A response: underage sex and teenage pregnancy
I do not wish to pepper this article with any claims that could be seen to be taking a stance of arrogant moral authoritarianism, and claims of what is right and wrong. As the previous article quite rightly states, any such judgements should be left out. Issues of morality aside, I feel a need to raise certain concerns in relation to the article published two weeks ago discussing the case of Alfie Patten.
My main qualm with the argument presented is that it spends most of its time addressing the issue in relation to youth culture on a larger scale, therefore those involved in underage sex, almost completely ignoring the fates of children conceived through their actions. Despite acknowledging that parents of such children are still dependent on their own guardians for financial support, the article condones such actions as part of a cultural shift.
A recent study in the US (where teenage pregnancy is less common) shows that babies born to teenage mothers are at risk from long-term problems in many major areas of life, including school failure, poverty and physical or mental illness. Are people really overreacting or are the quality of many lives at stake here? The article claims the shock factor lies not in the lack of sexual education these individuals may or may not have received, but rather in people’s reaction to the story itself. We both agree that these actions cannot be condemned as wrong, yet surely they can be acted out, and approached in a manner which results in fewer burdened lives. This of course makes sexual education a central factor.
Labelling a child ‘a consequence’ may seem harsh, yet not considering these children have been born into circumstances which will be detrimental to their upbringing is far worse.
The article in question does conclude by saying that once we acknowledge the problem and accept responsibility with tolerance, then our gaze can shift to the results, rather than staying focused on the actions. Yet surely the results require us to question such acceptance. The article suggests the general population purposely live in a state of sheltered denial, a state on which appalled responses to situations like that of Alfie Patten are based.
‘Babies born to teenage mothers are at risk from long term problems in many major areas of life’
However, I am inclined to disagree with such a notion on the grounds that the event is more shocking purely because we have acknowledged its becoming a more regular occurrence. Regardless of right or wrong this regularity is distressing. If we are to subscribe to the possibility that children born under such circumstances are more likely to fall prey to the variables listed above, then surely this distress is born out of a legitimate concern for the quality of fellow human’s lives.
Our capability to accept these occurrences as gradually becoming normal is the focal point of the article. However, I do not see the logic in change having to be met head on with tolerance in every instance. Frankly I find it terrifying to think what the world would be like if everyone adopted this attitude. One does not have to agree with cultural shifts to the point where the bi-products are ignored.
Again, the article does suggest the results can be addressed once our attitudes change, yet surely this delay is unacceptable.
The question then becomes: does every life not matter? To conclude, the issue therefore needs to be separated into two distinct aspects: that of sex at a young age becoming more normal, and that of pregnancy at a young age doing the same.
Let us not believe that these two elements need go hand in hand, as it is far more logical to embrace the former whilst still having concerns with the latter. Tolerance of both, in this case I am afraid to say, will only lead to escalation in the consistency of tragic situations.
Let us not claim that once our perspective shifts we can address the results, let us rather acknowledge that every life matters, those of children such as Alfie Patten, the lives of the parents themselves and those on which they are still reliant. The aspect of ever changing youth culture needing to be embraced is the fact that sexual activity is happening for most at an early age, and that sexual education can have a positive influence.
Rather than accept and tolerate the results of such actions, can we not conclude that people instead require education on such matters from an earlier age?