Girls’ First Sexual Encounters Are More Likely to Be Unprotected. How About We Ask Why?

Now, let’s be clear: I’m sure that some of the young women who didn’t use protection during their first sexual encounters were consenting. Absolutely positive, in fact. And yes, their health matters, too, as does the health of young men and youth of other genders who aren’t engaging in safer sex practices. Further, with the information I have in front of me, I cannot prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the higher likelihood of young women to not use protection during their first sexual encounters is directly related to so many young women’s first sexual encounters being non-consensual. I’m aware that correlation and causation are not the same thing.

But I know how to make an educated guess. I know that other studies show a really strong correlation between sexual violence and teen pregnancy. I know that reproductive coercion is common, and that it is sexual violence. I know that while there’s even so much as a strong question in our minds — as there right now really, really should be — that unprotected first sexual encounters and non-consensual first sexual encounters are significantly overlapping, it’s unconscionable to go around portraying women’s unprotected first encounters as irresponsible and talking about how “risky” they’re being. And I know that as much as sex education is needed, “sex education” as we currently know it in the United States is not a solution to this problem, but is rather just being used as a cop-out.