Sociologist Amy Schalet has done wonderful research comparing American and Dutch approaches to teen sexuality. Among other fascinating findings, she has shown that, American parents approach their children’s sexual initiation with fear and loathing; while Dutch parents treat sexuality like any other realm of life that a child must learn to manage. Accordingly, most American teenagers hide their virginity loss from their parents, furtively popping the cherry in risky situations, often without protection against pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections (STIs). In contrast, most Dutch teenagers lose their virginity in their own bedrooms with their parents approval… and condoms.
This different approach to teen sexuality helps explain the dramatic differences between the U.S. and the Netherlands in rates of contraceptive use, teen pregnancy, abortion, and STI transmission. Check it this data from Advocates for Youth:
You can read the full report here (thanks to Du Hoang for the specific link!).Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.
MyTwoCents — September 6, 2010
I'm interested in the figures for American teenagers on the pill. Does anyone know how easy it is for a teenage girl to get access to the pill in the comparative foreign countries? That is, in this country a girl likely has to tell her parents in order to get access to a gynecologist to prescribe the pill. Without health insurance, maybe it's much more difficult for an American girl to get the pill than it would be for girls in the Netherlands, Germany, and France?
marc sobel — September 6, 2010
It is apparently free.
You might also look at http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8&q=access+to+contraceptive+pill+netherlands
I tweeted this article because I think it is important. My snarking summary was
Consequences of U.S. and Dutch Approaches to Teen Sex http://bit.ly/cq9bq4 Gives new meaning the phrase Clap harder
MyTwoCents — September 6, 2010
Well, here there is definitely a lot of variation, particularly in the cost of the pill (and what is covered by insurance). When I was a sexually active teenage girl, my family didn't have any health insurance and I definitely didn't have money to pay for the pill. Maybe I could have gone to Planned Parenthood? Condoms were much easier to purchase and were often free at Planned Parenthood. Now, I have a co-payment for my gyn visit and, depending on the brand of the pill, it's generally between $15-40 a month.
Condoms seem more cost-effective for teenagers, plus they protect against STDs. In health class in high school, we were taught about condoms but never taught about any other method of birth control. Granted, that was almost 20 years ago, but I can't imagine much has changed for the better in terms of informing our teens about their birth control options.
T — September 6, 2010
And interesting statistic that can me extracted from the above is that in France and the Netherlands, the abortion per teen pregnancy rate is over 50%, while the rate in the United States is 27%.
(Germany is somewhere in between at 38%)
Obviously no direct conclusions can be made from that, but it could be a very interesting line of inquiry. What contributes to these differences... Social expectations? Social restrictions? Religious restrictions/prohibitions? Availability of medical procedure? Cost? etc.
A — September 6, 2010
You can also see that condom use in each country is higher among teen boys than it is among teen girls. Perhaps it's not significant, but I'd like to know why the numbers don't match up. Are teen girls more often having sex with non-teen men, who perhaps don't use condoms quite as often as teen boys?
jfer — September 6, 2010
What are the cultural makeup of the samples from the different countries?
Anon. — September 6, 2010
"American parents approach their children’s sexual initiation with fear and loathing" -- I don't know that this is necessarily true. It's my understanding, from living in the US for 8 years, that predominant efforts in American sex education aim at what they call abstinence. This is not exactly the same thing as "fear and loathing" - it's a proactive educational agenda, not an avoidance one. As in, they talk about sex, but largely how you should Not Do It Until You're Married. And then they surround their children with highly sexualized images of celebrities etc. Americans in general have a more prudish fascination with sex and sexual practices than their European neighbours: that is, you don't talk about it, and when you do, it's usually lewdly and in off-colour situations, not openly or, God forbid, at home with your parents. Now of course, this is the consequence of such a culture - high teen pregnancies, high STD infection rates, etc - and yes it's very different than the Dutch approach (and that in other countries too), but I think what we're seeing here is the result of Abstinence-based education and prudish cultural values, not "fear and loathing."
