for this post, Maureen! I'm 17 also and cannot imagine the pressure that is on Britsol right now. As if it is not enough to have average worries--she "gets" to worry about the health of another human being AND the media waiting to critique her maternity wear. And the marriage thing--gak. Definition of suck, indeed.

4:17 AM  
Blogger Kimber Alice said...

Hello.

I live in Juneau, and I met Bristol Palin once very very briefly in passing, so I never really got to form an opinion of her or anything. But when I heard about her pregnancy and her future marriage, I felt so sad for her. Having her choices taken away and being put in the spotlight like that by her own mother just seems so wrong and twisted somehow.

I go to Juneau-Douglas High School, and in health class, we spent a full week talking about sexually transmitted diseases. They went into tons of details about the horrors you would face if you were to contract one. But when we had a guest speaker in to talk about birth control, they allotted very little time and said very little. I thought that it was really ridiculous that they were trying to talk us out of having sex by scaring us, instead of giving us the facts. Because, eventually, people have sex regardless of the fact that they might end up with syphilis, but they don't know that they should use birth control, because they weren't really told. I think this sort of thing is really, really wrong, and part of Alaska's problem.

As always, I love to read your books and your blogs, and I hope that you keep them coming. Thanks for writing about this topic; I think it's something that's really important and isn't discussed enough.

4:22 AM  
Anonymous tess said...

That was a wonderful post, mj. I agree wholeheartedly with everything you said. I can't imagine what Bristol Palin feels like. Seventeen. Wow. Even with bazillions of people crowding her and pressuring her, she must feel so alone.

4:27 AM  
Blogger teen_brarian said...

First, let me address all those girls out there who think having a baby would be fun or nice. Don't get me wrong; I love babies as much as the next person, but pregancy...it bites. I'm pregnant right now (at 27, not 17) and all those things Maureen said about your organs moving around and such and so on. Completely true. Morning sickness just isn't for mornings. Your stomach moves way up into you chest, because your uterus moves to where your stomach was and your bladder is squished way down there so you have to pee all.the. time. I can tell you the number of tiles in every bathroom at work and at home. And that's just the beginning.

As to the rest, the reason I was so responsible with the birth control was sex ed that started in fifth grade. They scared the ever loving heck out of me with some very vivid descriptions of various diseases you could get...not even to mention actually having a kid. Even better birth control? Being a nanny in college. Taking care of a toddler and an infant all by your lonesome will convince you real fast about how not fun it is at 18. Any way...no more ranting from me.

4:36 AM  
Blogger WannabeWriter said...

I'm practicing abstinence, personally, but no matter who you are or what you believe, you can't help but feel for Bristol. It's sad. I'm sure all she wants is just to have this whole thing undone, but like that weird store clerk said in Juno, "This is one doodle that can't be un-did, homeskillet." And her mom pushing the whole pro-life thing has got to suck for her, because she loses either way. If she goes through with this, loads of judgmental Americans will call her a whore, say her marriage was a shotgun wedding, maybe even hurl tomatoes at her. If she doesn't go through with it, she throws her mom's values out the window, probably along with the shot at vice-presidency.

Gosh. That is a whole lot of suck.

:[

4:55 AM  
Anonymous oboefae said...

Thank you! An unfortunate number of girls really need to hear this.
I went to a public school in Ohio. When we talked about birth control in health class, it was always with this disclaimer: BIRTH CONTROL DOESN"T WORK. Yeah, thanks for that, guys. Dismiss it altogether; great plan. Also, we were informed of its existence, but never shown any or told how it worked. If my mother hadn't brought a box of condoms home one day for a home-school style discussion, I would have been completely in the dark.

5:00 AM  
Blogger beth said...

I teach high school English, but I'm young enough to remember when I was in high school English (I'm 26; I have students with older siblings my age).

I was stupid in high school, yes. Probably not popular or pretty enough to be *too* stupid, but I did some not smart things. I live in a very Red State that not only doesn't not teach sex ed (beyond ABSTINENCE! ABBBSTINENCE!)--not only do we not have sex ed, but the GOVERNMENT WILL TAKE AWAY OUR SCHOOL FUNDING IF WE TEACH IT. Teaching kids about real sexual education = slash in school funding. Wow, that makes sense.

Anyway, I can absolutely understand the stigma of teen pregnancy--and the stigma of protecting yourself from teen pregnancy.

But I have a pregnant fifteen year old in my Honors English class, who was on course for AP Course and University, who wanted to be a doctor, but who now misses half my class throwing up with morning sickness.

I had the brightest child I ever taught four years ago. She was black, and she was poor, but I looked at her and though, You, you can make it.

And then she got pregnant. And her life was no longer about rising above her poor home, but about staying in it, where the baby was, because that was all she had left. That happened my first year of teaching. I remember, I *remember* how I thought she could be anything, how I thought my teaching her grammar and literature would make a difference, how she'd use what I taught her in her doctoral thesis, how one day she might come to the school and visit me and show me, her teacher, her degree. I looked at this kid, and my dreams were her dreams, and I believed in her as much as I believed in anything, and I knew with all my soul she could be more than what she was.

She dropped out her senior year.

And I can't write any more because I think I might cry. But I'll just say: while it is wonderful and beautiful that she brought a life into the world, I cannot help but believe it was at the cost of her own.

5:00 AM  
OpenID maple-america said...

I agree with you on some details. I think that we teens need to know the dirty details of sex, part of the reason we have sex is cuz we're curios. but I think you should wait until you're married to have sex, my view is part religion and part just how i think. I think it's stupid how they're not teaching us teens about birth control! the world tells us it's for people over the age of 30 who are having problems with thier period!

I feel sooo sorry for Bristol, i know what's it's like to have no choices and be forced to do something that you totally never would, but still have to do it! (there is no word that describes how sucky it is!)

ugh! stuff like this makes me so mad!!! stupid government! stupid people! stupid nuns! stupid schools! ugh!

(I think i'm finished ranting now...)

ps, i would loooooove to win "Suite Scarlett", the nearest library to me is an hour away and it costs money to get a library card (i was shocked too) and thier so poorly stocked,(they have NOTHING by you, or libba bray, or john green, or any of my other fav. authors! i'm dying!)


... I think i'm done begging.... PLEASE!!... K, now i am! :D


ugh, i really hope that someone high up in the government gets enough sense to impose a REAL sex ed! my dad works at the ER and a THIRTEEN year old girl came in and was pregnant! she didn't even know it because her mom told her that if she kissed a guy that she'd get pregnant! WHAT KIND OF IDIOT WOULD SAY THAT TO HER CHILD??!!!!???


alright, i'm done for real now!

...seriously...

5:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't want to repeat everything everyone already said, but I do want to say that was the most brilliant piece of writing I have read in a long time. Better than the article in the new york times this morning about Sarah Palin banning books in her town library and then firing the librarian there because she wouldn't allow it (which utterly turned me off, and almost made me say a not so nice word in the bookshop where I work when I read it).

In terms of birth control, my mother is a childbirth educator. She shows all of those labor movies. And before she shows them, she runs them past me and my sister to decide if they are too... disgusting/disturbing/nauseating for the pregnant women that have to go through that whether they like it or not. And let me tell you, those videos are the best form of birth control ever. Only, to use your words, a very special person would be able to watch the blood and guts and placenta-birth, and dialations, and be like, hmmm, I want to go try THAT!

Ok, rant over. Just want to say thank-you again. Oh and I was wondering if I could possibly use parts of that - I'm the editor of my college newspaper. I'm not sure what I'd use it for right now, but its really really good.

Unfortunately, I will be in England for this election, which means that I have to miss all of the excitment. I don't think they get CNN in London, do they?

Thanks for voicing your thoughts! We need more people like you!

And on that note, for me personally - Go Obama!!!

-- Becky D.

5:10 AM  
Anonymous raelyn said...

Ai yai yai. I'm Bristol's age, and I can't even imagine being in her shoes. I mean, having your mom running for VP would be hard enough... I was talking to my mom and brother about it, and we both think it's sort of stupid how the candidates' kids are a part of the campaigns at all. I mean, that is just so unfair to them. Unless their parents are abusive or something ~ in which case, maybe you don't want to have them running your country ~ it's really not the public's business.

5:10 AM  
Blogger Kaitlyn said...

No Babies here. But at my school we have atleast one pregnent girl a year that we know of. We get those annoying robot babies freshman year. HA. They think that turns us off sex, okay the crying and stuff sucks but in real life you can't stick a key in your kids back and wait for it to make a funny noise and your done until it crys again. I am all for abstinence myself.

Our health teacher it was her first year teaching and we were he first class. She told us all the first day and made us repeat it all the time. WE WILL NOT HAVE SEX.

5:18 AM  
Blogger Kaitlyn said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5:19 AM  
Blogger red threads said...

maureen rules! by posting this thread, you have decreased worldsuck ;)

5:22 AM  
Anonymous Haddy-la said...

Abortions (choice)= Good
Condoms=Good
Birth control= good

i know that and im 13
i dont know what they teach in my school system becaause ive only been through the puberty Health

5:44 AM  
Blogger chanel.wa said...

I think that people should just get over it. Really, does it have that much to do with how her mom's gonna care for this country (well...okay, it kind of does). But, girls, be safe and your problems are solved. It's not that hard, right?!
And, omigosh, shiny prizes?! Please, please, please!!

6:15 AM  
Blogger mary fran said...

i 3> you, maureen.

6:16 AM  
Blogger lkmadigan said...

MJ, you are made of awesome, and I'm going to link to this post in my blog, I hope that's okay. Thank you for the rant.

Beth, thank you for sharing your experiences, too.

Lisa
Who is squishy

6:29 AM  
Blogger WhiteHotMetal said...

MJ, thank you so much. As others have said on here, because you posted this, you have decreased world suck. You rule.

-Olivia

6:58 AM  
OpenID lijuun said...

If her mother cared for her AT ALL she never would have joined this race. I have no respect for Sarah Palin at all anymore (and I actually did once upon a time).

6:59 AM  
Blogger betty said...

I went to public school and we had sex ed in middle school, but they didn't touch on it in high school. We didn't go into any details of birth control, but they did talk about lots of STD, which they probably thought that it was deterrent enough.

I always feel sorry for the kids of people in the public eye because they are not allowed to make mistakes with out the media picking them apart. Like you said in your blog, youth is the time to make mistakes. I know I have made plenty.

Wish me luck, I am taking my driving test in two weeks and I need all the practice I can get. (It is sad that I am in college but can't drive.)

7:01 AM  
Blogger Shannon said...

I went to a college much like you've described. I was shocked that in COLLEGE when we were all supposed to be adults you had to hide your mistakes and hope you didn't get kicked out. I watched several girls go including one who was raped and the boy got to stay! I think it is crazy in this day that anyone can be treated as a leaper just because of one mistake!
My only comment to add is use more than one form of bc if you can! I got pregnant 5 times on bc and each time my world fell apart! Find someone trust worthy to help you...most states have health departments who can help you for free!

7:06 AM  
Blogger Stephanie Anne said...

In my high school health class, the teacher actually did provide us with a decent amount of information (I think that a lot of that can be attributed to her being a self-described feminist). However, a friend of mine at the same school had a teacher who told the class that the HIV virus is so small that it can get through condoms [a lie that you can find perpetrated in most abstinence-only literature, and interesting because in truth, condoms are more effective against HIV than any other disease].

Despite the positive and woman-friendly message my teacher gave us, we did not cover queer issues, disability issues, anything about sex toys, or more than a cursory glance at anal sex.

You stated that it is not expensive or difficult to get birth control in this country. This, unfortunately, is not true for all women. Young, low-income, and/or uninsured women in particular often have a very difficult time due to the high cost of the appointment and birth control that often costs $40-per-pack.

And good luck getting Plan B, the completely legal morning-after pill that works in a similar way to birth control pills and is completely different from an abortion pill. Nikol Hasler (of the very clever Midwest Teen Sex Show) wrote an article about her attempt that can be found here.

