Member Benefits–Get Your Questions Answered!

Ever wondered exactly what membership in TeenNow California means? You’re not alone! Please find some FAQs below and contact us if you have other questions.

What is TeenNow California? TeenNow California is a state-wide non-profit organization that provides training, technical assistance, advocacy, and professional development opportunities to those working with adolescents. We offer webinars, regional trainings, annual conferences, weekly and monthly e-newsletters, and other special events to ensure those concerned with preventing teen pregnancy, supporting young families, and promoting adolescent sexual health have the knowledge, skills and resources to do their work effectively. Aside from our annual scholarship opportunity, we generally do not work directly with teens.  We support those who do. 

How long have you been around? Since 1971.

Why should I be a member? Being a member gives you the benefits and power of the only state-wide organization that focuses solely on teen parenting and pregnancy prevention. Networking opportunities abound. Even if your work does not directly relate to adolescent sexual health, your membership shows your support for the work we do and for pregnant and parenting teens in California.

What exactly does my membership include?

What are some current projects you’re working on?

  • Sex Ed Film Festivals (currently working on collaborative festivals in Los Angeles, Riverside, and the Bay Area)
  • Scholarships (we just mailed out the award letters for 2012!)
  • Conferences (check our events page for the latest updates)
  • Advocacy (we’re currently advocating for the Cal-Learn, AFLP and Cal-SAFE programs)
  • Monthly webinars (events page is where it’s at)
  • And more!! We’re busy.

How can I be more involved? Join TeenNow California to enjoy the benefits of membership or to support the work we do. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter and Pinterest. Join our email list. Attend an event or workshop. Make a contribution to TeenNow California. TeenNow California is a non-profit organization and all donations are tax-deductible.

Got more questions? Ask us: tnca@teennowcalifornia.org

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The Purity Myth–Book Review

The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession with Virginity Is Hurting Young Women

Book reviewed by Lena Schmidt

“Any way you slice it, women’s identities are so tied up with whether or not we’ve had sex, or how sexual or abstinent we are, that it’s become almost impossible to think of ourselves as women outside of that framework. And really, while it’s pop culture that gets the most attention in this regard, it’s the virginity movement that’s reinforcing the notion” (79)

There is no working medical definition for virginity. Most Americans support comprehensive sex education.  And yet federal money sponsors archaic purity balls and misleading abstinence-only education. In The Purity Myth, Jessica Valenti uses cringe-inducing anecdotes, examples, and a colloquial, yet serious tone to address these issues. Valenti demonstrates that the conflation of sexuality and morality, the passive model of womanhood upheld by the virginity movement, the misinformation provided by abstinence-only programs, and messages espoused by religious institutions and the media are hurting young women.

The “purity myth” is the idea that women can be pure and that if they are, they are good. Valenti argues, however, that the forces of sexism, homophobia, racism, and money make this standard practically impossible. As Valenti notes, historically, interest in virginity was about establishing paternity. And although each woman gives virginity personal meaning, the current social and political definitions affect women on a large scale (22). Valenti argues that the main objective of the purity myth is to enforce traditional gender roles. She explains, “virginity has become the easy morality fix. Idolizing virginity as a stand-in for women’s morality means that nothing else matters—not what we accomplish, not what we think about, not what we care about and work for. Just if/how/whom we have sex with” (24). Valenti explains that programs that promote this doctrine have an anti-feminist social agenda masquerading as teen pregnancy prevention. As one purity ball proponent says, “We want to do everything we can to help them enter marriage as pure, whole persons” (69). Valenti finds boiling down a girl’s ability to be a “whole” person to her being a virgin problematic and challenges us to differently measure women’s worth.

Valenti takes issue with abstinence-only programs and purity balls, the most visible and well funded arms of the virginity movement. Most of us are aware of how subject girls are to inappropriate sexual attention, and how younger and younger women are presented as sex objects in the media. What is news, though, is how this sexualization is coming from someplace other than an easy-to-blame hypersexualized pop culture—it’s also coming from the virginity movement” (69). For example, “while proponents of date nights [between fathers and daughters] and purity balls argue that they’re aiming to protect girls from sexualization, by focusing on girls’ virginity they’re actually positioning girls as sexual objects before they’ve even hit puberty” (69). This message, combined with abstinence-only education that “tell[s] young people that using condoms is like playing Russian roulette,” means they’ll be less likely to use a condom, not that they’ll be less likely to have sex (105). Valenti cites a 2007 study from Congress which found that middle school students who had received abstinence-only education were just as likely to have sex as teenagers as those who had not. So, Valenti notes, “if students who take abstinence classes are just as likely to have sex as their peers, but have less information about how to protect themselves from pregnancy and STIs—or worse, believe they cannot prevent pregnancy and STIs at all—that leaves them completely unprotected” (119).  Bottom line, according to Valenti: girls are sexualized by many arenas of society, given little guidance to develop into sexually healthy adults, and punished for any non-pure behaviors.

Valenti insists virginity shouldn’t be revered at the expense of women’s well-being. With all the focus on young girls “being good,” where is the purity movement when a woman is raped? Or contracts cervical cancer? Or has a baby? Or comes out as lesbian? This lack of support, arguably, is what is really hurting young women.