Anonymous — September 6, 2010
Do you have a source on the bit about losing virginity in the Netherlands?
jfer — September 6, 2010
There is no one American culture.
mason — September 6, 2010
Culture - the sum total of ways of living built up by a group of human beings and transmitted from one generation to another. This is the definition in this case. As you can see, it is the sum total of ways. Indeed, there is an American culture.
Janna — September 6, 2010
It's interesting as well that the rate of marijuana and other drug use among teenagers in the Netherlands is also lower than in the United States...and it's legal to smoke pot in cafes in the Netherlands. All of the laws and controls and stigmas in the US about growing up and experimentation just lead to more rebellion and mass ignorance about serious issues.
Rika — September 6, 2010
Someone wondered about the need for parental permission in the US. I didn't read through all of the comments, so this might have already been addressed. In the US, reproductive rights for adolescents are an entirely different category, so that adolescents don't need parental permission for birth control, STD testing, etc. Unfortunately, this also means that parents can't legally force their teens to use birth control, either.
Sean — September 6, 2010
There is a grand canyon size gap in this research.
The millions of women already dead of breast cancer caused by female steroids, which are sold in both the Netherlands and the US keeping women in the dark about this and grossly exaggerating their effectiveness also.. Not surprisingly, you'll find these same 4 countries studied here at the very top of worldwide of breast cancer incidence rates.
Also, 5% of females on these breast cancer causing steroids will be pregnant within ONE year. Meaning that if you take 1000 girls on steroids, 200 of them will get pregnant over a 4 year period.
If cancer causing steroids were the answer to teen pregnancy, then common sense tells us that the teen pregnancy rate would not have skyrocketed in all of these countries AFTER the pill became available. Yet, here we are 50 years later, still trying to push the same totally failed agenda - and ending up with millions of women needlessly dying of breast cancer as a very natural consequence for our persistent scientific ignorance caused by our persistent preference for politics and profit.
Sean — September 7, 2010
You can believe the lies of the pharmaceutical giants and their well reimbursed media if you wish. You are also as free to purchase breast cancer as you are to purchase cervical and liver cancer. It is your health and your life - to lose. I guess by your estimation we should make steroids available for all teenage boys also. Making the varsity team is very important to them, so who cares about cancer anyway - right?
A 70% increase in breast cancer risk for a childless woman taking the pill for 4 years in college is not "small." In fact, it isn't even close to "medium."
Have a good look at that graph.. Alarms indeed. Unless of course breast cancer has suddenly become no big deal. When the pill arrived in 1960, one in 25 women got breast cancer. By Roe/Wade in 1973, it was one in 14. It is now one in 8. And that's in spite of all the environmental, medical, and dietary advances we've made in the past 50 years.
The laughable notion that a missed day here or there using so small a dosage is just their way of pretending that their steroids are far more effective than they have ever really been. Facts are facts. Another thing they like to avoid telling you is that you become immune to them over time as your body reacts to them - as with any drug.
This is about politics and profits, ladies. And you are taking it hook, line, and sinker. It is definitely not about medical science. And it certainly is not about womens health. It is about destroying it, and it has been very, very effective in that endeavor so far. You can continue to hide your eyes from the facts, but I'm afraid the only victims of these traditions has and will be the women this ignorance has destroyed, the ones it is in the process of destroying, and those who cared/care about them before they died/die a very unpleasant death.
JJ — September 7, 2010
How about numbers from an asian country? Why does this statistic only compare USA and european countries?
I read somewhere in an article (or book?) about Japan that nearly every second japanese woman had an abortion in her life. How many of them you think were teens?
Me — September 7, 2010
Teenagers...how can you NOT use contraception? URGH!
(I am a teenager myself)
I'm also well-aware of circumstances such as spontaneity, lack of funds with which to obtain contraception, the embarrassment factor, etc. But still.
