May is all about Teen Pregnancy Prevention. In Mississippi, where teen pregnancy rates are some of the highest in the nation, it’s important to continue prevention efforts all year round. In this post, we’re getting real about some factors keeping teen pregnancy rates high–especially those that are a cultural part of our state.
Abstinence Only & Abstinence Plus
First on the list is abstinence-focused sex education. In Mississippi, school districts can choose between implementing abstinence-only or abstinence-plus sex ed. What’s the difference?
Abstinence-plus classes can include information on proper condom use, pregnancy, birth control methods, and STI prevention (but abstinence is still considered most effective). They’re newer on the scene, joining the circuit in 2011, and are a bit more inclusive than abstinence-only curricula (which only talk about why you shouldn’t have sex).
But, since schools are not required to ensure their sex ed classes are medically accurate and culturally appropriate, some students are exposed to stigmatizing and shame-based lessons–with instructors going as far as comparing sexually active students to dirty pieces of chocolate.
And just like that, purity culture has joined the chat.
Peeling Back the Layers of Purity Culture
Purity culture stems from a set of beliefs that emphasize abstinence before marriage. The fundamental idea is that by staying a virgin, or staying “pure”, young people can avoid the perceived harms of sex with a non-committed person and will therefore be more devoted partners when they’re ready for marriage.
When paired with abstinence-only sex education, purity culture can reinforce the belief that teens don’t need to learn more about contraception and safe sex. If abstinence is 100% why consider the other options? As a result teens may be more likely to rely on their peers or misinformation on the internet if they do decide to be sexually active. This can contribute to increased STI rates, which Mississippi ranks highest in, and of course pregnancy rates among teens.
Also, purity culture can also create a kind of silence around doing the deed, wherein teens find it difficult to ask questions or talk to trusted adults. Without these conversations, teens may not know how to establish boundaries, communicate consent, or practice safe sex, which can put them at higher risk for assault or coercion. It can also make teens feel isolated in their experience or impose an unhealthy outlook on sexual relationships which can have lifelong repercussions.
Knowing is empowering. Share this post with someone you know who may have unanswered questions about sex or BC. If you have abstinence-focused sex ed and want to learn more, check out the other resources on our website. If you’ve experienced purity culture, try breaking the silence by sharing your experiences with others or creating space for genuine conversations around sex.
We want you to know that it’s ok to share your experiences–never feel shamed into silence, and ALWAYS make sure to communicate consent! We’ll be here to share the facts. Check out the links below for resources you can use to learn more.
Where to Learn More
- Preventing Teen Pregnancy in Mississippi: Facts & Resources
- Why Sex Ed For All Is Essential
- #FNFRealTalkTeam: Making a Protection Plan