Just Because a Teen ISN’T Having Sex, Doesn’t Mean They Don’t WANT TO BE Having Sex

The American Life League (ALL) has seized upon the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) latest teen sex stats as proof that kids don’t need sex ed after all. The data show that 58 percent of girls and 57 percent of boys between the ages of 15 and 19 report that they had never had intercourse. According to the ALL, these stats somehow prove that sex ed is a waste of time.

Amanda Marcotte of RH Reality Check argues that ALL is disingenuously lumping all non-sexually active teens together: A 15-year-old virgin is not necessarily a committed proponent of abstinence. The CDC data suggest that many teens of these erstwhile virgins are doing their best to shed their virginity. Marcotte notes than only about 12 percent of teens are interested abstinence messages, and presumably, an even smaller percentage of those kids will live up to their ideals. What the study really shows is that nearly half of teenagers are already having sex, and many others are doing their best to get in on the action. It’s hard to imagine a more perfect audience for comprehensive sex ed.

Protecting sex workers

Scientists, policy-makers, and activists gathered in Vienna last week for the International AIDS Conference. The conference is supposed to be a global meeting of the minds, but some groups feel left out of the discussion. Sex workers are on the global front lines of the battle against HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. Yet, Titania Kumeh reports in Mother Jones that President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), a key U.S. program to fund AIDS prevention in the developing world, continues to shut out sex worker activist groups unless they repudiate their clients’ livelihood. As you might expect, denouncing sex work is not an effective way of winning the trust of sex workers.

Kumeh profiles Peninah Mwangi, an AIDS activist and sex worker. She works with several NGOs that have been turned down for PEPFAR funding because they refuse to reject sex work. Mwangi and 100 other sex workers marched outside the International AIDS Conference in Vienna last week to draw attention to PEPFAR’s discriminatory policy against sex workers.

Preventing HIV

In other HIV prevention news, Lori of Feministing follows up on a blockbuster new study out of South Africa which found that an inexpensive vaginal gel can reduce a woman’s risk of HIV infection by 39% and her risk of contracting herpes by 51%. This is huge news because the gel is a female-controlled protection method. Women apply it before and after sex. They don’t have to negotiate protection with their partners, as they do with condoms.

Putting a pretty face on femicide 

High fashion and good taste don’t always go hand-in-hand. Last week, a blogger Jessica Wakeman noticed that MAC cosmetics had teamed up with the house of Rodarte to produce a line of cosmetics inspired by the U.S.-Mexico border. Some of the nail polishes had names like “Factory”, “Juarez”, and “Ghost Town.” One of the collection’s designers gushed that her clothes were inspired by female factory workers trudging to work at four o’clock in the morning, looking like they’d gotten dressed in the dark. The show featured models made up to look like extras from “Pride and Prejudice with Zombies.”

Somehow, despite their fascination with female death, the designers didn’t seem to realize that Juarez has become synonymous with violence against women, many of whom are poor factory workers picked off on their way to work.

Hundreds of women have been kidnapped and killed in Juarez since the early nineties. The situation is so dire that human rights activists brought the Mexican government before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in 2009 to answer for its inaction in the face of mass slaughter. “This crime had to be named explicitly to make it clear that these women were killed because they were women,” said Mexican researcher Julia Monarrez.

In Working In These Times, I explain some of the social and economic factors that made the dark streets of Juarez ideal hunting grounds for femicidal maniacs.

MAC falls flat

Nicole Guidotti-Hernández of the Ms. Blog brings a unique perspective to the MAC/Rodarte controversy, having worked for a decade as a professional makeup artist before getting her PhD:

Knowing what I know about the industry and who works in it–and knowing that MAC, in particular, markets to women of color a makeup line that caters to their skin tones with multiple pigments–I am appalled by the lack of social awareness that spawned the Rodarte/MAC collaboration.

MAC and Rodarte eventually apologized, agreed to retract the controversial names and made vague promises to donate a percentage of the proceeds to people in need in Juarez. Guidotti-Hernandez is unmoved by the gesture, “It’s hip to personify death in cosmetic colors rather than engage a bleak and violent reality.”

