[Dash of SAS] Who’s screwing who?

Ana P. Santos
Today, the benefits of technology include ease of connectivity and a wide network of potential hook-ups

Ana P. SantosThere are about 800,000 who have had f*ck buddies or friends with benefits, according to the recently released Young Adult Fertility Survey (YAFS4). Four in every 100 Filipino youth have had sex with someone they met online or through text messaging. For a vast majority of these sexual encounters, neither contraception nor protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) were used. (Read: Young tech savvy Filipinos more sexually active than you think)

The the premiere study on Filipino youth behaviors conducted by the University of the Philippines Population Institute (UPPPI) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) also revealed there are about 1.4 million girls between the ages 15 to19 who are now mothers. (Read complete findings of the survey here.)

The statistics certainly made the headlines, but was anybody really surprised at the level and frequency of sex young people are having?

Sex and youth have always been on the same side of the bed, one chasing after the other in a frenzied often confused dance of surrender and suppression.

During the time of our grandmothers, the remedy to this dilemma was to run away in the middle of the night and elope. When retold to their children and us, their grandchildren, it is a story of audacity and romance.

In the generation that followed, the empire cut wedding dress was the default fashion trend as brides with baby bumps walked (or waddled) down the aisle. Eloping was replaced by mandatory matrimony – it pretty much took care of the predicament of “getting pregnant out of wedlock.”

Today’s technology has speeded up the meeting, courtship, and relationship process. The ubiquity of mobile phones, our cultural penchant for texting, and the preoccupation with social media networks have blurred the lines between relationship stages. Today, the benefits of technology include ease of connectivity and a wide network of potential hook-ups. (READ: Sex at the drop of a tweet )

The YAFS4 numbers were simply telling us what we already knew: that more and more young people are having sex. In my family alone, I am a five-time grand-aunt, thanks to nieces and nephews, the youngest of whom became a parent at 14.

Just about the only thing that hasn’t changed is the shock, the disdain of some adults who have clacked their tongues and tsk’d tsk’d their disapproval. They’re doing the exact same thing they’ve been doing for ages when it comes to youth and sex – condemn and forbid – but are expecting different results. This form of inaction is probably easier than admitting that young people are having more sex than they are. 

In denial

Today’s youth have every opportunity to exchange in sex but there remains no corresponding measures to guide them to make informed decisions, give them access to services, and adequately educate them about positive sexuality and behavior.

As a result, many young people become a statistic as they live out the long-term ramification of our inaction, complacency, and denial.  As teen parents, they are more likely to discontinue school and contribute to the drop-out rate.

As an underdeveloped human resource, their insufficient education and skills lead to low-paying jobs and they become an unemployed or migration statistic. Youth is abruptly cut short and so much is lost: time, hope, and optimism – replaced with its adult counterparts of responsibility and resignation.

Changing the message

In the process of writing this article, and as always when I am writing about this subject matter, my mind goes back to a public service announcement about teen pregnancy that I was exposed to growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area. 

WARNING. Just a reminder that one night with your girlfriend could last a lifetime. Poster by Children's Defense Fund (CDF)

For me at least, it was so effective that I remember it to this day. The ad mixed wit and reality check, leaving out the preachy scare tactics that I probably would have resisted as a rebellious and invincible tween.

It was a simple ad, but it successfully acknowledged two things: (1) that teens can and will try to get frisky and (2) they need to be reminded of the possible consequences of the decisions they make. It’s like a grown up version of choose your own adventure or trying to find out what’s behind door number 3.

What would be so wrong with sending out messages about healthy relationships to young people in a language that they understand and is relevant to them? In parallel, we could communicate that abstinence is a choice and that contraception is a responsibility. Then, as they say “share” this information with them, bring it where they are:  on social networks, on mobile SMS, in chat rooms or on an app.

We could use the same technology that gives them access and opportunity to casual sex and risky sexual behavior to give them information under the protection of privacy and anonymity.

What is so wrong about giving our young people proper information and entrusting them with the power to decide for themselves?

What if we start doing something different and acknowledge that we have a duty and an opportunity to equip our youth with proper information on sex and sexuality? Until we can do that, the young will just continue doing what they’ve been doing – screwing around – but in the end, it’s us as a nation who will be screwed. – Rappler.com


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