I've gone on a bit, but to sum up, abstinence-only education is not only ill-advised, it is dangerous. Comprehensive sex education should be taught to everyone, preferably as young as possible, but definitely as soon as they start school.

7:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maureen,
Thank you SO MUCH for this post. This is an incredible message for teenagers, especially girls, to hear and understand. This is one of the best pieces of writing I have read on this subject since the scandal started exploding. Teenagers need to understand that everything they are feeling is not dirty, it doesn't make them bad people, it just makes them human.

I graduated from high school a few years ago, and our sex ed course did cover birth control, and it was relatively comprehensive. We talked about all the options, how they were used, what the risks were, and what the benefits were for each options. However, this class was not until senior year, for some of us, the last three months. We still had numerous girls who were pregnant in my graduating class, because up until this point, birth control was discussed, but the focus of the class was on STIs and not preventing pregnancy. Those girls had to walk across the stage, knowing that this may well be the end of their education. They had to stand there and be silently judged by the hundreds of people watching the ceremony, simply because they weren't well informed and they were too ashamed to find out the right ways to prevent pregnancy.

I almost feel like adults, especially parents, are so terrified of teenagers having sex that they forget that teens have all the same hormones and emotions as everyone else. They forget that humans are biologically programmed to want to have sex as soon as they complete puberty. Then you have to consider that at sixteeen and seventeen, serious relationships are new and exciting. Sex is still taboo in today's society, so having sex makes teens feel like adults. Making sex forbidden seems to only add to it's appeal. At the same time, it adds a certain stigma to having sex. Girls especially seem to think that they should almost never have sex and are too ashamed or embarassed to admit it is happening and protect themselves. There is no way to stop teens from having sex, so why take away their knowledge and power to protect themselves? It seems like such an archaic idea, yet it is still happening in schools across the country.
Can we not see by this point that absitenence only sex education just doesn't work? I don't understand why so many people continue to believe it is the best method.

Bristol Palin is unforunate in her situation because her mother is a politician and her family is in the spotlight. She should never have to go through something like this with an entire country watching her every move. I feel so sad for her, that she is being forced into a marriage she may not want and into starting a family she definitely is not prepared to start.


That being said...
Obama/Biden '08!

7:19 AM  
OpenID beauxdanseur282 said...

*gives MJ a standing ovation*

What theater person, me?

Anyway, you rock my socks, MJ. This post is amazing. I also go (apparently like a good number of people commenting) to an all girl's Catholic school, but we had a pretty dang decent sex education. Comprehensive with birth control AND abstinence AND all that fun stuff. We were taught that abstinence is best (no sex, no consequences- logical) but that one should always be prepared and in more than one way. Most importantly, we learned all of this during freshmen year, not when it was really too late.
Actually, in my biology class, we also had to watch a birth video, too. Only I'm pretty sure all of the video's subjects were way drugged out all the time. Normal people just don't act like they did. Shudder. Regardless, I guess my school takes a pretty liberal approach to sex, considering its Catholic-ness.

Thanks so much for this post!

And I do think it's ok to take a break of sparkly things to have talks about real, serious issues. That said, sparkly things ARE nice.

8:09 AM  
Blogger Melody said...

Great post. Someone on a message board wondered if the script was flipped and if Obama had a 17 year old black daugther would people be so supportive? Would they be saying kind things about her and her family?

I don't see why she has to get married? She could still have the baby and go to college part-time next year. From what I hear this guy isn't a good choice for a husband.

8:37 AM  
Blogger Mrs. N said...

Thank you SO much for this.

I wish someone had said this to me when I was 17. Luckily I didn't get pregnant until 7 months ago...and I'm 29, married, and have chosen to be so.

8:45 AM  
Blogger Ellie said...

Way to go, Maureen.

Great dose of perspective. I'm sharing this post, for sure.

8:52 AM  
Blogger Lisa Schroeder said...

I think you just decreased world suck a whole bunch with this post. Seriously.

"To hold her up as a shining example of things being done right is beyond my comprehension."

Mine too. I really hope Bristol gets through this all okay.

8:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, I'm 16. I began having sex for the first time with my boyfriend this summer. I don't regret it. It was a consensual decision made out of love and we were safe. I have an appointment tomorrow to see my gynecologist about birth control pills, because they are the most reliable method besides abstinence to prevent pregnancy. And who initiated this decision? my dad, actually. He brought it up, in a respectful, nonjudgemental way, and yeah, it was awkward, but I'm glad he did. Because a lot of girls are too embarrassed, scared, or guilty to have that conversation, and they can end up pregnant or with an std. Sex education other than abstinence-only programs is absolutely necessary to teens today, because like it or not, we're going to be having sex. And guess what? That's not a bad thing. If we're emotionally mature enough to handle having sex, we should be prepared enough to know how to handle it safely. I'm lucky that I have such an open-minded dad. My mom would be really different, unfortunately. Whether they are pro-choice (as I am) or pro-life, no one should be anti-education. And abstinence-only programs that don't teach contraception are at their core, denying us vital information. Which is the very opposite of the spirit and purpose of a school.

8:57 AM  
Blogger Khyrinthia said...

Dear Maureen,

You're awesome.

From your fangirl,
Khy

That part about your Catholic school not teaching about birth control and stuff makes me wonder if mine does. I just started at a Catholic school (no nuns or priests though, thankfully) and haven't started any health/ sex ed classes yet.

9:02 AM  
Anonymous Katie said...

All of your comments and suggestions regarding teen sex and pregnancy amount to great information and advice right up to the point where you make assumptions about Bristol Palin.

I'm afraid that makes me queasy - as does all the other speculation about her as an individual that I have heard (speculate away about the Mom, she chose to be in the public spotlight).

You assume Bristol had no choices. The time for "choice" is long past as she is more than five months pregnant. I think it is wrong to assume she didn't have choices earlier on. You simply don't know.

You also assume it isn't her choice to marry the father. We don't know that either.

Nor are we entitled to an answer to either question or the many others that are being posed about this young woman's private life.

These assumptions and conjectures really just amount to gossip folks.

9:03 AM  
Blogger Liz said...

I was sent your post by a friend and it was a pleasure to read. Thank you.

10:38 AM  
Blogger Gwen Hayes said...

I agree with what Katie said at 9:33. There are a lot of assumptions and we can't know for sure. Furthermore, even at 17, if my mom had the opportunity to do something as huge as run for VP of the country and maybe be the first woman to ever hold that position, I would have supported her wholeheartedly despite my personal issues at the time. We can't know how they came to any of their decisions and she may have chosen what so many assume was thrust upon her.

What is really great is that Bristol's situation has sparked so much dialogue about important issues...on the other hand, we keep saying we feel bad for her being in the spotlight, but we keep saying her name. I feel like the biggest hypocrite because of it, you know?

11:30 AM  
Anonymous Paradox said...

Am I too late to enter? Well, I think it's sad about Brisol Palin. This must be humiliating for her, for the whole country to know about her pregnancy and debate her, even say rude things about her when they don't even know her!

I also believe that high school students should be educated about sex and ways of preventing pregnancy and STI's. If they don't learn about it, they won't know what to do when they finally encounter it.

11:54 AM  
Blogger Namlhots said...

Dear Maureen,

You were lucky to even have a sex ed session with Sister Mary Mary. They put us guys in the basement cafeteria and talked about how hell was like the basement cafeteria, and that's where we would end up if we touched our squishy parts or yours.

I am a very very smart person and I can tell you that very little of my brain is engaged when I have sex. I've actually lost some of my mind raising children. Granted, it is sometimes replaced by awesome, especially if you have kids like you or me, but there is no reason to have a child if you don't want a child.

My advice before having sex is to engage your brain, use it or lose it.

Love,
SBTom

4:06 PM  
OpenID viabloomington said...

Well said. Thank you!

4:13 PM  
Blogger lanna-lovely said...

It's funny, a few days ago I was debating this subject with some girl on myspace (well, not about Bristol Palin , but the teen pregnancy thing).

Because of her religion she believes people shouldn't have sex before marriage - which I respect even if the belief is different from my own. But she started bringing teen pregnancy into it as an example of why people should wait.

She seemed to think that proved sex was a sin (well, pre-marital sex) and was talking as if sex ALWAYS led to a baby... when really pregnancy was just a consequence, sex wasn't the problem it was the fact that the guy and girl weren't ready enough for sex that they used birth control.

They really do need to explain that more in schools (although my school was pretty good with the sex ed thing, they were teaching us about it from the age of 12, but I live in the UK maybe it works different here).

I feel bad for Bristol and I actually feel bad for her boyfriend too... the fact she got pregnant in the first place proves she isn't as conservative as her mum and maybe she would be open to the idea of abortion but the choice really has been taken from her. And now they're being forced to get married as well.

If he refused to marry her he would be painted as a bad guy and could potentially piss off the maybe-future-president and a whole bunch of people that share the same beliefs as Sarah Palin.

...I should stop rambling now. But yeah, I completely agree with everything you said. :)

-Lanna

5:10 PM  
Blogger Anna M. Lewis said...

Maureen,
Great post! I came here from viabloomington's post.

When my husband's 15YO niece from AL came to stay with us 8 summers ago, she kept on referring to all these showers she was going to. Turns out 50 of her classmates were pregnant and it was a badge of honor. I asked what these girls' plans were. She said that their mom's were going to take care of their children. The remainder of the trip was constant details of the showers that she had attended.

My husband and his sister were adopted. My brother and his wife (who live near AL) and his wife have tried to adopt for years.

At her grandmother's funeral, 8 months later, she was 7 months pregnant... and later, gave the baby up for adoption. The only girl at her HS to give a baby up for adoption. She was offered a full-ride scholarship to a very prestigious university.

It is my hope that the Palin story doesn't further glorify teenage pregnacy.

I have 2 teenage children and we have very open discussions about sex.

Thanks for making me think today... I may just blog about it, also.
Anna

6:16 PM  
Anonymous Amie said...

Maureen what a great post--found the link via your agent.

Betty I think you and I got the same education--I'm 39 BTW. Mom NEVER talked about sex, only how I couldn't hang out with this cool older girl from band cuz she had two kids. I thought that was so wrong--I still think it's wrong and sad to be so judged. It was a small town.

I have two teen boys and we've been discussing sex since they were 10 and 12 (thank you LAO: SVU). My motto is don't be stupid, if you can't afford it, you have no business making it but if you decide to have sex please God use condoms.

7:01 PM  
Anonymous linda said...

Thank you for posting this Maureen. It is wise and thoughtful and honest and I think you've done a lot of good today.

I'm Evernoting this post for when my own daughter closes in on tweendom.

7:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post!!!

I'm passing the link on my MySpace and hope some of my fans find your words helpful. When I was 16 I thought I was pregnant...I wasn't but I went through the whole "what would I do" scenerios. Then I married the guy at 17 because I thought that made having sex young okay...all it did was make me divorced by age 22.

I loved your BLUE ENVELOPE book, by the way. And I enjoyed hearing you speak in Texas last April.

Linda Joy Singleton
author of DEAD GIRL WALKING

7:08 PM  
Blogger Amber said...

I've read every comment here, after being directed here by Linda's MySpace Bulletin. Wow - amazing post, Maureen. I've always admired and respected you for your writing talent and fun personality. But after this post, you have been elevated to hero status in my mind. I'm not going to repeat what everyone has said here, but I just want to say that we all really needed this. So thank you for giving us your honest opinion on this situation. I agree wholeheartedly.

And I would also love to win Suite Scarlett :)

7:38 PM  
OpenID crazy-gabrielle said...

That was so awesome, Maureen. You rock. Conservatives (generally) irritate me so much about this subject. And about everything else, really. They tend to completely ignore problems and hope they stop happening instead of actually solving them.

7:47 PM  
Blogger scott neumyer said...

simply watching the RNC last night made me a little queasy... LOL

7:48 PM  
Anonymous HeatherMichelle said...

