Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Pregnant is the New Black: Should Reality Shows be Glorifying Unplanned Pregnancies?

It’s no secret that babies scare the crap out of me. I literally stopped drinking the coffee at my church when 10% of our congregation became pregnant within a couple months of each other. This is why shows like I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant terrify me; I was under the impression that pregnancy was pretty obvious, as in you are or you aren’t. The idea of a pregnant gray area is disconcerting to say the least.

What concerns me even more is the message these shows may be presenting to young female audiences. Take for example the popular MTV Show 16 and Pregnant. I recently heard on a local radio show that after one of the show’s featured couples, Catelynn and Tyler, gave their daughter up for adoption Catelynn received massive amounts of fan-mail from female viewers, one of which thanked her for being “an incredible role model.” An extensive article was also written in People Magazine profiling the couple as national heroes.

Does that seem like a bit of a stretch to anyone else?

Unplanned pregnancy can happen to any woman including one that is using birth control, so I am not suggesting that every pregnant teenager is pregnant because they acted in a sexually irresponsible manner. I also think that adoption is a difficult and extremely personal decision and I in no way judge them in favor of or against their decision to give their child up for adoption. Certainly their decision has given much-needed publicity to the issue of adoption and that is a wonderful thing.

However, saying that Catelynn is “an incredible role model” for getting pregnant at 16 seems somewhat inappropriate. I would like to see a 16 year old role model that is making smart, informed, and safe sexual decisions celebrated on MTV. Unfortunately that girl is probably being called an uptight prude by her peers and therefore would like to remain anonymous.

Even if Catelynn was practicing safe sex I still take issue with her being coined a role model; if you believe you are old enough to have sex you should also be old enough to support a child. If you are not old enough to support a child, keep it in your pants until you are. I am not advocating abstinence only education; I am advocating the idea that making sexual decisions requires maturity. Be informed but then also be an ADULT.

But let’s be honest…it is more than likely that this young couple was not practicing safe sex which is often the case with teen couples either because they are ill-informed or just plain lazy. If that is the case, what sort of message are we presenting to a young female viewing audience?

That if you are a teen, have unprotected sex and end up pregnant then you too could end up on an MTV reality show?

The show’s purpose is to discourage teen pregnancy but what they are really doing is demonstrating the sexual irresponsibility of teenage couples in a way that turns them into celebrities. My heart goes out to Catelynn and the other young women on this show, and I believe they deserve all the support we can give them but I don’t think they deserve glowing admiration and fame for their less than smart decision making.

This also applies to the show I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant. If these women go 9 months without knowing they are pregnant they are obviously a bit misinformed about pregnancy and birth control. In some cases the circumstances are otherwise but the majority seem to be young women who are oblivious to the possibility that their sexual behavior could result in pregnancy until they are actually giving birth.

We should be supporting and helping these women with any resources we have available....but should we be glorifying their decisions as the stuff that role models are made of?

Also, should we stay away from church coffee for a while?

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