Fay Weldon has written a pretty outrageous piece for the Daily Mail in which she suggests that all girls between the ages of 12 and 17 should be forcibly sterilised. Yep, you read that right. Enforced sterilisation.
I have to say, I think that the promotion of long-term contraception to teenage girls, whilst continuing to stress the importance of using condoms, is a bloody good idea. Condoms sometimes break. And for some girls, long-term contraceptive injections or implants can drastically improve PMS symptoms. Make it available – yes. Actively recommend it in suitable cases – fine. But enforce it – are you frickin’ crazy? Surely this would be a massive infringement of human rights?
Weldon thinks that it’s the “loose morals” of today’s teenage girls that are causing them to breed like rabbits:
I do not believe it will encourage “promiscuity” because girls will feel they have nothing to fear in sleeping around. In truth, they seem to be doing that already. I’m afraid we are now in a time when sex is mere recreational pleasure to thousands of young women.
Oh, heaven forbid that sex should be pleasurable and fun for young women! She has a stab at sex education too:
Sex education hasn’t helped, and may indeed have harmed. Freud’s view of the psychosexual development of the child has been ignored. His opinion was that you interfere with the “latency” phase of ages nine to 12 at your peril, for fear of stopping further development.
In Freud’s theory, the latency phase is when a child unconsciously denies the facts of life until he or she is ready to face them. If unpalatable facts are forced down the child’s throat it’s traumatising, and progression to sexual maturity is halted.
In other words, if you start teaching the birds and the bees too early, all that the nine, ten or 11-year-olds will do is want to experiment with what they have been taught before they have the emotional capability to deal with the fallout.
Freud’s theories have always been massively controversial, and it’s inappropriate to imply that they should be heeded like this. And anyway, although it might seem a young age for children to need sex education, we live in a society in which children are constantly exposed to sexual images and often unrealistic depictions of adult sexuality. No parent, no matter how protective, can prevent their children from absorbing this, and so sex education is wholly necessary. In addition to exposure to raunch culture, children are physically maturing faster than they did a generation ago. There are many 9, 10 and 11-year-olds physically capable of reproducing. It may be an uncomfortable fact, but it is a fact, so swallow it. A girl in my class got pregnant at 12. Sex education needs to happen before children start thinking it’s a good idea to bump uglies. But Weldon seems to think that a good old-fashioned dose of fear and ignorance wouldn’t go amiss:
The trouble is that pregnancy no longer holds the fear for teenagers it once did. The social stigma has gone.
The fear of pregnancy used to stop girls having sex. To be pregnant and unmarried was a major life disaster (as it is still in some of our ethnic communities.)
You were disgraced, soiled goods: the child was removed, no one would marry you.
Let’s all stop and have a wistful sigh as we lament the loss of the good old days when silly girls knew their place…
It is worrying that pregnancy doesn’t scare many teenage girls. Getting pregnant at that age ought to be an absolutely bloody terrifying prospect. It means either facing the responsibility of having a child when you’re barely out of childhood yourself, or having an abortion, which is never a pleasant experience. But surely enforced sterilisation isn’t the way forward. It’s all a bit Brave New World for my liking.