Thank you. I was lucky enough to have a mom who let me know about my choices, but many people I know didn't. And many, MANY of the students I teach dont know. Thank you for being willing to put it out there. For being willing to teach, as well as have fun, on your blog. Just thank you.

8:36 PM  
Blogger Holly Black said...

Such a smart, thoughtful post, Maureen. Just what I needed to read after that speech last night.

8:47 PM  
Anonymous lauren myracle said...

Look at you go, Maureen! You rock. Not only do I totally agree, but I'm kinda agog at how, well, eloquent you are while still managing to make me giggle.

Does it just come naturally? Were you born with the Super Writer gene? I think yes!

9:10 PM  
Anonymous Diamond D said...

This has nothing to do with pregnancy or birth control, but...

In Canada, our elections take about six weeks. Not two years.

9:11 PM  
Blogger Sharpie said...

Gosh, this really made me sick to read. Starts off with why are we discussing Bristol and then goes on at length to blast Bristol.

Looking at the smutty pics on your side bar, I find it pretty ironic to hear one of your ilk berating a 17 year old girl for having sex!

So, you think teen moms should all have abortions if they become pregnant. Fine. Barack's mom became an unwed pregnant teen at age 17.

What do you think of that? Of course that's different.

I do know one place where your judgmental lecture might do some good. Why don't you go stand on a street corner in an inner city neighborhood and tell every single unwed teenager that if she doesn't have an abortion, she doesn't get any foodstamps.

That might actually do some good.

9:28 PM  
Blogger barbara said...

My favorite form of sex ed. was when they gave us baby dolls that actually acted like babies and told us to take care of them. After that I was like I am going to be abstinent for life. No whining baby for me. Then for a follow up they talk about STDs and show us pretty pitcures. That was in middle school. I think that I was scarred for life.

p.s. I would like a copy of Suite Scarlett!

9:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ha ha Diamond D. If you think our elections only take six weeks, you haven't been paying much attention to our federal minority government. Sure, the actual official campaign is only six weeks and they wouldn't touch religion with a ten foot pole but abortion seems to be fair game. We also have rampant problems with teen pregnancy here in Canada.

This is not a political issue, it is a human issue.

10:17 PM  
Blogger Cassandra Mortmain said...

You are such a hero Maureen. Totally excellent post.

10:49 PM  
Anonymous Arya said...

Personally, I think she's doing the right thing by keeping her baby. And I'm glad she did not get an abortion (it IS murder. Keep the baby or give it up for adoption). But I don't believe being married so young is going to help. Yes, there's a slim chance it could work out. But there's an even bigger chance for divorce.
So I do agree with some of the things you've said, Maureen. And I also think that there should be more Sex Ed. classes in schools. Teens DO need to be aware of the changes with their hormones and bodies, and everything they're experiencing.
Sex is NOT a bad thing. It shouldn't be treated as such. But...I personally believe that people should wait for sex until marriage. I understand that some people make mistakes though.

I shall end rambling for now, haha. And I don't mean to offend anyone with what I have written.

11:06 PM  
Anonymous Arya said...

Oh! And I would like to have a copy of Suite Scarlett! You do sound like a great author.

11:07 PM  
Blogger Tabitha said...

Expelled?? Seriously? Erm...*scratching head*...oh! I get it, I really do. The school is punishing mistakes by taking away the opportunity to learn so that she could maybe avoid making the same mistakes in the future. And the fact that they weren't teaching anyone how to avoid that mistake in the first place really drives the point home. Yes! Makes perfect sense.

Sorry. Didn't mean to go on a rant of my own there. :)

I had the same kind of sex-ed class as Kiki where we watched a video of a child being born. The greenish looks of horror and murmurs of "gross" and "that's disgusting" really killed any sexual moment any of us might have had.

11:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

EXCELLENT, excellent post, Maureen.

Teens need all the information and tools available to them to take the best care possible of themselves, and hopefully to avoid becoming pregnant at all until they arrive at a point in their lives where they want to.

If there were a way for me to share this post with every teen girl in the country, I would.

Thank you,
TC in Los Angeles

11:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very nicely put. Thank you! I went to high school ages ago, but they definitely taught about birth control (I think)...my parents were very good in that department -- I was *terrified* of getting pregnant, and that was all the birth control I needed (good thing too, as I've gotten pregnant with hubby at least once using birth control).

I also like the birth video idea -- that would definitely do it for most kids!

RP in CO

11:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with every detail I am so against teen pregnancy, and I am in tenth grade. Last year I think three sophmores were pregnant, so I'm hoping no one in my grade gets pregnant caz it's wrong. You should not be sleeping with anyone until you are out of college, that is my opinion and it sounds like a darn good one. pressure is stupid people have to ignore it. they can enjoy themselves other ways then having sex, even if it is sexual. do anything just nothing to get you pregnant, it will ruin your life. the only person who's life wasn't ruined was my teacher who got pregnant at fifteen, still finished high school and went to college, and she wasn't even rich. but still that NEVER happens I was amazed when I found out. this was an awesome post and whoever disagrees with you is out of their minds. the only people who would disagree are probably people who have had sex while being a teenager or got pregnant young. or lame people who don't care if teens get pregnant, which is ridiculous! lol anyway, good job!!! :)

12:04 AM  
Anonymous Katie said...

Anonymous at 12:34, you have several things in your post that make me highly angry:

"You should not be sleeping with anyone until you are out of college, that is my opinion and it sounds like a darn good one."

You don't get to tell other people when to have sex. The only person who gets to decide when you have sex is you. This especially applies to college students, as they are legal adults, but it applies to teens, too.

"pressure is stupid people have to ignore it."

Why do people always assume its pressure, especially in cases of girls? Most people want sex because, um, SEX! They (hopefully) love and trust their partner, have sexual feelings for them, and want to explore them.

"they can enjoy themselves other ways then having sex, even if it is sexual."
True. But, there is only so much you can do. And if you do them, you are only going to get more and more curious.

"do anything just nothing to get you pregnant, it will ruin your life. the only person who's life wasn't ruined was my teacher who got pregnant at fifteen, still finished high school and went to college, and she wasn't even rich. but still that NEVER happens I was amazed when I found out."
Not true. Teen prengancy will not always ruin a life. There are many cases when it hasn't. You can have an abortion, or have the baby and get on with your life. It may set you back, but you can still go on.

"this was an awesome post and whoever disagrees with you is out of their minds."
I agree, but are you aware that almost every opinion you expressed in your comment contradicted Maureen's post?

12:28 AM  
OpenID kirakiragrl said...

You just verbalized everything I wanted to say when I was in Catholic School but never had the guts to say. Thank you!

2:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was 17 and pregnant recently.. I was due august 30th, unfortunately I had my daughter 15wks early.. I should've been smarter than my dumb gym teacher.. She told me that in order to pass gym since I couldn't do contact sports, I had to run. So, She made me run miles and miles a day. She told me she used to do it when she was pregnant too. I ended up having a placental abruption. My daughter lived only 23days, but they were the best days of my life.
A lot of people told me that my life was ruined, and that I am going to drop out of school. I am an all A student.. I got all my homework from school and completed it all. Even when I had the stress of the NICU and even after she passed.. I am much more mature than the statistics show teen moms to be.
I have my life set out already.. My fiance is going to be graduating from college soon to be a nurse.. and that's money right there. I am going to take some classes at college on writing. I plan on becoming an author/Illustrator.. and this hasn't changed since the baby. My life didn't come to an end, It just got a bit more challenging, that's all.
I really loved reading this.. people should start taking initiative on teaching about prevention. Abstinence isn't the answer really.. We're all sexual beings, and we're bound to experiment.
And on the abortion issue, I am not sure where I stand on that.. people in some places can abort babies up to 26wks.. I had My daughter at 24wk and 5days, and she was so gorgeous. Fully developed (except her lungs) and everything.. I can't imagine how anyone could due that to their child. I guess it'd be okay if you got raped or something... But seriously.. Do it in the first couple of weeks..

<3
Jenna

2:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i am a freshman in high school. in my public middle school, they talked about abstinence. but they also informed us on birth control and what not. i mean, i'm waiting until at least out of high school to have sex. i didn't want to DO IT before, and now i really don't want to DO IT. thank you so much MJ! i am pro-choice also [i mean, the couple made the decision to DO IT, so they should have a choice. although i think that it should only be used for medical reasons. like if a woman can literally NOT have the baby, whether physically or she wouldn't be able to support it etc]. bristol should not even be in the picture. i mean, she's going to marry her boyfriend. she's going about it in a responsible way. and wouldn't this just make Governor Palin and her family more relatable to us citizens? i mean, if so many teens are pregnant well ... all i can say is what my father said when he found out: "who the h#ll cares about politics? you [meaning the news people] shouldn't be critisizing her! you should be praying she has a healthy baby for God's sake!". expelled isn't really taking care of the sitchuation, is it? i feel horrible for the girl at your school!

cannot wait for SEKRETS and SHINY THINGS.

*Emilee

2:13 AM  
Blogger Heather Harper said...

No one but Bristol knows what she wants. And at five months pregnant, I doubt abortion was the option she was favoring or she already would have had one, IMO. But I do agree with Obama/Biden and McCain/Palin that their children are off limits.

3:33 AM  
Blogger A Paperback Writer said...

Maureen,
I am a school teacher in Utah -- where sex ed is never taught BY LAW.
I am applauding you. I hope lots and lots of teens read this post and learn something from it.
I must say that I think there's nothing wrong with teens who pledge abstinence. BUT THEY NEED TO KNOW THE FACTS AND HAVE A BACK-UP PLAN because hormones are really, really hard to control sometimes.
And no matter what a person's beliefs on abortion are, it's pretty clear that preventative birth control is a LOT easier on a woman mentally and physically than abortion is.
I hope this post of yours inspires girls (and boys too) to learn the facts about birth control (and STDs, too).
Poor Bristol.

3:36 AM  
Anonymous Emily said...

Hmm...
You know, I have to say, I really don't think that Bristol Palin got pregnant because she was left all by her lonesome to deal with this. I don't think Sarah Palin was like "oh, you like boys?? No, no, they have cooties, remember??" No. And even if she was preached at for abstinence, they teach condoms in school. It's all over the Internet and TV and books and everywhere.
Because, yeah, we're not in the Middle Ages. We have ways of finding out stuff. And then getting the things we need. It's kind of easy.
I also don't think that she's being forced to marry this guy and have this baby. I mean, like you said, it's pretty easy to have an abortion. So how do we know whether she's being forced into this? Um...WE DON'T. But I believe that if she got herself into this (which she did. It was her choice to have sex) then she should be able to stand up and say "I don't want this baby." But like I said. We just don't know.
And yeah, I know that teen pragnany sucks. I've had several friends get pregnant. And some of them finished up school and some of them didn't. Me, I'm all abstinence. And no, actually, I don't believe that sex is evvvvil and it comes from books and TV and movies and we should all be in chastity belts until we're married. I do, however, hold my virginity near and dear to me. It's kind of a big deal to my Christianity, as is the belief that abortion is wrong. But I know you weren't trying to offend and I don't mean to offend you here. Really, I just want to say that this is thePalin's deal. We don't know what's going in their house and I think it's a horrible thing to trot out this poor pregnant girl (it does totally suck that she has to go through this during the election. THAT BLOWS) as some kind of message that abstinence doesn't work and conservatism is over and obviously McCain and Palin are a horrible choice for the White House. And I don't think you were really saying all that, I'm just sick of it in other blogs and in the news.
And, totally off the subject, did you see that German paper a few months ago with a picture of the White House and the caption "Uncle Obama's Cabin"? I don't know if it offended anyone, but I think it was pretty funny.

3:47 AM  
Anonymous Sara said...

Thanks you. That was excellent.

4:30 AM  
Anonymous Elena said...

Thanks for this post, Maureen! Though I am a practicing Catholic and may disagree with you about some things, it is very nice to hear all of this talk from someone other than a mother or teacher.
Also, that video COMPLETELY works.

4:46 AM  
Blogger SFBlue said...