This conundrum is particularly harmful to young women of color and women who have survived coerced sexual behavior. Valenti points out, “in the media, the sexuality of young women of color—especially African Americans and Latinas—is never framed as “good girls gone bad” (as it generally is with white girls); rather, they’re depicted as having some degree of pathologized sexuality from the get-go. This reinforces a disturbing cultural narrative: that “innocent” white girls are being lured into an oversexualized culture, while young black women are already part of it” (47). Similarly disturbing, “federal guidelines for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs associate sexual abstinence with all things virtuous and sexual activity with a life doomed to failure. Not only is this untrue, but it serves to inflict greater harm upon those who have survived coerced sexual behavior. Such messages are likely to cause further feelings of hurt, shame, anger, and embarrassment…” (109). This attitude is particularly troubling as Valenti reminds, “Women don’t get raped because they were drinking or took drugs. Women do not get raped because they weren’t careful enough. Women get raped because someone raped them” (151).

To combat the purity myth and encourage healthy development of sexuality, Valenti offers the following suggestions:

  • Take a sex positive approach: Trust young people enough to tell them the truth about sex and sexuality–that it is supposed to be pleasurable!
  • Support comprehensive sex education: “it’s time to take a stance on sex education that isn’t so passive—young people deserve accurate and comprehensive sex education not just because they’re going to have sex, but because there’s nothing wrong with having sex.”(120)
  • Rethink/redefine masculinity: “Because as long as men are disconnected from women, as long as they’re taught that we’re not what to be, and as long as they believe that the only way to define themselves is through women’s bodies and sexuality, the purity myth will live on” (187)

This book is highly recommended for teachers, counselors, parents, or anyone concerned with the world young women grow up in today. The book is also recommended for young men and women interested in learning some complexities of the world they live in, and how they can use their knowledge to challenge systems that oppress them.

To learn about and support comprehensive sex education in California, become a member of TeenNow California: http://teennowcalifornia.org/Join.php

2012 Scholarship: Featured Essay #1

Each month on the blog we will feature one of the eight winning essays from the TeenNow California 2012 Scholarships for pregnant and parenting teens throughout California. The essays are simultaneously inspiring and heartbreaking; each lends insight into trials of adolescent childbearing and the need for continued support for young families. This month’s featured essay by Maeve McDonald was the Regional 1 winner, as well as the statewide winner, earning the student $800 towards her education. McDonald plans to study at Shasta College in Redding, CA this fall. We wish her the best of luck!! Thank you to TeenNow member Tracy Conry for sponsoring.

From Diva to Diapers: My Life as a Teen Mom

by Maeve McDonald

It seems like only yesterday I was surly freshman, fighting with my mom getting D’s and F’s,

and caught up in the latest high school drama.  I remember thinking that my life was so hard

and complicated.  Little did I know how easy I had it.  It took having baby to open my eyes and

show me the real meaning of responsibility and … wait a minute I have to go chase down my

son before he throws a ball in the toilet.  What was I talking about? Oh, yeah … responsibility.

I met Nick in February of my freshman year.  Back then we were all about each other and had a

great relationship.  When we became sexually active the last thing on my mind was becoming

pregnant.  September of 2009 was a very eventful month.  Nick’s mother committed suicide,

he broke up with me, and I found out I was pregnant.  Being sixteen and pregnant, I wondered

if I could handle the stress of losing my boyfriend and having a baby all by myself, with little

support.

Right away voices came from all directions…”you should give the baby up for adoption”…  “You

should think about abortion”…   “You’re too young to raise a baby by yourself.” …   “What

about your future?”  Even though I was terrified, I began to believe I could never give up my

baby and I could be a good mother.

My mom and I had always had a lot of problems.  I never had much respect for her or

appreciated what she did for me, so when I decided to keep the baby my mom and stepdad let

me know I wasn’t allowed to live at the house.  Right from the beginning I had a huge

problem …  I didn’t know where I was going to live with my baby.  My older sister was one of

the only supportive people throughout my pregnancy and offered to let me live with her.

Kingston was born on June 9, 2010, a day after my seventeenth birthday.  I started my new life

as a single mom and the work involved in caring for a newborn was a lot more than I expected.

I decided to stay in school and attend an independent study program that helped teen moms.

Even though the program I enrolled in made it easier to get through high school, it didn’t

change that fact that it was hard to juggle being a mom and getting my schoolwork done.

There were many times when I felt alone and wanted to give up, but then I would look at

Kingston and remember this was the life I chose and I had to stick it out.

The first year was really rough for me.  My sister and I weren’t getting along and she decided

she didn’t want me living there anymore.  Kingston and I stayed at a friend’s house for a few

months.   My living situation was unstable and I wasn’t happy with the way things were going.

Finally things started to turn around. My mom and stepdad helped me find my own place

when Kingston was eight months old.  When I look back I realize that getting my apartment

was the turning point in which I really started to grown up and feel like an adult.  Before

having my own place I wasn’t a very neat and organized person, but now I had baby crawling

around so I had to make sure I had a clean, safe environment.

I began to see myself as a different from all the girls my age.  I became more focused on

maintaining a 3.90 GPA, graduating, setting goals for my future and being a responsible, good

mom and role model for my son.  When I look around I see girls focused on partying, boys,

prom and clothes while I’m busy studying college catalogs to figure out the best path to take

to become a registered  nurse, the profession I’ve decide to go into, so I can support myself

and my son.  My mom and I have become very close and I have grown to respect her deeply

and appreciate our relationship.

Being a teen mom is extremely hard and tiring and I would not recommend it for girls my age.

It wasn’t the path I would have chosen for myself, but I realize now it’s the thing that changed

me from being a self-centered, irresponsible teenager  to a motivated young adult who’s ready

to handle any curve ball life throws my way.  All I care about now is making sure my son has a

good future.  Kingston is now my world and I wouldn’t trade being his mom for anything.

 

Learn more about our scholarship program on our website: http://teennowcalifornia.org/scholarships.php