Teenage pregnancies are down in the US, but that hasn’t stopped the City of New York from beginning a new campaign to shame and stigmatize teen age moms and their kids, instead of, you know, focusing on preventing teenage pregnancy.
Because shame and stigma have been scientifically proven to keep pants zipped and legs clamped together.*
And then I was thinking, didn’t we (meaning us Americans) try this before? And didn’t I read all about it in Mrs. Kolczak’s class junior year? What was that book called?
Oh, yeah, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter.
I was flipping through the posters that are being plastered all over NYC subways and elsewhere as part of the campaign (you can see them all here) and I was thinking about my kids who are sweet and nice and all things good, and I was thinking about
your other people’s kids who are mean and nasty and cruel and I decided in no time kids will be taunting one another on the playground with the information they picked up in the subway.
“You’re going to drop out of high school!”
“Your Dad’s going to leave your Mom!”
“You only have a 2% chance of breaking the cycle of poverty!”
Or something like that.
Looking at those posters, I can’t help but wonder about their efficacy. Would they have kept me from having sex as a teenager? I wrote about my desperate attempt to lose my virginity in this post, Blog Posts I Didn’t Write, and back then I was absolutely OCD about not getting pregnant. I had condoms and spermicidal foam and spermicidal suppositories (which I didn’t even know existed until I saw them in the “family planning” aisle at CVS) all packed in my purse. There was no way any sperm was leaving alive that night. So I doubt subway posters supplied by the City of New York’s Department of Social Services could have made me want to get any less pregnant than I already did.
Fast forward many years later, I’m a Mom, I sometimes lie awake imagining every terrible thing that could happen to my family (My husband could die. No, I could die and my husband could marry some horrible woman who would be an evil stepmother to my children. Wait, no, we could all die when we’re swallowed by a giant sinkhole that opens up underneath the house) and the absolute worst thing I can imagine is this:
One of my daughters gets pregnant by a greasy haired skateboard kid (the lazy slackers I see hanging out in front of the Starbucks in town with nothing better to do) when she’s fourteen.
OK, maybe it’s not the worst (that sinkhole thing is pretty bad) but it’s up there.
*It has not been proven that shame and stigma keeps anyone from having sex, and Reverend Dimmesdale was a pussy and Hester Prynne should have kicked Roger Chillingworth in the crotch.
The image in this post can be found at NYC HRA Department of Social Services website.