I completely agree with this! It's so ridiculous how many girls get pregnant just because they didn't know to/how use birth control. I feel bad for Bristol. Pretty bad actually because the choice to marry that guy has kind of been taken out of her hands. Just to preserve the poor girl's privacy(what is left of it, at least), I'm not going to make the "Free Bristol" shirts I wanted to, also because I know some people that would kick me if I did.
Thanks for this post though. It's the first thing that's really gotten me fired up about this election and the candidates.

-Jasmine

4:55 AM  
Blogger Moth said...

I feel really bad for the girl and her whole family. My sister got pregnant at 19. He's almost six now and in kindergarten. She's in college but it's taking her nearly three times as long to finish it and get her degree. She still lives at home. My mother was plunged into massive debt trying to support her and we lost our family home of almost 20 years.

She had no concept, no idea whatsoever what she was doing, what she would lose. She knows it now all too well.

USE CONDOMS KIDS!!!

5:04 AM  
Blogger Bobina said...

Overall, Bristol is in a pretty sucky situation. Political mudslinging is never a pretty sight. My thoughts go out to her. I would think that someone my age would know better, though.

Where I live, we only got two half-year courses in middle school. We haven't got any pregnancies here lately, but then again we're a pretty small public school.
...But then there's Gloucester just a couple miles away. They just go ahead and do it because they say they get bored in the winter. Disgusting.

Not all teen moms turn out bad. My friend's mom had her when she was 16 years old. Her mom was actually a "bad girl" when she got pregnant, but afterwards she felt compelled to be a better person. She graduated high school, went to college, went to law school and now is married with two more children. She co-operates a successful business with her husband and they're a pretty average family. However, because she got pregnant so young she is afraid that her daughter, my friend, will too. So they're a little crazy overbearing, but with good intentions. Of course, that friend and my other friends know to make the right choices.
It's not so much if you get pregnant young you're life is ruined. It's more about the CHOICES make from that point.

I would like a Suite Scarlet :) It would brighten up my so far not-some week of school!

5:16 AM  
Blogger mina said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5:22 AM  
Blogger mina said...

YES! I agree! You are right!
I just don't understand why the media is making such a big deal out of this girl's pregnancy...I mean it is her own life and she's not running herself and they should just leave her alone. They should have, so that she could make the choice, and not have to feel pressured now to have the baby and marry the baby's father just because of the ELECTIONS. I fail to see how her life is relevant to politics. Just because she's the daughter....that itself is important. She's just the daughter. This is part of Sarah Palin's PRIVATE life. Family life. And that does not concern the general public.

It pisses me off.

5:24 AM  
Anonymous Jessica Day George said...

Bravo, Maureen! Thank you for using your blog to reach out to teens about birth control. I'm 31 years old, and sitting here with an excruciating backache. . . eight months pregnant with my second child. Yes, some people are mature enough at 17 to get married, have a baby, and deal with all that comes with it. I wasn't. I'm not sure I'm mature enough right now to deal with two kids! Also, even in sex education they don't tell you about things like finding out you're at very high risk for blood clots (like I am) and spending nine months to a year injecting blood thinners into your stomach twice a day so that you don't die.

They don't tell you about the emotional trauma you go through, having a baby, giving a baby up for adoption, or possibly losing your baby. My heart absolutely goes out to Jenna, who posted here about losing her baby this summer.

I should stop now, the hormones have me all frakked up and probably incoherent on this topic. . . . Birth control, people! Use it!

And may I also recommend Louise Plummer's superb novel A Dance For Three, which deals very tenderly with the topic of teen pregnancy?

-Jessica

5:26 AM  
Blogger rainie said...

"I just want you to understand why I am so baffled and enraged by people who take tools away from girls, take away knowledge and protection. It’s Medieval and illogical..."

This was the point that struck me the hardest. That in this day and age, when a woman at last may be elected to high office, we would still subject our daughters to disease and unplanned pregnancies. For no good reason of which I can fathom. Because it is our daughters who bare the brunt of an unplanned pregnancy.

Maureen, this was the blog I meant to write, except you wrote it with so much more grace than I could muster. Thank you for writing it with such love and kindness.

rainie

6:08 AM  
Blogger lanna-lovely said...

I ended up writing a blog about this (and some of the comments posted in response to it):

http://lanna-lovely.blogspot.com/2008/09/anger-rage-annoyance-irritation.html

=/

7:09 AM  
Anonymous poodle649 said...

OMG, 106 comments, I'm sure someone else said what I'm gonna say here, but whatever, I feel like typing. =)

Every normal teenager, sex-ed or not, knows what a condom is. Maybe they don't have the facts and percentages and other scare tactics drilled into their heads, but they at least know about condoms.

Teenagers sometimes just decide to be DUMB and don't use them. Which is just a common sense problem. See, normal teenagers don't have common sense. I look around at my peers in my college classes (college, not even high school) and I think about how dumb they are.

Face it, the dumbness factors are scary. It's scary that some of those dumb people are mothers who are going to be inadvertantly sprinkling some of their dumbness on their kids. But so it goes.

And Bristol Palin? She's five months pregnant, if she'd wanted an abortion she had plenty of time to have one sekritly before anything would have come out in the press. Really, I wouldn't be surprised if she was pro-life too. I don't know about her, but having a younger sibling with Down Syndrome myself, I think twice about some of the reasons people have abortions these days.

Marriage? Yeah, that's creepy and old-school and WEIRD. I know someone who married a guy who'd gotten her pregnant... then watched her guy try to flirt with me after they were married. THAT sure blew my idea of the whole "honroable shotgun wedding" idea.

Good thing I at least know about condoms. =D

Okay, my typing is done. Thanks for provoking some thought in me, Maureen.

*goes off to do homework*

8:19 AM  
Anonymous Zoey said...

Bravo Maureen! This really touched me and made me think about teen pregnancy in a whole new light. I am truly sorry for Bristol. As if being pregnant at 17 weren't enough, being followed by the media and having your personal life advertised across America just makes the situation twenty times worse. You write so well, thank you for this blog!

9:01 AM  
Blogger Rebecca said...

I just wanted to add my own "This post was brilliant" comment to the stack. You said it all, and you said it so well.

11:25 AM  
Anonymous Oceanesque said...

That was brilliant, thank you! ^_^

I'm 32, and my public high school (Australia, in an affluent, middle-class suburb) had some sex ed, but it wasn't compulsory - if you were in the top academic stream with English Literature etc. then sex ed clashed with the timetabling and you didn't have to take it / weren't able to take it.

So I remember a few classes on drugs and alcohol and resuscitation, but no sex ed.

Only one girl in my high school got pregnant and gave birth, as far as I know. She dropped out of school at 16 and kept the baby. I don't know what happened to her after that, I didn't know/like her well enough to stay in touch.

Oh, and a friend of mine from an environmental group that I volunteered with got pregnant when she was a teenager, as well. She was (unusually) lucky - it worked out okay for her, because she had a supportive hippy mother, a boyfriend who loved her and was mature enough to help her raise her child, and the subsequent children that they had together. And she was able to go back to education.

I was reading a blog the other day by a woman who works in a US high school with no sex ed at all... scary stuff! The woman who was blogging wasn't a teacher, she was the principal's assistant, and she had all these 10 - 13 year old girls asking her about sex, and asking her for tampons and condoms and so on.

http://magniloquence.wordpress.com/2008/05/29/my-mother-reminds-me-that-i-can-be-fired-for-this-but-i-dont-care/

12:02 PM  
Blogger lightforms said...

From the Heart, that's always the best. Thanks for putting it all out there for us. Honestly and simply. This is the best I've ever heard this subject talked about, and I'm glad there are already 110 comments before mine in one day! Pretty amazing.

bookmarked, my dear!
Peace!

12:55 PM  
Anonymous Amie said...

Oceanesque...I remember a few years ago at a post-season basketball party some of the moms talking. Three or four were teachers, a couple in Jr. high and they were talking about 7th and 8th grade girls getting pregnant. Sad and mind-boggling! I'm going to read that other post.

5:11 PM  
OpenID ludzu-alus said...

*Exactly* what you said. I shall quote a little bit and post a link and help spread your wisdom everywhere.

6:57 PM  
Blogger Jane Doe said...

Amen, sister.

But to be perfectly frank, the reason we are talking about Bristol Palin is this -- her mother brought it up. Her mother dragged her into the national conversation (against her will or willingly, we may never know), and essentially made her part of the campaign.

And that means Bristol Palin is NOT off limits to any amount of scrutiny the media chooses to heap upon her.

7:42 PM  
Blogger Renee said...

BRAVO. Seriously. BRA. VO. I am printing this out and giving it to my sister and then I'm going to make her give it to her friends. Luckily she has had sex education for ages and she's not stupid. But I feel like I need to print this out and make her read it anyway. I feel very sorry for Bristol Palin. I can only wish her the best of luck. Hopefully the guy she slept with won't be horrible husband. Hopefully.

11:06 PM  
Blogger May said...

Fabulous post.

11:13 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

first of all, BRISTOL? what kind of name is that?

as someone who has had "family life" classes since second grade, i really do feel for people that don't get that kind of education. some of my friends in elementary school went to a private school and when i was about 7 years old, i was over at their house and apparently started teaching them the birds and the bees. i'm not sure how accurate i was at that point, but i still knew the basics pretty much.

on top of the name thing, i do feel bad for the girl. i hope the guy she is being forced to marry isn't a complete schmuck. and hopefully she actually likes the guy and doesn't mind marrying him.

btws: you're kind of awesome :-)

12:39 AM  
Blogger LibraryHermit said...

I agree with you, too. I went to a Catholic school through 8th grade and was frowned upon for going to a private, but not Catholic high school, because they mentioned birth control.

12:39 AM  
OpenID ironymaiden said...

several commenters have suggested that Bristol could have managed to get an abortion if she wanted one.

there are nine abortion providers in the entire state of Alaska. i can tell you that in the much more populous state of Pennsylvania (where there are over 50 providers), the nearest abortion provider to my home was still over two hours' drive away, and was only open during weekdays.
i doubt managing to find a provider who would work without parental consent, coming up with the money, getting use of a car, and ditching school would be that "easy."

1:21 AM  
Blogger Meghan said...

I agree with you, Maureen. I just turned seventeen on Tuesday and I couldn't even begin to imagine being pregnant right now. It makes it all the more worse that she is being forced into marriage because of some stupid election that will be over in November.

I pity Bristol and wish that I could do something to make the media stop, but I know that there really isn't anything I can do. Freedom of the press is sometimes a bad thing (this coming from someone who writes for her school paper).

My school teaches abstinence education, too. Their scare tactic was to show us a video of someone giving birth. Mind you, my class didn't even end up watching the video, which I think is because my teacher was male.

3:09 AM  
OpenID gillpolack said...

I came here from Justine's blog. I love your post so much that:

a) I sent my own readers here (I hope you don't mind - the link is http://gillpolack.livejournal.com/418271.html)

and b) if ever we meet, I'm buying you a drink or something.

Thank you. It's all about life choices, and just because someone can't vote yet doesn't mean they should lose so many choices for so little reason.

3:23 AM  
Blogger Heather Harper said...

"And that means Bristol Palin is NOT off limits to any amount of scrutiny the media chooses to heap upon her."

I respectfully disagree. It is one thing to use Bristol's situation to encourage debate about teen pregnancy and choice. It's another for the media to attack a minor because they disagree with her mother's value system/political views.

3:25 AM  
Blogger missjess said...

You know what I really hate about the abstinece until marraige thing? You can cadge it as some reiglious, moral anti video games/mtv counter culture thing but it's just a stall tactic. People getting married straight out of high school are very uncommon. And once you do get married, what do you do if you don't want to have a baby right away?

Advocates are hoping to scare you into not having sex long enough for you to graduate and be one very ignorant 18 year old. I read a study about people who did those true love waits pledges were likely to break said pledge within 5 years and then they were more likely to have unsafe sex than those who didn't sign.

