The Big Debate – Promiscuous

That Sarah Palin’s teenage daughter is pregnant got to me. Not because I think its relevant to the election – I dont. But it is in some ways relevant to my life as all the media scrutiny around it will only add to the ‘glamour’ of teenage pregnancy. And of late there has been too much of that – the glamour around something I dont consider glamorous at all.

First there was the Oscar nominated Juno. I never quite understood why it got nominated, but it certainly did a great job displaying a teenage pregnancy in an easy breezy way. Conceive, tell parents, have baby with minimal trouble, find a good couple, give it up for adoption and go on your way. Then the pregnancies of other teenage stars such as Britney Spears’ sister Jamie Lynn. Then there was the news of a group of school kids – 17 in a class – becoming pregnant at once.

Teenage pregnancies bother me more because they are an obvious proof of a far deep rooted problem – teenage promiscuity. Well, why teenage, apparently preteens are also involved in acts I would find shocking.

When I think of bringing up my kids here in the US this whole issue nags me and makes me quite uncomfortable. Because I am from India I dont know what parameters I am looking for, what I need to teach my kids, and if and how and how much I need to monitor their friends. I dont know what should raise my hackles, and what is innocent.

Instinctively, I feel its about teaching so called Indian culture and values. But (and this shows the extent of my inexperience) you go by Jhumpa Lahiri’s characters – the second generation of immigrants are proudly and extensively promiscuous, maybe more so because of the pressures and contrasting values of their parents.

And then what is Indian culture and values? My American friends will tell me that India is where girls are married off in teenage, many by 18. And in the slums near my house, it was not unusual to here of girls becoming pregnant early before or after marriage. I also have no clue about what is going on in India now in terms of similar problems.

What I do know is that in my little microcosm of society, my little slice of Indian life, control was mandatory. In the face of teenage libido you knew the rules. Here I dont know if my kids will be as sure.

Should we then just give up and accept all this as ‘normal’? The in crowd, the parties, the dallying is fine as long as they dont go ‘all the way’ and use protection. All I shoot for is that the kids know how to protect themselves as they indulge their fantasies. And they know how to do it safely.

I probably will have to do the above anyway, just to be sure. But is there a way beyond this?

One of my friends, whose teenage girls I admire advocates this : Keep them so busy that they have no time for anything else. So their days are filled with soccer, studies, music and so on. That seems reasonable but how easy is it to do? I hope my kids will enjoy days peppered with activities.

Another says the mom should be home in middle school and high school (well, she says mom, maybe it can be either mom or dad). To receive them, talk to them, attend their activities, ferry them around.

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  1. Anonymous

    Good one. I face the same issues. I really dont know what will work – maybe just patience and understanding. But I do agree that safety needs to be taught.

  2. Tana

    I think it is ironic that in India teenage pregnancies are LEGITIMATIZED by families through under-age marriages. So then, it’s not really a matter of Indian values. It’s a matter of health, and one of responsibility, because a teenage parent cannot give a good life to a newborn. So I think this is better communicated as a discussion of health and responsibility rather than morals around sexuality. I feel that a teenager should never be made to feel ashamed of her natural sexual urges … the more taboo there is the more she will hide and rebel. “Keeping her busy” is also a superficial diversion. My sense is that first acknowledging the naturalness and wonderfulness of sexuality and then educating the child about the concomitant responsibilities is the best way. I am not a parent, however, so take that as either my advantage or my disadvantage! 🙂

  3. Khushi

    Thank you for your comments, Tana and Anonymous. I agree about not making anyone ashamed about sexuality. Education seems the way to go – but the question is how to do it the best way. Well, I have some years to learn I hope.

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