16&P: Don’t rely on your partner when it comes to contraception

[Note: The episode that aired never mentioned that Valerie herself was taking birth control pills — I didn’t figure that out until my BFF said Valerie was taking birth control pills, according to an after-show interview with MTV that was only posted online.

The post below has been changed to reflect Valerie’s use of the birth control pill.]

Last night’s 16 and Pregnant highlighted the importance of personal responsibility when it comes to contraception, as both sexual partners need to make sure they have protected themselves and aren’t relying on their partner to do so for them.

Fifteen-year-old Valerie had unprotected (no condom) sex with her boyfriend, Matt, who is older and “more experienced” than she is. She got pregnant, he decided he didn’t want to have any communication with her unless it was about the baby, she contemplated just cutting him out of the picture, in the end he moved 200 miles away to look for a full-time job and seems to want to help support Valerie and Nevaeh.

Lots and lots of these girls have had sex education, their friends ask “What were you thinking?” and they simply shrug their shoulders and say they weren’t. Valerie’s friend Sienna asked why she didn’t use condoms and Valerie just said that she was stupid and listened to Matt because he was older and more “experienced.”

I immediately wondered if she had even thought about his “experience” and the fact that he could be passing some sexually transmitted infection like herpes or HIV thanks to all his sexual experience, but there’s another important problem this action highlights: These girls obviously know what a condom is, they know its purpose, but in Valerie’s case she simply disregarded what a teacher said in favor of what her boyfriend did or said.

Protection is something that you cannot assume your partner is going to take care of — Valerie did use birth control, but the message that the editors at MTV gave was that she did not. Either way, this editing technique does bring to light the important of personal responsibility when having sex.

More than stories of women, I’ve heard stories of men who are shocked when their female sexual partners get pregnant, all along assuming that she was taking some sort of birth control. This is the excuse Seth Rogan’s character gives in the movie Knocked Up when trying to make excuses for not wearing a condom.

You are responsible for yourself, and if you are in no way protecting yourself from STIs or an unplanned pregnancy, then you are equally responsible for the consequences. Just because a guy says he is clean, says he will pull out, says whatever he wants to avoid wearing a condom, doesn’t mean that you can’t insist on a condom and refuse to have sex without one.

From this episode, I hope that women (teenage and adult alike) learn that personal responsibility is key — it’s your body, and you can better control what happens to it when you take precautions and look out for yourself, rather than relying on someone else to do so.

I hope women also learn that scientific facts trump experience or inexperience — unprotected sex leads to higher risks for pregnancy, as nothing is stopping than sperm from fertilizing that egg. It doesn’t matter if the guy is an “expert,” if you’re a novice, or if he’s just older than you are — stick with the facts because talk is cheap, and babies are expensive.

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