3:46 AM  
Blogger g33kgrrl said...

Oh! I just got linked here, and I love your post. It made me tear up (although so do lots of things, like Discovery channel commercials). I would like to print this out and save it for the hypothetical day I have a daughter. Thank you.

4:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I went to a Catholic all-girls high school. One of my classmates was married (via arranged marriage)when we were in the eleventh grade. At graduation, she was pregnant. The school administration WOULD NOT let her participate in the graduation ceremony because she was pregnant.

5:03 AM  
Blogger Jordan Sonnenblick said...

Genius, Maureen. Genius!

5:04 AM  
Anonymous Lauren!! said...

I completely, completely, 100% agree with you!!!! I hate that she has to deal with all the horrible rumors and she has to have the baby AT SEVENTEEN (!!!!) and marry the guy who put her there in the first place. THAT SUCKS so much I can't even begin to express it or else my comment would be as long as a novel called Suite Scarlett!!!! I just have too much to say. Thanks for giving me something deep to think about, seeing as I haven't in exactly 7 days!! (since school started!) but thank you very much for the amazing and heartfelt comment.

--Lauren!!

ps-I'm SO pro-choice.

6:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Barack's mom became an unwed pregnant teen at age 17.

What do you think of that?"

Barak's mom probably didn't have access to any birth control when she was 17, some 45 years ago. And she may have wished she did, but that's neither here or there.

What I wish teachers would inform their students is that sex feels GOOD and it is very difficult to resist.

I was of legal age before I ever had sex (and yes, I was on b/c). After I became more experienced, I found I enjoyed it, a lot.

I never expected to, especially with a mom who seemed to not like it, even with three children. She was always preaching about men wanting "only one thing."

When I was in high school, there were no classes about sex at all (it was the '60s), so, ladies, appreciate the ones you have. And also remember that Mrs. Palin wants to ABOLISH our choice to abortions forever.

Soon2BAuthor

7:57 AM  
Anonymous Abby said...

I. LOVE. YOU.

This is the best post ever. I myself have not yet taken sex ed, but we should be getting to that pretty soon, and I'm actually looking forward to it, because we'll be the very first class to ever have it properly. I'm not actually planning on having sex until I'm married (no one forced me into it, FYI. Personal choice), but I'm interested on what they're going to say, because our school is kind of REALLY CONSERVATIVE, and I want to see how our P.E teacher, who is teaching our health class, is going to handle it.

About Bristol- I feel absolutely terrible for her. At least in the case of Jamie Lynn, she only had her own "reputation" to worry about, and she could disappear for a while, and lead as normal a life as she could. Bristol has no such privileges. What the worst part is that the choices and decisions don't even come down to her, they come down to her mother's political standing and reputation. She HAS to keep showing up at the events, HAS to keep pretending everything is fine, HAS to make it look like she's happy being pregnant and getting married at 17, and that's what sucks the most.

I just want to say thank you for writing this. Your story about your high school shocked me. While I'm pretty sure that no one in my school would be expelled (they only advise people to leave. And I'm not kidding. Two kids got caught smoking pot on a school trip that required ten hours on a bus, and NOTHING HAPPENED TO THEM. I mean, I don't care that they were smoking pot, but come on! Don't do it on a school trip, for crying out loud.), it'd be pretty interesting to see people's reactions, especially considering we're such a small school.

THANKS FOR STANDING UP FOR TEEN GIRLS EVERYWHERE. YOU ROCK. :)

8:26 AM  
Blogger Cat said...

Teen pregnancy has been popping up a lot. Apparently, the number of pregnant teens has increased significantly in recent years. You can't really blame anyone for teens having sex--it's going to happen whether you teach them Sex Ed or not. What you can do is make protection avaliable, keep us informed, and give us the choice to do what we need to do if something does happen. It's unfair that Bristol Palin has had her choices taken away, and is being talked about all over the country...that justs makes the whole situation a lot harder to deal with. And every point you made, I was nodding with you. Which may or may not cause my parents to believe that I am slightly insane. Thanks for sharing your opinions and making it avaliable to all of your readers.

P.S. Did you know that The Bermudez Triangle comes in a "Splashproof Beach-read Cover"? Because that is really cool. I am always spilling things on my books which causes me to frown and throw things in frustration. So if the pages were spillproof I'd want all my books to be like that. But I am probably the only one careless/klutzy enough to manage to mess up my books like that. So sad. Maybe I will wrap them in plastic. Happy September! Oh yeah, and I would like a Suite Scarlett, pretty please with a cherry on top? And possibly whipped cream?

9:57 AM  
Blogger Jenny said...

Wow, what a great post. I couldn’t agree more with you. When I was in public highschool (in Ontario) they taught Sex Education, in Catholic schools they teach Abstinence and I think most US highschools teach Abstinence. Teens will have sex with or without the important facts, so why not prepare them!?!
For those who are unprepared there is always Plan B ("The Morning after Pill”) available from pharmacists without a prescription. Those who say it’s like abortion are wrong. Sperm can live inside you up to 7 days; you aren't instantly pregnant after sex, so Plan B can prevent pregnancies.
Something I wanted to point out too, which I'm sure a lot of people know but some may not is that even condoms aren't 100% effective and the birth control pill doesn't protect against STDs or STIs, so both forms of protection together are important. Sorry, I seemed to have gone off on a bit of a rant too, but I just wanted to get my points out there.

PS: Could you please enter me into the draw to win Suite Scarlett? Thanks so much!

10:29 AM  
Anonymous Emma Williams said...

I just wonder how Palin expects to teach abstinence to American teenagers if she couldn't even teach it effectively to her own daughter.

2:55 PM  
Anonymous Sarah said...

You know, Maureen, I really enjoy it when you post amusing and entertaining blogs, and they brighten my day and make me laugh out loud. But I think I like it even more when you post blogs about serious topics. This was really well written, and I'm sure a lot of younger people appreciated the non-condescending tone. I have a lot of respect for you, for more reasons than one. :)

11:34 PM  
OpenID imdamuffinman27 said...

For half of my freshman year I went to a Catholic all-girls scool and then I transfered to puclic school the next semester. Because freshman year is when they get all this birth control stuff out of the way, I got it both in Catholic school and public school, so I've got a pretty good idea of how the different types of schools deal with this issue. The answer? Life-time movies. In both schools their idea of sex education was showing us those made for tv movies from the Lifetime Channel for Women in which some girl gets pregnant or gets syphillus or whatever. And that's pretty much it. In Catholic school they also took about a day to talk about how birth control is wrong. Then they gave us a bunch of helpful statistics covering the many risks of bith control, to scare us away from using contraception, just in case. And when that doesn't work, they just expell you. I have a friend who goes to a co-ed Catholic school that will kick a girl out for getting pregnant or getting an abortion. But the girl's boyfriend? Nobody talks to him, and he doesn't get expelled. So the "problem child" has been removed, they continue to teach nothing about birth control, and they get to brag about how they have no problems with teen pregnancy. Sometimes people are so stupid, it makes me sick. Of course, what do I know? I'm just a teenager, and apparently we're not capable of making educated decisions for ourselves. Which is why they'll continue to only teach Abstinance, because if they say it's our only option, we'll just have to believe them, right? We don't need any more information, we don't need to be armed with knowlege before confronted with these important decisions, we just need to be told "no sex until marriage" and we'll all be fine. I'm so glad these people are in charge of my education.

12:31 AM  
Anonymous Summer said...

I think it's even worse when teachers tell the whole class how ANTI-ABORTION they are.
ugh. people make me mad.

4:00 AM  
Blogger Plucky the Dragon said...

Wow! Go Maureen! I completely agree with you on everything.

4:24 AM  
Blogger Odette said...

Okay so I completely agree with you! You just made my day! (I volunteer at the science Museum and most of the people get stupid and so I spend four hours dealing with people who are incompetent.) I hate how people have to be in the spotlight because of their parents. Like celebrity kids, I feel for them. But I am a hard core democrat (mostly because my mom is gay and that whole thing) and that makes me dislike this whole situation more...

5:24 AM  
Blogger Melissa Walker said...

HOO-RAY. Thanks for the post.

5:59 AM  
Blogger Megan said...

Great post. I agree 100% that pregnancy is preventable. If one feels uncomfortable going to a drugstore to by contraception, that person should not be having sex. I also agree that schools need to have a better sex-ed program not focused on abstinence. Cheers!

6:50 AM  
Blogger Scorpio said...

I went to the high school next door, where you just disappeared without being called for on the speaker. But we all knew what happened.

Just to make things better, back then the Pill did not exist.

9:08 AM  
OpenID weezerscaddy said...

Am I the only one here who is wondering what the PARENTS' role in this is? Why is everyone against the schools for not raising OUR kids? If your kids are having sex because they are "bored", I'm not blaming the school. I'm blaming YOU for not teaching them that that is not a good way to fill time. Keep in mind that the people who try those stupid stunts on Jackass said they were "bored" too. That doesn't make what they did and what the consequences were any less real, nor the deed any less stupid. I believe in abstinence, if not till marriage, then at least until you are mature enough to do it, and citing "boredom" as a reason to is proof enough that you don't need to.
That being said, Yes, teenagers need to be informed about birth control. They also need to be informed that birth control fails too, so yes, abstinence is good until you are ready to deal with the consequeces. If you need proof, I've miscarried a birth control baby and a b/c-plus-condom baby. I, unfortunately, cannot carry a baby without some serious work, but that's not the point. The point is, the reason that abstinence is important is that any other form of birth control or STD prevention can fail. I know that it will happen. Teenagers will have sex. But I don't think that it should be the schools' job to teach them how to not get pregnant or sick.
(Personally, I'm of the opinion that we should freeze-dry everyone's reprodcutive organs until they are able to deal with the children they want to bring into this world, but admittedly, that may be a bit colored by my personal drama too.)
I think one other person said this too. The information is out there. I wasn't taught sex ed in school. I don't blame them for it. My mother didn't bother to teach me (single-parent). I blame her more. It was her job. But you know what? I learned. I used the legitimate skills (research, study, and let's not forget that old workhorse, reading) I got in school and put it to use. I found information and learned what I could about the how, the why, and the down and dirty details. If you aren't old enough or mature enough to educate yourself, then you aren't old enough or mature enough to have sex.
No, sex is not evil. It isn't even bad. But it does have consequences. That is what seems to be overlooked. Even those who are screaming "Teach teens birth control!" are touting how the birthing videos sent them screaming from the idea of sex (at least temporarily).
If I ever have a daughter, yes, she will know about sex, how and why babies happen, and how to preven tthem if you decide to have sex. But she will also know that sex is not something that one should do out of boredom or sheer curiosity. There are better ways of dealing with both.

1:19 PM  
Blogger The Bibliophile said...

Maureen, thank you for writing such a thoughtful post on sex education.

2:29 PM  
Anonymous Lizzie said...

You are awesome. This post is awesome. Thank you for bringing such incredible awesomeness to my life.

6:52 PM  
Blogger Maggie FTW said...

I never really thought about how privileged I was to go to a school that hammered in sex education, birth control, and STDs. It was completely awkward and embarrassing to sit through in 7th - 12th grade.

In 8th grade, my science teacher was this 60-something old lady who scared everyone to death. One day, she was talking to us about STDs and I remember her saying, "If you're going to have sex, and your partner has red spots on their genitals, you need to just pull up your pants and run!"

I'm glad that I was given the opportunity to learn how to practice safe sex. It was also driven into our heads that abstinence is the only sure way not to get pregnant, but the other options were known.

I do feel badly for Bristol Palin. She's had all her choices and options robbed from her. You can't blame her for it either. You shouldn't blame any pregnant teen who never got to learn about birth control.

Great blog Maureen! Even if it did lack a lot of shiny things. :D

9:50 PM  
Blogger Maggie FTW said...

I never really thought about how privileged I was to go to a school that hammered in sex education, birth control, and STDs. It was completely awkward and embarrassing to sit through in 7th - 12th grade.

