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The Youth of America

I blame the religious right for this.
According to a new study by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, many young American men exhibit attitudes toward contraception that could best be described as “magical.” The study [PDF] surveyed American singles ages 18–29 about their perceptions about and use of contraception. Twenty-eight percent of young men think that wearing two condoms at a time is more effective than just one. Twenty-five percent think that women can prevent pregnancy by douching after sex. Eighteen percent believe that they can reduce the chance of pregnancy by doing it standing up.

For the most part, men lagged behind women on the pregnancy prevention front. And when the study dipped into the realm of “female” forms of birth control, the gender divide intensified. In the study, 29 percent of men and 32 percent of women reported that they know “little or nothing about condoms.” When asked to rate their knowledge of birth control pills, 78 percent of men reported to be clueless, compared to 45 percent of women.

With a majority of young men generally unknowledgeable about hormonal birth control—and nearly half of young women equally stumped—men sometimes don’t figure out the basics until they think they may have impregnated someone, or their penis feels something weird. “I dated a girl with a NuvaRing, while I didn’t know she had one,” says a 22-year-old Arlington resident who didn’t discover how the couple was preventing baby-making until his penis was already well inside her vagina. “I found out the physical way, when I felt the alien object. I immediately recoiled in fear, asking what was wrong. It was frightening. Then she told me her birth control was a ring in her vagina, which I had never heard of.” He demanded the evidence. “She retrieved it—which is a sight to see—and showed it to me, put it back, and we continued,” he says. “I feel like girls should tell people.”
The stories in the article are kind of horrific, and they make me wonder why we've reverted in education about the very basics of reproduction. There were men who didn't know that the NuvaRing was hormonal, not a barrier method form of birth control. There were men who didn't know that hormonal birth control can totally eliminate menstrual cycles. There were men who didn't know that the women they were having sex with were using birth control until they felt something inside. At the very least, people should know the difference between the barrier method and hormonal methods of contraception. I guess, part of it is that women have 11 types of contraception available to them. Men have two. And apparently the men go a) go to sleep during the part about contraception beyond condom and vascectomy in their sex-education classes, or b) get taught abstinence only, assume pulling out sort of works, and move on.

I don't think I've ever had sex without some sort of birth control, even the drunken hookups that characterized my early sex-life. My parents sat me down for a talk at some point in my early adolescence, and they explained the various methods to me. I knew fairly early on that my mom had been on the pill until she started feeling tinging in her legs somewhere in the 70s. Then she moved on to a diaphragm and spermacidal jelly, though she may have tried out an IUD until they were taken off the market by the FDA after the Dalcon Shield disaster. I later had a presentation on birth control in my biology class in school. My dad gave me a condom (I still have it somewhere for sentimental purposes, I never found an opportunity to use it) when I took off for Europe when I was 18 years old. I still have stashes of condoms all over the house from those days when I wasn't sleeping with anyone regularly, though it's been years since I've needed to unwrap one.

The two instances where birth control failed (one was a condom break, the other a condom slip), I immediately got a morning after pill. I've been on the pill for five years, and I know how it works. I suspect I'll move on to something like an IUD once I'm done having kid. I know how that works.

I'll put the rest of the really interesting things about this study behind a cut. These were the major findings of this particular study:
Major Findings in More Detail
Sex and Contraception
Most unmarried young adults have had sex.
  • 86% have ever had sex and 78% have had sex in the past year. Most have used contraception and think it is important.
  • Overall, 82% say they have used some method of contraception. Among them, 92% say they have used condoms and 79% of women report that they have used the pill.
  • 85% of men and 86% of women say most of their friends think birth control is important.
  • Just 13% view contraception as morally wrong.

Intentions…
Most unmarried young adults feel strongly that pregnancy should be planned.
  • 94% of men and 86% of women believe pregnancy should be planned.
  • This includes 74% of men and 64% of women who strongly agree that pregnancy should be planned.

Avoiding pregnancy is very important to them, too—at least right now.
  • Regardless of gender, age, or racial/ethnic group, and regardless of whether they are currently in a cohabiting relationship (that is, living together) or not, the overwhelming majority do not want to get pregnant or get someone pregnant at this time in their lives.
  • 86% of men and 88% of women say it is important—74% of men and 80% of women describe it as very important—to avoid pregnancy in their lives right now.

…Don’t Match Behavior
Many unmarried young adults are not using contraception carefully or at all.
Among those unmarried young adults who are currently in a sexual relationship and who are not trying to get pregnant or cause a pregnancy:
  • 19% use no contraception at all and 24% use contraception inconsistently
    (contraceptive use is unknown among 7% of unmarried young adults).
  • In other words, only about 50% are well protected against
    unplanned pregnancy.

In fact, many say it is likely that they will have unprotected sex in the near future.
  • 17% of women and 19% of men surveyed freely admit it is either extremely or quite likely that they will have unprotected sex in the next three months. An additional 12% of women and 23% of men say it is slightly likely they will have unprotected sex in the near future. Put another way, 29% of women and 42% of men say it is at least slightly likely they will have unprotected sex in the next three months.
  • Even among those who say it is very important to avoid pregnancy right now, 34% say it is likely they will have unprotected sex in the near future (12% say it is extremely likely, 5% quite likely, 17% slightly likely).

Not surprisingly, many say they have been pregnant or gotten their partner pregnant unintentionally.
  • 31% of the women surveyed say they have had an unplanned pregnancy when they were not intending to.
  • 69% of women say many of their friends have had an unplanned pregnancy.

In short, the overwhelming majority of unmarried young adults have had sex and have used contraception, do not want to get pregnant or get their partner pregnant at present, and strongly believe that pregnancy should be planned. Yet many are not taking adequate measures to prevent pregnancy; unplanned pregnancy is common in their lives and among their friends; and a small but important portion believes it is likely they will have unprotected sex soon.