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint.

photo credit: thanks to Jo Jakeman via flickr
by Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger


Lilithe M.
Past Member 6 years ago

"Juarez" nail polish?!? Somebody in marketing had their head really far... I mean, how could you not KNOW?!?

Kathy Javens
Kathy Javens6 years ago

whatever works to protect our young people. We,as parents cannot watch them 24/7. And chances are,if they want to have sex that badly,they will find a way. Parents need to be open and honest with their children. And when they talk to you,LISTEN!!! Good communication with our children is one of the best tools a parent can have. Use it!!!

beverly g.
beverly g.6 years ago

thks for this. use condoms everyone .

Irina Ilieva
Irina Petrova6 years ago


Lionel Mann
Lionel Mann6 years ago

You are terribly pessimistic. The most powerful force on earth is love, true love; not the cheap, shoddy, sensual, sexual rubbish purveyed by Hollywood, but a deep, abiding, all-pervading, overriding concern for another's physical, mental, intellectual, social and moral welfare, coupled with a mutual respect and admiration. Such definition is not mine, but that of a very influential and highly-regarded individual with whom I was privileged to work some years ago. I forget who first said, "Amor omnia vincit," (Love conquers all) but it is very true. I experienced it from grandparents and teachers, have seen it at work, successfully implemented it towards my pupils and friends. Tell me, though, is it possible to respect and admire one with whom you have rutted like a pair of hounds at a street corner?
Despite many setbacks the human race has come a short distance from the jungle in about five million years. With average luck there are at least three billion more ahead. In that time we might just become really civilised, although, as you indicate, it will be an uphill struggle. Have faith. Remember all the great men and women who have contributed to our society, arts and sciences. There are plenty more to come. We are already far superior to animals.

Alessandra Ybarra

sex ed that is open and discusses all the topics concerning life, sex and puberty help people feel more comfortable about the whole thing.

Amber S.
Amber S6 years ago

Back to Lionel....

Amber S.
Amber S6 years ago

First off, you’re fooling yourself if you think we EVER made it out of the jungle. All the paved roads and buildings in this world still don’t remove us from our surroundings, and from our place in the Animal Kingdom. Yes, we’re definitely a unique species in that we’re aspiring to be more ‘civilized’ but look around you…. Does this world look civil to you? Brother against brother, ALL OVER THIS WORLD!!! No, make no mistake about it, we’re violent, predatory, territorial animals. And if you ask me, this world would be a MUCH better place if everyone were at home, practicing safe, loving sex, instead of out there killing each other, and fighting over whose god is best, and stealing and raping and committing every other kind of sin against each other. I agree, that we are evolving, and TRYING to better ourselves as a species and a society. But I disagree with you that the key to this evolution is discipline. I believe it is compassion. And this is a thing that is lacking the world over, not just in the USA.

claudia jura
claudia j6 years ago

personally I have always been totally open about all issue with my daughter, coming from a pagan culture, bans the sin issue, and removes the fear of the whole sex issue... I wouldn't have it any other way, I'm proud my 16 yr is still a virgin by her own choice!

Lionel Mann
Lionel Mann6 years ago

I have many American friends, some of them here as refugees from their homeland. I agree with quite a great deal of what you say, but having taught quite a number of the children of U.S. personnel and met their parents I have seen, as also apparently have you, some basic weakness in your "culture", but then no nation is perfect.
However I would take issue with you upon your "animal" assertion. It is now something like five million years since we emerged from the jungle and all that time has been spent in trying to cast our savage past behind us, to become more civilised. Promiscuous sex is a throwback, a denial of progress, a relapse into bestiality. Order and discipline, self-control are attributes of civilisation. Learning flourishes only in an ordered and disciplined environment, which is why your education system is in such disarray. You claim to set an example for the rest of the world, but you are yet mainly in a very primitive condition. Your permissiveness is but one of the factors leading to the opposition that you encounter worldwide. What a pity, for you could be such a power for good.