In 8th grade, my science teacher was this 60-something old lady who scared everyone to death. One day, she was talking to us about STDs and I remember her saying, "If you're going to have sex, and your partner has red spots on their genitals, you need to just pull up your pants and run!"

I'm glad that I was given the opportunity to learn how to practice safe sex. It was also driven into our heads that abstinence is the only sure way not to get pregnant, but the other options were known.

I do feel badly for Bristol Palin. She's had all her choices and options robbed from her. You can't blame her for it either. You shouldn't blame any pregnant teen who never got to learn about birth control.

Great blog Maureen! Even if it did lack a lot of shiny things. :D

9:52 PM  
OpenID grayglube said...

I am junior in highschool and raised in a single parent household by my father. My upbringing was a lot different than most other kids. I find myself to be pro-choice, and not interested in marriage or children at this point in my life or in the future.

I think in life there are so many girls who want to have a career and a family and work the full-time job in medicine or law or something high stress and high profile and still have 2.5 kids. It doesn't work like that, there are choices in life and most times it's between kids and their life or you and your life.

Sexual education needs to be talked about, sex needs to be discussed minus the giggles and shock and awe. The process of sex is getting stabbed in a wet pocket of odd smelling flesh by an equally odd smelling ugly piece of meat.

It's not magical, it's biological.

There are two things every person thinking about sex needs to think about before they do it and if they can't answer yes to both of these questions they shouldn't be having it...

1.) Are you ready to be naked in front of another person?

2.) Can you get the things you need to protect yourself?

That's it, two simple rules, I'd add that if you're still on your parents healthcare insurance that you really aren't old enough to be having sex yet until you get off your butt and get a job that gives you benefits, but that's a personal opinion.

The fact is that everyone has choices and that it's YOUR life it's your decision what you do with it, whether it be that you think every child has the right to live or the fact that it's your body and nothing you don't want has the right to stay if you don't want it to. The choice whether to have that sticky fumbling in the backseat or to save it for the honeymoon boudoir. It's a choice and not one that people have to know about. If you need someone reach out, if you don't, then do what you know needs to be done.

Teens getting knocked up is a problem, and if you don't like me saying knocked up then oops, but so is not talking about sex.

Being naive isn't a solution, this isn't the naiveté of the 1700's where girls kept it locked up till the wedding bed and then laid back and thought of England, this is a naivety that overpopulates the worlds and leaves children having children destitute and ignorant.

If you want a world without repercussions of sex sterilize babies, if you want a world without sex make it unnecessary, if you want a world where everyone cares make it personal and make the knowledge and choice and answers complete.

If you don't know how to do your own laundry, have a job, have your own way to stay safe, know your body and what those oddly smelling squishy damp parts are, and if you don't know what you would do if you ever got a disease from sex or a baby, you shouldn't really be having it in the first place.

10:22 PM  
Anonymous Sasha08 said...

WOW I loved this entry! I have never been to your blog but I was on Libbas and she recomended it so I read. Your words are amazing and I am glad someone has said what has needed to be said for a very long time now.

10:50 PM  
Blogger Carrie said...

You're brilliant. .absolutely brilliant and amazing and this post is incredible, and I can't stop using vague complimentary adjectives because I've been struck speechless by your. .well, brilliance. Thank you for this.

11:06 PM  
OpenID xMoonCrazedx said...

Yeah! Seriously, you made some awesome points. I feel so terrible for Bristol Palin and for all that media coverage. She has no choice at all. Okay, so she probably didn't make a great choice but honestly, how many teenagers haven't made mistakes. (scratch that, let's make it human beings in general)

My school's sex-ed is terrible. They (in reference to the school administration) think that if you only teach abstinance kids won't get into that. Correction. If you tell kids it's a no-no, make it forrbiden and don't actually get into the facts, I'm sure they are way more likely to get into something like that.
Anyway, loved the post.

Go pro-choice!

11:22 PM  
OpenID melandjor said...

I'm seventeen years old just like Bristol Palin is.

My school "sex education" consisted of a two week session in eigth grade science class where we went over male and female reproductive organs. A note was sent home reassuring parents birth control would not be discussed.

A year later, when I was fifteen, I found myself home with my first boyfriend, who I thought I was in love with. We ended up having sex. He didn't wear a condom, and I didn't even know it untill afterwards. I was 15 and did not even know really what condoms looked like.

Thankfully, I did not get pregnant. But two years later, it scares me to death to realize how stupid and uniformed I was. I truly believe that had sex ed been taught to me I would have made more informed decisions and not lost my virginity without protection at fifteen.

My experience makes me sad, because I lost something really special that at the time I could not understand the full extent of my consequences. But more than that, I'm ANGRY because my situation was 100% AVOIDABLE. If my school taught an adequate sex education class, I would have ATLEAST seen a condom before.

This was indredibly long, but after reading your post, I felt compelled to share my story. Thank you so much for everything you have said. It was all brilliant.

And I feel tremendously for Bristol because regardless the circumstances she is now a kid having to deal with a grown up thing. I so easily could have been in her position.

12:34 AM  
Blogger emm0r said...

Beautiful read, makes so much sense. Its exactly what I try to say when I speak to people about this stuff, I have issues with words though, and even now trying to find the word to describe people who are great with words.. ARTICULATE :D Found it.. a lovely, articulate and well-wrote post.

Thanks!

1:45 AM  
Blogger Zoraida said...

In high school I was the last one of my friends to start having sex. Of the four girls I hung out with three of them used condoms because we had an amazing Sex Ed teacher (the class wasn't even Sex Ed it was a section in the Heath Ed class) who was FRANK and STRAIGHT with us. She showed us slides (after getting a permission slip from each student) of advanced stages of STDs, and told us that she knew we would have sex even if we were told not to. This is because she grew up in NYC 70s when everyone had sex with everyone and were so drugged up they didn't care about the repercussion of it all.

I feel terrible for Bristol Palin, not because everyone is in her face about it a-la-Jamie-Lynn, but because she wouldn't have been able to buy a condom in her teeny-tiny town where someone would tattle off to her mother. Or maybe it was her bf who told her he didn't feel like it, so she said okay. Which is the same thing that happened to my one friend who didn't use condoms, and has had 5 abortions since she was 15.

There are too many things that come into account for teen sex. The parents and the partner. And it sucks that teen girls have been too shamed into buying birth control.

*sigh*

Also, I joined your site YA for Obama. It is amazing.

Best,
Zoraida

1:55 AM  
Blogger Lil said...

So, as a Christian I can't say I agree with everything you said. For example, I will not be having sex till after marriage and I think that's the way it should be...

However, I do agree that abstinence only sex ed is not working. I think it is very easy to look around and tell that. Plus, I believe that abstinence is a part of my moral beliefs and values, but I realize that this is not one everyone believes or agrees with. So why force these ideas on people who don't agree with them?

I think the whole sex ed thing needs to be re-vamped. Birth control needs to be talked about, sex happens. I think that people "adults" need to realize this and start talking about it and teaching it the right way. Girls getting pregnant at 16 or whatever age because they don't understand birth control is not working.

Plus, I don't believe in abortion (yeah, whole 'nother topic) so I think that options such as adoption need to be talked about more. There are women who cannot have children and adoption is always an option. So I think abstinence, adoption, and birth control need to be talked about more. All of them together. Each option, the pros the cons. Whatever. Because this current system...isn't working out so well.

Now I don't know a lot about Bristol. So I'm not going to say she was forced to marry her baby daddy or that it wasn't her choice to keep the baby. I've known a couple of girls who have freely made the choice to keep their babies. People make choices every day, sometimes they are good, sometimes they are bad. I feel sorry for Bristol that she has been thrown into such public light. But why is everyone looking down on her? She made a choice. Why do we have to assume that she was forced into that choice? I say give her the benefit of the doubt.


So ummm... that's my thought. Hope I don't offend anyone. It's just an opinion!

2:31 AM  
Blogger lauren said...

It's so stupid that poor Bristol's pregnancy is now being talked about by the opposing parties in the presidential race. I mean COME ON. YES I realize she is pregnant. And YES I feel really horrible that she is being backed into a corner like this. But honestly, what does she have to do with her mother's politics? I wasn't really sure if I should even comment because I'm so strongly opposed to everyone talking about this. Bristol should be allowed to make her own decisions, whether or not the rest of the world really approves. It's not up to us to decide this girl's fate. And it really REALLY shouldn't be a point of debate in this election.

And thank you, Maureen, for writing this post. My school does have a sex-ed program, but we don't get to it until senior year. We had a sort-of sex-ed class for half a semester in eighth grade, the purpose of which to hammer in the following message: IF YOU HAVE SEX YOU WILL GET AN STD OR GET PREGNANT AND YOUR LIFE WILL BE RUINED FOREVER AND EVER AND EVER.

It gets harder and harder, I guess, for schools to keep shoving the subject of sex back into the shadows with the media promoting it everywhere: in TV shows, in commercials, in movies, and now, in the presidential election.

Hmm. Seems like they'll need to come up with a new strategy. What will it be next? Don't watch television?

Amazing post, Maureen. I agree with you 100%.

2:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My school has the whole, 'sex is bad' class in the mandatory health class, but it doesn't seem to work. There are so many girls in my school that have kids (and notice how I said kids? Plural!) But something that confuses me . . . Last May, my Journalism teacher threw a baby shower for a 16 year old girl in my class. Does this seem wrong to anyone else?

- Scarlett Dalziel

3:03 AM  
Blogger chanel.wa said...

I AM SQUISHY AND I AM PROUD!!!
hehe.

3:33 AM  
Anonymous Travis said...

I'm an 18-year-old guy. I was homeschooled most of my life, but had the (mis)fortune of attending public school in 9th grade. That's when students in Michigan (where I lived at the time) generally took their sex ed. class. The school was a public school, but it was about 95% Catholic, and the curriculum was abstinence-only. I'm not speaking from personal experience, and this won't come as a shock to most of you, but: teens have sex. Yeah. We do. And my sex ed. sucked (seriously, no pun intended). Fortunately, I had (relatively) liberal parents who realized that abstinence-only education was not the best solution.

Now, this is something I need to put out there, 'cause I know there's a lot of people out there who had just as much sex ed. as I did. Guys, unless you're willing to help raise a kid for the next 20 or so years, use a condom. Girls, when a guy wants to have sex with you, give him two options... a condom or his hand. There -- I feel better now.

4:28 AM  
OpenID litescape93 said...

Thank you so much Maureen! I go to a Catholic school, even though I'm not Catholic and they don't talk about anything! Thank you. I just needed to hear someone say that. Squishy parts and all:) You're awesome.

4:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yea, I think you're right. And abstinence? Are you kidding me? My opinion is that preaching abstinence is almost impossible. I know girls whose parents don't give a damn about who she messes around with, so long as she doesn't get preggie, but she doesn't anyway. But it can go the other way; the parents don't care, so what incentive does she have to abstain?

On the other hand, you have parents who say, it really is wrong to have sex before you get married. Don't do it. So you've got the good little girls who listen to their parents as if they were God Himself, or those who rebel hardcore.

My parents were always in the latter category, but the thing is, I never felt like I had to rebel because I always thought their reasons were absolutely rational--you can get diseases, you can get pregnant, you can get seriously emotionally hurt, and then there was the religious matters too but that's irrelevant. And yea, there is birth control to prevent this stuff, but there are NEVER any guarantees! I'm personally not willing to gamble my happiness, my plans, my safety, or my sanity.

No matter what, though, you just can't preach abstinence. You have to give them their options and hope that they're smart enough to pick the right ones. :-/

4:58 AM  
Blogger Chirstina Lee said...

It's crazy how much everyone "cares" about what Bristol is doing. She should be able to make up her own mind without being jumped on the second word gets out. She is not running for any office.

6:21 AM  
Blogger Nichole said...

Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!!! That really needed to be said.

7:13 AM  
OpenID nomorethanwords said...