Why the Gap Between Intent and Behavior?
Many unmarried young adults know little or nothing about contraception,even the most commonly-used methods.
  • 30% say they know little or nothing about condoms.
  • 63% say they know little or nothing about birth control pills.
  • 56% say they have not heard of the birth control implant.

Myths and misinformation about pregnancy and contraceptionare prevalent.
  • Among those who have relied on birth control pills, nearly half (44%) incorrectly
    believe that you should take a break from the pill every few years.
  • Among those reporting they had relied on the rhythm method or natural family planning, 40% do not know when a typical woman’s most fertile time of the month is (midway between periods).
  • Among those who have used condoms, 37% incorrectly believe it is okay to use petroleum jelly as a lubricant for latex condoms.

Many unmarried young women, in particular, fear the side effects of contraception and these fears reduce their likelihood of using the more effective methods.
Despite current clinical evidence suggesting otherwise:
  • 27% of unmarried young women believe that it is extremely or quite likely that using birth control pills or other hormonal methods of contraception for a long period of time will lead to a serious health problem like cancer.
  • Half of unmarried young women believe that cancer or other serious health risks due to pill use are at least somewhat likely and report that this concern reduces their likelihood of using birth control pills or other hormonal methods.
  • 30% say it is extremely or quite likely that using an IUD will cause an infection.
  • 36% say it is likely that the pill will cause them to gain weight and 40% say it will likely cause severe mood swings and that these concerns reduce the likelihood of their using the pill.

Many unmarried young adults, both men and women, simply don’t believe that contraception is very effective.
  • For example, 42% of men and 40% of women believe that the chance of getting pregnant within a year while using the birth control pill is 50% or greater (despite research suggesting that the pill is typically 92% effective).

    And many unmarried young adults believe they are infertile.

    Although available data suggest that about 8.4% of women 15–29 have impaired fecundity (measured as an inability to conceive or carry a baby to term):
    • 59% of women and 47% of men say it is at least slightly likely they are infertile (19% of women and 14% of men describe it as quite or extremely likely).
    • Three-quarters of women (76%) who express fertility concerns are not basing their concern about infertility on actual information from a doctor.

    Despite the myths, inflated fears, gaps in knowledge and more, nearly all unmarried young adults say they have the knowledge they need to avoid an unplanned pregnancy.
    • 90% believe (and 66% strongly believe) they have all the knowledge they need to avoid an unplanned pregnancy.

    Moreover, many are fatalistic about fertility and pregnancy…
    • 38% of men and 44% of women believe “it doesn’t matter whether you use birth control or not; when it is your time to get pregnant it will happen.”
    • Hispanics (49%) and non-Hispanic blacks (50%) are more likely than non-Hispanic whites (34%) to believe that birth control doesn’t matter much.

    …and many are suspicious of the whole birth control enterprise.
    • 31% overall (40% of non-Hispanic blacks and Hispanics) agree with the statement, “the government and public health institutions use poor and minority people as guinea pigs to try out new birth control methods.”
    • 32% overall (44% of non-Hispanic blacks and 46% of Hispanics) agree with the statement, “the government is trying to limit blacks and other minority populations by encouraging the use of birth control.”

    Many unmarried young adults want to be parents but are ambivalent about the timing and circumstances under which to start a family.
    • 53% of men and 52% of women say they would like to be parents now “if things in their life were different.”
    • Even among those who say it is important to them to avoid pregnancy right now, 20% of women and 43% of men say they would be at least a little pleased if they found out today that they or their partner were pregnant. (emphasis mine)


That last bulletpoint "Even among those who say it is important to them to avoid pregnancy right now, 20% of women and 43% of men say they would be at least a little pleased if they found out today that they or their partner were pregnant." has been getting a lot of play around the feminist blogosphere in the last few days. I know that if I were to announce a pregnancy to Graham tomorrow, even though "it's important to us to avoid pregnancy right now" he'd be over the moon excited about it. I'd probably, after the shock wore off, be a little psyched too, though I'd be pissed that after being so careful, I managed to fuck up timing. Graham and I don't fall into the "young people" category, though. And when I was in my teens, 20s, and early 30s, I would have been totally freaked out and probably wouldn't have chosen to carry a baby to term. My partners? I don't know.

Comments

( 4 comments — Say something )
djmermaid
Mar. 5th, 2010 01:14 am (UTC)
I hear you.

however, I do not wonder *why* we have reverted. I KNOW why. it's those reactionary republican *)&%$&*)^#)s who would sell out the lives of others to push their "values" on everyone else (all the while they are fucking in airport bathrooms and cheating on their wives, etc etc etc you've heard it all before). their efforts to remove real sex education and replace it with "abstinence training" (yeah how well does that work for YOU Mr Cheater?) are having a real effect, and here it is.
cz_unit
Mar. 5th, 2010 01:34 am (UTC)
Well, people that get pregnant at an early age, drop out of school, never go to college, feel massive "guilt" at the simplest things are ripe pickings for the Republican party (as well as most religions).

So it really does make sense when you think about it.

C
datawhorevoyeur
Mar. 5th, 2010 03:56 am (UTC)
“I feel like girls should tell people.”

Or. You know. You could pay attention to the commercials for these products that are ALL OVER THE TELEVISION. Asshat.
stexgirl2000
Mar. 5th, 2010 04:25 am (UTC)
This is totally the Right Wing Conservative Republican's fault -- both the Religious Right and the Neocon's who support them for sake of votes.

Makes my blood pressure go sky high, I get so freaking mad. Oy.
( 4 comments — Say something )