RESPECT co-author, Courtney Macavinta, blogs for girls and women about how to build your self-respect and spread respect for all! At The Respect Institute she teaches people of all ages how to integrate The Respect Basics into their lives, work and advocacy. More about About Courtney
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- Tao of the Defiant Woman by CJ Golden
- Girls Inc. Presents: You're Amazing!: A No-Pressure Guide to Being Your Best Self by Claire Mysko
- All Made Up: A Girl's Guide to Seeing Through Celebrity Hype and Celebrating Real Beauty by Audrey D. Brashich
- Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters: The Frightening New Normalcy of Hating Your Body by Courtney E. Martin
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- Perfectionism: What's Bad About Being Too Good? by Miriam, Ph.D. Elliott, et al.
- Real Girl Real World: Tools for Finding Your True Self by Heather M. Gray, et al.
Teen Pregnancy Pact?
The media has been buzzing about a "let's get pregnant!" pact apparently made by at least 8 out of the (she says matter-of-factly) 17 pregnant students at Gloucester High School in Massachusetts, according to Time magazine. Update: A week after the story broke, there is much dispute about whether the pact was real or not. Even so, 17 girls pregnant at one school?! Does it matter if there was a pact?
I'll make a confession that only my inner circle of girlfriends from high school has known until now. Eighteen years ago, I made my own sex "pact" when I was 15-years-old. I made the pact the summer before my junior year of high school. It wasn't a pact to get pregnant. It wasn't a pact to stay a virgin. But it was a pact to lose my virginity alongside my BFF on a camping weekend.
We went camping with two 18-year-old men. We even made them dinner. We wore our cute Contempo Casual ensembles and then we took leave to our separate tents. At least her partner was her long-time BF. Mine was a guy who'd showed me minimal attention (being rude and dismissive), taken me to a dance (a last-minute invite), and chased after my friends in front of me (and everyone else in school). And the "pact" experience sucked so bad for me that I swear I remember thinking—at the moment it was happening—I'll never be the same after this.
And I wasn't. Not because my "precious" virginity was gone. But because I had hit the no-self-respect-aholic's equivalent of ROCK bottom.
I knew at that moment that I was treating myself like trash and I was getting the same in return. This is easy to do when you basically believe you are trash. I spent almost three more years making it worse for myself.
I was caught in a disrespect spiral that hadn't started with that pact. Just like we all know this Gloucester H.S. baby boom process started long before those girls got knocked up or Juno hit the big screen with her quick whit but slow-thinking when it came to birth control. New mom Jamie Lynn Spears is not to blame either (timing wise these girls aren't far behind her on the way to the delivery room).
Like I'm sure is true with the Gloucester 17, a sexual choice triggered by having next to no self-respect took me time to cultivate (even with my environment speeding things along). And even from the thin analysis were getting of their environment, it sounds like I have a lot in common with the girls of Gloucester. As do girls everywhere I go. I hear a story like this a week (or dozens when I'm the road speaking)—of a girl wanting to get pregnant or having unprotected sex or abusing drugs and alcohol or dating guys who could give a rat's ass. Or just hating herself and not really knowing why.
And this all comes from a place in a girl where she hasn't connected to the truth: that she is valuable no matter what kind of feedback the world is giving her. So she (in this case a gaggle of girls) settle for a senseless pact (whether explicit or not) in which the fine print (that life is about to get even harder) is written in invisible ink.
When you don't have great expectations for your 15-year-old self, doesn't a Target registry, baby shower with your BFFs and a little bundle of love start to look good right about now?
My pact didn't lead to me be becoming a young mother but it did lead to a long, drawn out rock bottom that became a cornerstone of my ultimate turn-around. That camping trip is one of the main reasons I co-wrote RESPECT. And it drives my mission to support girls and women in building their own self-respect and creating change so that all people get the goods. (Even if like me you have to build it back all the way from the bottom of a nasty tent in the woods where you just surrendered your last shred of dignity). Or even if you have to build back from a pact that led to 17 babies being born into the class of 2008-2009.
So this is a "hot" story. Everyone will be asking WHY? And a good number will cast these girls like thoughtless, malicious morons (insert newscaster voice: One girl even had sex with a 24-year-old homeless man to conceive.). And update as of 6/26: Now it appears the pact might have not even been real. No matter: Lets look at the impact of the girls' situation on all of us (does it really matter which ones made the pact or if it existed at all?). And let's look harder at ourselves. Recent data shows that the teen birth rate is on the rise for the first time in 15 years. Gloucester H.S. you're not alone. Along with comprehensive sex education, self-respect is a commodity that needs to be nurtured now in every one of our communities, homes and hearts. And in every girl. And in those 17 fathers who will no doubt NOT be the main focus of the national pregnancy pact media frenzy. And in those 17 babies who will be here soon.
Here's what it comes down to as put so well by one girl quoted in the Time article that first reported the pact:
Ireland, 18, gave birth her freshman year and says some of her now pregnant schoolmates regularly approached her in the hall, remarking how lucky she was to have a baby. "They're so excited to finally have someone to love them unconditionally."
And Ireland’s observation also reveals the true solution:
What if every girl knew how to make that "someone" herself?
This is why I get out of bed every morning. To make a different kind of pact—a Respect Pact—the new default setting for all girls and women. And for me.