Hi, I'm Simone.
I'd never heard of you (or your books) before (sorry!!). I was reading Libba Bray's blog and she linked to you, so I decided to see what you had to say.

I think you did a phenomenal job with this blog. I was fortunate enough to have had a sex-ed class that taught about contraception and STDs, before the government made all classes Abstinence only (and they changed STD into STI, which i still think doesn't sound nearly as threatening). I'm not sure if they've changed the A-only policy since, but I'm hoping they have because even as a 9th grader the idea that the kids younger than me weren't learning the things they needed to hear seemed ridiculous.
I'd just like to say that I'm really super happy that you're writing about serious things like this in a way that makes them appealing and accessible to young people.

you win!
-Simone

7:25 AM  
Blogger Nichole said...

Even if you don't have a sex-ed class at your school, why aren't they teaching this in high school biology? I was lucky enough to have an AMAZING teacher for biology. Not only were we taught both male and female reproductive systems, we had to learn about every method of birth control available and how well each one worked.


Whatever happened to GI JOE and the "knowing is half the battle" motto?

7:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have great sympathy for Bristol; she is in such a difficult position, and as you said, she has no freedom and no choices. It is shameful that Republicans are using her as a political prop, then again, I wouldn't really expect any different from them. It is baffling that a mother would put her child in this situation, right in the spotlight. She accepted the VP title knowing full well about her daughter, and likely knowing about the media blitz that would follow. If I were Sarah Palin, to protect my daughter and her welfare and her privacy, I would not have accepted the VP spot.

7:57 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

After reading 164 comments, I had to go back and read the original post! You've obviously touched a very BIG nerve, and it's obviously a topic that needs enlightenment and not to be swept into a dark corner.

Bristol is in a very difficult position, no doubt about that. But she DID have sex, and pregnancy is a natural consequence of unprotected intercourse. I cannot imagine the pressures that poor girl is under. Still, everyone has a choice. No one will hold her at gunpoint if she decided to break up with her boyfriend and put the baby up for adoption.

Personally, I believe that if you get pregnant, you have created a life and except in cases of extreme medical necessity or rape or incest, the responsibility is yours to have the baby and then decide what to do (adoption is always an option and one that should be explored more fully. See, I'm pro-adoption).

I also believe in abstinence until marriage (and as I was 26 when I got married, that was hard to do); however, I believe everyone has their freedom of choice. What has not been discussed here is that every action has a consequence, and teens (both male and female) should be educated on the consequences of those choices.

I think it's sad that much of the discssion centers around the educational system teaching about sex ed. Ideally, the responsibility lies with the parents to teach their children about sex, whether you believe in abstinence or not. We cannot rely on the educational system to replace what should be taught in the homes.

Of course, many parents are not equipped to teach such issues, and the issue is not black and white. The one thing about abstinence is that it's a 100% guarantee against STDs, unwanted pregnancies, and feelings of regret.

Experimenting with the power to create life when you are not in a position to take care of that life just because you are curious or bored is illogical. Squishy parts are fun, but they'll still be squishy when you're old enough to use them wisely.

So, while I may not agree with everything you said, I appreciate you bringing up the topic. It needs to be respectfully and openly discussed.

9:15 AM  
Blogger M said...

Dear Maureen (I hope you don't mind the familiarity;having met once in person makes us practically bosom buddies, right? Right?!):

I am an avid reader of your blog, but had refrained from commenting because I felt I had nothing interesting to add.

This particular post, however, (which, by the way, was excellent). Got me thinking. I honestly don't know how my mum would have reacted if I'd gotten pregnant at seventeen, but it makes me wonder if Mrs. Palin did not stop to ponder for a second how her daughter's pregnancy was an inevitable outcome of the "no sex-ed, abstinence!" that she so strongly advocates for.

The laws on abortion are being revised right now for the first time since the eighties, and the debate is being stirred again. There's so many opinions being voiced out there that sometimes it's hard to know who to listen to.

In all things yours truly et cetera,

M

1:09 PM  
Blogger NightDrive said...

So a couple of years ago I may have disagreed with you, but these past couple of years have been life changing(as long spans of time usually are. = D )

My sister got pregnant at 16 and we had no idea what to do. She decided to keep it(which made me very happy and very scared at the same time, being pro-choice but definitely not liking abortions.) She had a miscarriage in the end and it was a terrible time for her, and for us. But I just wanted to give you some background on my beliefs.

Like I said, Im pro-choice, because I do not thinking making abortions illegal will make them stop. I think doing that will make girls get it done in back alleys or do it to themselves, instead of getting it done in a clean and healthy clinic. I...really dont want girls to get abortions, Id hope if they couldnt support the baby theyd give it up for adoption, but I realize that not every girl can, or wants, to do that. So Im pro choice.

And I feel terrible for Bristol. To go through that media blitz and constant barrage of attention because you made a bad choice...I would never want to show my face again. I would want to retreat into the deepest darkest cave I could find and never come out again. Poor girl. Poor poor girl. = (

Hmmmm...well I think Im done, except to say that I was pretty sad because I started reading your blogs a few weeks ago and thought the book-giving-out-ness was over. Im pretty excited that theres still one chance left to win. = D

1:57 PM  
Anonymous Aamalie said...

There's one thing in particular in your post that bugs me: your assumption that the reason Bristol decided to keep her baby was based on the fact her mother is running for VP. However, she's what? Five months pregnant? Her mom was nominated much more recently than that.

To suggest that Bristol was forced into her decisions - either keeping her baby or choosing to marry the father - when she has suggested neither is to severely undermine the strength and bravery of all young teenage woman who are willing to give up the easy road for their unborn children.

Are these ideal circumstances for the birth of a child or for a marriage? Absolutely not. But consider this - just because she's only 17 does not mean she doesn't have the presence of mind to decide her convictions for herself. Will the road she's on be challenging? Definitely. But let's support her, because that's what she - and other young mothers in similar situations - need more than our pity.

9:03 PM  
OpenID vixenjovi said...

I have to say, this was a good post, very educational!! we don't have sex-ed in our school and I know that many girls are having sex, I think it woul dbe very important to have sex-ed...as for Bristol Palin, I wouldn't want to be her! Her life is suddenly thrown into the public, poor her! The press should leave her alone!! She is a young girl going through a tough time!! oh well! it's life I guess, the poor girl!

12:32 AM  
Anonymous HypotheticalDystopia said...

That post moved me so much.

I now appreciate that my school makes it mandatory to take health class. In health class we addressed normal health issues. However, we spent multiple days on every single form of contraception out there. It was a plus that the class atmosphere wasn't awkward and everyone was really open about everything.

Also, I can't get onto YAforObama.... *sad face*

1:11 AM  
OpenID lilebud said...

This post was a good reminder and it helped me see things in a new light. And I on behalf of many people out there would like to say thank you.

3:34 AM  
Anonymous Vanessa said...

I find this so strange. I live in IRELAND for gods sake. Holy catholic (literally: 94% of the country is catholic. 94%!!)Ireland. I went to a catholic convent school with nuns and all because its rare for their to be any other type of school in Ireland.

And you know what? Every single year since we were in first year and TWELVE we got sex ed, birth control instruction and all.

By 17 we had a full week of it built in with 'self esteem' and 'personal development' classes every week.

This thing that America has about birth control etc is so much more than just an issue of religion. If an ELDERLY IRISH NUN can tell me about birth control even though it is against what she personally believes in anyone can. Even Alaskin moms. Thats nice that Palin can afford to support her daughter. Doesn't mean everyone could. The whole obsession with women and birth control smacks of a struggle for control.

3:36 AM  
Blogger Lindsay said...

I am pleased to say that my school informs us well on birth control, and that makes me very happy. That could be because I go to a public school, but we have a whole entire unit where we play with condoms, talk about the different methods of birth control, etc. I agree with a lot of your statements, especially about sex not being a taboo, dirty, and scandalous subject; because it's not. I feel like it's the adults who are afraid that their children, students, etc. are the ones that will be making these decisions either now, or in the near future. It may be because religion frightens me to death, but I personally think Catholic schools, or any other religious school for that matter, aren't worth attending to be denied important information like this. And if the school isn't going to tell them this, then the parents who sent them to these schools, for the most part, aren't going to tell their children this either.

That LocoRoco trailer made my problem disappear for a while, thank you for that. I feel less stressed now :].

4:58 AM  
Anonymous Eleanor Never been fancied said...

Um.

Give advice more often plz.

Like maybe about boys. And why they do not know I exist.

=)

5:57 AM  
Blogger Mel Francis said...

dude. Best. Blog. Ever.

Thanks for that.

7:02 AM  
Blogger A.S. King said...

This is an amazing post. It blew me away.

7:16 AM  
Blogger Reader Rabbit said...

Wow.

I completely agree with all of that. Luckily my school teaches everything and while they do maintain the fact that abstinence is the best method NOT to get pregnant they never every said anything about sex being wrong etc and they covered every single birth control, emotional reprecussions of sex, basically everything under the sun involving sex ed.

They even explained random names of sex acts which I've forgotten but some were pretty explicit.

(I won't explain what they are in case someone could get offended)

In any case, thank goodness for the sex ed we get and so far I haven't heard of anyone I know from my old schools/my current school getting pregnant. xD


Poor Bristol. The media and elections are horrible

7:21 AM  
Anonymous kimiya said...

While I, personally, would like to believe that I would never have a termination, I would like to point out to those who don't seem to realize this that adoption is ONLY a reliable option in the US if you are white (and healthy). If you are not, the situation becomes far more iffy. Far more: "being thrown into the foster-care system and bounced around homes of varying quality is 'always' an option." Just throwing that out there.

Interestingly, my Christian (Seventh-day Adventist) elementary school, back in the 80s, DID manage to teach us about our bodies and birth control. There was a heavy, HEAVY dose of "Don't you dare!" in there, I won't lie. :-) But we had the lessons in science and health class. I did not have hands-on condom and banana experience or anything, but I made it to high-school astonishingly myth-free, considering. (I think I might have been particularly lucky, though, in having parents that did not censor my reading.)

I'm interested to know, in all these varying cases, just WHEN these sex-ed lessons (or absence of sex-ed lessons) were taking place -- I'm starting to suspect that the country is moving in a distinctly more conservative direction, which I find scary.

7:25 AM  
Anonymous kimiya said...

(Oh, by the way--your post here is amazing and moving and brought me close to tears, and I am forwarding it to nearly everyone I know.)

7:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i know, im commenting like three years later, but i jut saw this blog because of the link on Libba Bray's site. Anyway, i heard somewhere that my high school has the one of the highest pregnancy rate in the country or the state, not sure which, niether would be very shocking to be truthful. The unwanted pregnant girls from other schools usaually transfer to our school. My school may not be the best, actually it definately isn't, but i think in one thing my school has the right of it. my school has a day care center right there on campus which allows girls who have children (not encourages them to have children) bring their babies to school while they attend. This is really good because it does not leave them entirely without options. they can still graduate.

9:41 AM  
OpenID beauxdanseur282 said...

My comment, way way up toward the top, praises my all girls catholic high school's method of teaching of comprehensive sex ed.

But then I was reading all of the many (many, many) comments and realized WAIT a second...my catholic, co-ed grade school sex ed was AWFUL.

And then I got very mad.

They taught this whole "pure love" unit in 8th grade. It was really disturbing, honestly. It had all these quotes and statistics that just seemed a bit off somehow. Like taken out of context completely. And then at the end of the unit, there was this contract thingy that we had the OPTION to sign. Or so they said. It basically just said that we would keep ourselves "pure" until marriage. However, the whole "it's your choice to sign" was very clearly layered with "IF YOU DON'T SIGN THEN YOU ARE THE SPAWN OF SATAN! SATAN!" kinda vibe. The whole thing freaked me out in general. I was like, okay, first of all I'm not signing some stupid contract that you're forcing me to sign. Second, how the heck am I supposed to know what I want to do with my life at 14 years old? Third, why am I even making this decision? Fourth, contracts are scary! Fifth, WHERE'S MY LAWYER? It was frightening. I think I ended up folding the contract into an eensy-weensy corner of paper and hiding it in my locker. I couldn't bring myself to throw it away. It's MIND-CONTROL.

