I picked up the world's worst free newspaper 'Metro' this morning to read their lead article, a story so shocking that I was literally speechless for 30 seconds. I showed to K___ who was similarly gobsmacked. Here's the BBC's take on it.
Stop! I'd like to ask you to back and read at least the first paragraph of the BBC article before you read on, because I think you need to be in the same headspace we were in.
According to anecdotal evidence, Public Health minister Caroline Flint says that pregnant teenagers smoke in order to have smaller babies in the belief that labour is less painful with smaller babies.
When I read such things, it flies in the face of every liberal sensibility I have. It turns on the part of my brain that believes I am a character in a bad B-Movie. It makes me want to smack people. It genuinely shocks me to discover people can be quite this fucking stupid. It makes me come over all Daily Mail - and there are few things in this life I dislike more than 'Daily Mail Islanders'.
It is just anecdotal evidence. Perhaps there are no large numbers of poeple behaving in this way. Perhaps it's just a few. A minister relating a few-headline grabbing stories may not represent a major issue in the real world.
But maybe it does...
The UK already has a deplorable record for teenage pregnancies, the worst in Europe. Many of those on the right wing claim it's as a result of moral degradation and how abstinence is the only way, and hey, let's regress to values of an England that never existed and never could be except through rose-tinted glasses. To me though, it just reinforces the need for decent sex education in this country at an early age; that means both parental and school-led. The evidence from Scandinavian countries shows that young children are capable of taking on board messages about sexual health at an early age. Not only this, but they generally start having sex at a later age and do so far more responsibly with dramatically lower rates of teenage pregnancies and STD infections. You can put abstinence up against that if you wish, and on some levels it clearly comes out better still, but what's better; people who grow up to have responsible, informed and yes, damn it, good sex or people who often grow up repressed and fetishise ideas about sex and sexuality - people who get married, have sex for the first time and have conversations like;
'Hmmm, that was really unpleasant...'
'Yes. I didn't enjoy that at all. Shouldn't it last longer?'
'Who knows? No one ever spoke to me about it. Let's not do it again.'
'Thank god, I agree!'
I don't really want to be thinking about the sexuality of a daughter who isn't even born yet, but even less would K___ and I want to bring up a child who grew up repressed and unhappy because we were unable or unwilling to talk about these things. Still less would we want to be responsible for bringing up a child who even entertained the thought that it was sensible to start smoking to try and
ensure she had a small baby...