In the South, many adults talk about how teen pregnancy is bad and how young ladies “should just keep their legs closed”. They talk about the absence of a father in the home. They sit around and state the obviousness of this complicated situation and offer no realistic solutions to address the actual causes of teen pregnancy. There is always so much focus put on young women when teen pregnancy is discussed; about how they should be in more control of their mind and bodies. When many people think of teen pregnancy, the image that usually pops in their mind is a young women with a baby. When many people talk about solutions to prevent teen pregnancy, the concentration is on young women. It’s almost like it’s been forgotten that there is a male factor associated with the conception of a child. Young men are just as responsible for a teen pregnancy; and with proper awareness, education, and resources can play an important part in reducing the high rates we see in Mississippi.
There is a culture that has been adopted in many of our communities in Mississippi that teaches young men, specifically young men of color, to have sex as a means of acceptance. It is almost mandatory in order to fit in, like you’re not a “real man” until you’ve had sex. This is how sex is introduced to us among our peers, on the internet, in movies, and on television. And instead of sex being introduced as something natural between two consenting people, it is portrayed as something rushed and meaningless; something that we need to do to be respected. With the way sex is presented to young men and the lack of proper education and resources we’re given, many young men see preventing pregnancy as more of the responsibility of women. This isn’t right.
Male youth today need education on contraceptives, how to have conversations with our partners about contraceptives, and how to take control of our bodies, our sexuality, and our lives. How can a person expect a sexually active teen to be responsible without the proper information, tools, and services available? It should a top priority in our communities and for our local, state, and federal governments to address because this is not just a health issue, it’s also an economic one. But too often, we are not given the information, tools, and resources we need.
I personally know of how hard it is to obtain such information and contraceptives in the state of Mississippi. I haven’t had sex education in school, and getting condoms is a hassle. I see why some young men don’t go get them. I had a close friend of mine have a pregnancy scare recently. He and his girlfriend didn’t use any protection. Had they became pregnant, they could have been financially and emotionally crippled for years to come. It was both of their responsibility to be protected, but they, like me, don’t have easy access to information and contraceptives, and they acted irresponsibly because of it. The reality of the issue of teen pregnancy is that most teen males, if given the opportunity, would act responsibly. There are a couple of solutions to this problem, and education is one of them.
Everyone should teach our young men in order for all of us to have a brighter and more productive future free of unplanned pregnancy. So I challenge you today to take a young man under your wing and give him the information, tools, and services he needs. Teach him to live for something more than the “acceptance” that we’re taught all too often.