Rant over. Sorry. 3 years of pent- up anger unleashed just now.

9:52 AM  
Blogger Hollishillis said...

I already left a comment about bristol palin but I just wanted to get way off topic and just say I finished reading your first novel: the key to the golden firebird. It was just amazing. I want to write something one day that makes someone feel the way i do now after reading it. you are by far my faovrite author, maureen. you just put so much detail and love into eah situation, each character, down to the minor ones. it makes a person care. makes a person care about what happens to these people. It makes you care about life. I've experienced this each time I've put down one of your novels and I'm proud to say I've finally finished all of them. THank you so much for writing. I hope one day I can write such amazing things as you do.
-Holly

12:29 PM  
Blogger Gracewanderer said...

"Bristol Palin has no choices."

What about the choice she made to have sex in the first place? Is it really so hard to exercise a bit of self control?

Of course by saying that I've cast myself in the role of "religious conservative nutjob" which is not the case at all. I just think that our side (because I agree with you! really!) tends to throw the baby out with the bath water, and that people really, really should be taught to exercise self control. Not just by yelling that if you do X we'll cast you out, but by actually teaching methods and practices for developing better self control. That is, to some extent, what makes us human after all.

4:01 PM  
Blogger Consequent Bloggers said...

You made some really excellent points here, Maureen. I had no idea about Bristol Palin, and I feel so sorry for her.

Your advice is wonderful and valuable.

--Adam.

6:07 PM  
Anonymous Hayley said...

Maureen, what is your opinion of the whole Sarah Palin book-banning ordeal. When she first came into office, she asked the public librarian if she would be okay with censoring books there. I seriously do not want someone who thinks that's alright in any office.

6:10 PM  
Blogger LibraryHermit said...

Maureen! Guess what?! My school just did the musical Zombie Prom!

How cool is that? Zombies!

6:55 PM  
Blogger MM said...

I teach in an elementary school. About 1/3 of our students live in government subsidized housing. Most of those children have teenage moms. Their lives aren't filled with the support and love of family. Instead they live in crowded apartments with men who aren't their fathers, and they are stuck in daycare from 7 in the morning to 7 at night. They read several years below grade level, and spend lots of time with the principal.

Even though their mothers maybe twenty-one by the time they start school, they act like they are seventeen. Its as if their maturation process stopped the day they gave birth. And here's the irony. The young mothers may act immature and irresponsible, but most of them look like hell. When you can't put food on the table, you can't buy cute clothes or make-up.

If you're a teen reading this, please don't have sex. If you want to have sex get some birth control and use it properly.

11:02 PM  
OpenID dramaqueenjojo said...

Thanks! I'm actually from the UK and at my school the girls basically get taken into a room when we're about 16 (it just happened to me) and told to use condoms because of STDs and then turned away. That's it, nothing whatsoever about teen pregnancy. Sort of a "have sex and you may die!" approach so your blog helped. Thanks again!

2:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with the stance on sex ed, but I don't really think that abstinence shouldn't be taught and supported. There is white cars and blue cars, some teens want to have sex but many (like me) don't. I think those who are open to sex need to be educated, but I don't think those who aren't need to feel pressured into it.

Our society today basically tells us that sex before marriage is the only way, whether our schools do or not. Look at the movies and the billions of current songs played over the radio. My peers do to. Which is why we SHOULD have good, informative sex ed. But nobody should have to feel like they are expected to have sex either, which is why absitnence needs to be discussed also.

3:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let's face it, pregnancy is too overrated nowadays. Our society treats pregnancy as if someone just received their PhD in chemical engineering. Needless to say, neither Bristol Palin nor her mother Sarah impresses me much at all. Two microbes for the price of one.

7:12 AM  
Blogger Readingjunky said...

Please rant away. I believe you speak for many. It is amazing to me that the McCain camp believes they will sweep all the Hilary fans over to their side. I can't believe that they think women are that impressionable.

Also, so much for your support of abstinence, Sarah Palin. You are about to be a grandma! Hmmmmm....

7:16 AM  
Anonymous Laura B said...

I wish I had read this rant a few days ago because my social teacher tried to tell me that Bristol Palin's shotgun wedding was how things should be done and that was how it was in the good ol' days. He says he's had four or five cousins that that has happened to, like that's a good argument for his cause. I could have totally pwned him with this rant but I did win it with a good remark about birth control. Sometimes, I feel like men don't quite get it because they never have to worry about getting pregnant. At least, I know my social teacher doesn't. Boys, please prove me wrong.

Aside from praising your amazing rant, I also have a problem to tell you about. I looked in my local library for Suite Scarlett about a month after its release. I figured my library would have it since they have been good about getting new books (Girl at Sea was there the same week). I looked on the shelves: nothing. I exhausted every resource. Nothing. No library in THREE ENTIRE COUNTIES has a copy of Suite Scarlett. None! I'm deprived of the awesome! I can't join the talk of how great Spencer is! I'm dying over here! I assume your picking the winner of Suite Scarlett is random but take pity on me, please. I'm ridiculously poor student right now (I'm saving every cent for a school trip to China) and my library has failed me! I never thought the day could come.

7:40 AM  
Anonymous shaylaluna said...

mj, you should enjoy this. im sure spencer, ms. amberson, and scarlett would too.

http://www.angelfire.com/art2/antwerplettuce/hamlet.html

8:20 AM  
Blogger Sarahbear9789 said...

Hey Maureen,
I agree with you for the most part. I am in a home study program, instead of High school, because I get sick a lot and miss a lot of school. Anyways, about 10 of my fellow students are pregnant. Our school also teaches about birth control and all the STIs and STDs. Sadly, they try to force abstience on everyone. Our school district also has a daycare for students and they have the child psychology take care of them.
I am also Pro-choice and I tend to be conservative on every other topic. I mean we have the technology and it is not 1317 as you said.
Peace out, Sarah

9:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for this, Maureen. I think that sex (especially teenage sex) in our society has veered off track and become a political/religious issue, rather than what it truly is: a health issue. We teach our children nutrition to keep their bodies healthy and exercise to keep their bodies strong, so why don't we teach sex education as another way to take care of their bodies?

It always come down to a matter of choices, and while the abstinence-only camp touts that it is teaching the "right" choices, in reality they are teaching the lack of any choice at all. There will always been people who decide, for religious or other reasons, not to have sex before marriage. But why should we punish all the others who decide to do otherwise? Who gave someone the right to decide that those people should be deprived of the information they need to make healthy, adult choices?

I'm happy to see all the young girls reading this post and learning from it. Judging from all the responses, you've already enlightened an entire senior class-worth of students who would otherwise not have received such a great discussion.

10:40 AM  
Anonymous moodygirl said...

Thank you for the courage and wisdom for posting this.

The hypocrisy of certain people (cough: republicans) makes me want to scream and stamp my foot like a 3 year old throwing a tantrum.

Do we live in a society that provides universal healthcare to each and every citizen?

Do we live in a society that recognizes a changing family dynamic, that moms and dads work outside the house, and provide substantial and paid maternity leave?

Do we live in a society where every parent can find affordable, reliable, and nurturing childcare while they must go to work?

Do we live in a society that puts the child first, where education is paramount?


My friends, the answer to each of these questions is a resounding and depressing: NO!

Therefore, how dare ANYONE suggest that abstinence is the best policy, that our right to exercise choice is somehow immoral and corrupt when no one, NO ONE will help you once you become a parent? You will rely on yourself 99% of the time. You can rely on your family, friends, and just maybe the baby's father about 1% of the time.

Archaic views on sexual education are inappropriate in our society. An abstinence-only policy is medieval, misogynistic, unrealistic, unreliable, and terribly ignorant.

For every girl reading this post and all the comments listed, please, PLEASE I BEG OF YOU - listen!

It is your body! You have the right to protect yourself with knowledge! DO NOT allow anyone to take that away from you.

9:25 PM  
OpenID lizabethlemmon said...

AMEN Sister. My high school wasn't that intersting but we did not have a Sex Ed class. In our Health class we briefly went over the STD's but that was it. No advice no options just this is what will happen. I feel bad for Bristol that she has to go through this in front of the enitre country.

2:13 AM  
Blogger Ashley F. said...

I was homeschooled as well (as someone else pointed out, for academic reasons, not religious reasons) with a few stints in public school during the elementary grade levels, then during my junior year of highschool I started going to the local comm. college. My family had always been pretty open about sex--my younger brother and I got to learn about the basic, itty gritty details when I was 4 and he was 3 and my mom was expecting our youngest brother. I gleefully shared these details with my best friend of the time, whose mom prettymuch freaked out and demanded I get grounded. (She also demanded I be punished when I told this friend there was no Santa Claus and it was all a really fun game of make believe--this lady had a direct ratio of tell the truth and get punished going on.)

In retrospect, however, we were about as abstinence-only as you can get. I was told my entire life I wouldn't be allowed to date until I was 18 (my brothers, suspiciously, both started dating pretty hardcore when they were barely 15). My mom would make a million inappropriate (but funny) sex jokes pertaining to TV shows, movies, celebrities, her and my dad...but we never once had a conversation about birth control or condoms. My dad had the surgery after baby #3, so birth control wasn't really an issue for my parents. Their stance was a simple "don't have sex until you get married. We didn't" and that was all.

It wasn't for a really, really long time that I figured out that just because my parents hadn't done it with each other (supposedly) before they got married, didn't mean that at least one of my parents hadn't had a lot of sex in their highschool years. (Coughmomcough) And maybe that was sort of biasing her against giving me real information.

And so it turned out that when I moved out at 19 and got my own place, and my parents moved a few hours away, and suddenly I was dating for the first time without being hindered by randomly over-protective parents, that I speed-dated four guys and then finally ended up with my first real boyfriend. And after dating for a good six months and falling good and hard for him, we both had our first real sexual experience.

And there was no birth control, because I didn't know how to get the pill (I had no health insurance at this point and didn't know about clinics) and every time we'd started to foray down the condom aisle at the grocery store, we'd been overwhelmed with choices and wandered away again.

Luckily, that first experience was pretty short lived as we both realized "Oh shit, what are we doing!? Stop!" I learned about Planned Parenthood the next day from a friend who drove me to the clinic, and I got on birth control. I learned how to buy condoms. And we successfully managed to stay not-pregnant.

We're lucky, though. Teaching ourselves the ins and outs of birth control matters on the fly was stressful. I ended up on a Pill that made me really depressed (almost to the point of suicidal), and it took me over a year to figure out it was the Pill causing it, not the fact that I was sexually active--and there are, in fact, OTHER types of pills you can take that sometimes work a lot better.

It was rough, but I made it okay. I just wished my mom had helped me figure all this stuff out a few years earlier, so I was more comfortable with my body, so I had a birth control pill that didn't make me feel like ass, so I felt confident being around dudes and didn't wait until I was 19 to be in my first real relationship. (Luckily, he turned out to be pretty okay, we ended up liking each other enough to, you know, get married. Years later. After I graduated from college and we both had good jobs and we decided it was a good time.)

It's so safe to say, though, that "abstinence-only" works against human biology and leads to huge mistakes, confused young people, broken hearts and extremely difficult decisions that can haunt you for a lifetime.

I don't get it.

5:11 AM  
Anonymous Nuwon Wearspants said...

Ms. Johnson, that was an amazing post. Just reading it brings tears to my eyes. I have always admired you for your comedic ability and intelligence, and I add to that list your eloquence and amazing wonderful influence on young women like me. Thank you so much for this post. Really, it made my day.

5:41 AM  
Blogger barbara said...

OMG!!! I was watching Buck and he was playing Waterloo. I was like ABBA!!!!!!!! And my friend was like who? And I was like ABBA? And she was like huh? And I was like Dancing Queen? And she was like S-club 7. *Shakes head*

6:37 AM  
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