Jennifer — September 7, 2010
Hmm. This is interesting and useful information, but it bothers me that the publication seems to discuss only heterosexual vaginal intercourse as "sex." Hopefully the better outcomes abroad are achieved by discussing what kinds of activities fall under the category of "sex" and that safety is necessary with same sex partners and various things that opposite sex partners do aside from vaginal intercourse as well.
eeka — September 7, 2010
I'm surprised by sociologists using the term "virginity" rather than using something quantifiable and objective.
A good column on why the term is problematic:
Likewise with the stats that don't specify whether they only include male/female sex, only include penile/vaginal intercourse, etc.
Sean — September 7, 2010
It is worthwhile to educate ourselves as to how we have been misled in the first place, when and how nonsensical Orwellian terms like "birth control" were dreamed up, and what kind of people and ideologies were at play.
This isn't just about giving women breast cancer, cervical cancer, liver cancer heart disease, and causing birth defects and making very sure they are kept blissfully in the dark about all of them (although these things in turn make the pharmaceutical giants big profits again down the road). Threads like this show us all too plainly how many still want to be lied to rather than consider the scientific and historical facts. This was all a philosophy that actually began a century ago. It was an is a religion, of sorts.
The pill arrived in 1960 in America. Gee, can anyone tell us what the teen pregnancy and STD rates were in 1950 as compared to 1970? How about 1940 as compared to 1980?
Raquel — September 8, 2010
Not much info anywhere on the psychological affect of losing Ur virginity, especially if it's from a one night stand.
Also, USA is now only 50% Caucasian now, especially in schools. Hispanic birthrate (in USA) is around 3%, whites, 2%.
This Week on the Web - Thomas-Galvin.com — September 10, 2010
[...] Consequences to US and Dutch Approaches to Sexuality: Executive summary: America’s prudish attitude toward sex means teens are more likely to contract an STI, get pregnant, and have an abortion. From the “everything we do is wrong” files. (via Bibliotech) [...]
24 oranges » Gonorrhea infections among American teens 33 times higher than among Dutch teens — September 11, 2010
[...] in rates of contraceptive use, teen pregnancy, abortion, and STI transmission”, as Lisa Wade writes (the American sociologist, not the Dutch TV [...]
Sunday Roundup « Are Women Human? — September 12, 2010
[...] opposition of the religious right to even the most basic sex education for teens, I thought this comparison of outcomes of American and Dutch approaches to teen sexuality was illuminating: most American teenagers hide their virginity loss from their parents, furtively [...]
Ja, Oranj — September 17, 2010
Maybe I'm cranking the numbers the wrong way, but I just noticed something:
Rate of teen pregnancy
USA 72 per 100,000 / NED 11.8 per 100,000
Rate of teen abortion
USA 20 per 100,000 / NED 7.8 per 100,000
Translation: Teen parenthood
USA 52 per 100,000 / NED 4 per 100,000
My rosary « The natural attorneys — September 23, 2010
[...] help get people into treatment. Sex education for kids will lead to more sex? Nope. It leads to healthier sex. In Africa, HIV is a disease of poverty? Not [...]
Inny — October 5, 2010
Secretely taking the pill in (most parts of) the netherlands is not very widespread I think. I think the vast majority of teensgirls talks openly about the pill with their parents. I think in the less industrialized parts of the netherlands there is more secrecy, but in the cities it is very normal to get the pill as a white teen girl (For islam women I think it is still taboo mostly).
Eventhough our softdrugpolicy is not that strict, we do have indeed significant less drugaddicts compared to the us and other european countries. But the policy is getting a lot more strict, so I think things can change.
Teen Safe Sex Gender Gap? | Women's Interviews - The Daily Femme — November 11, 2010
[...] partial explanation for this gap might lie in the classroom. According to a comparison of U.S. and European sex ed programs, teen girls abroad are roughly 10 to 20 percent more likely to use condoms. But even across the [...]
Kirby L. Wallace — November 11, 2010
I'd be interested to see how "Godlessness" pans out on these charts.
Anonymous — November 13, 2010
Sex outside of marriage is wrong. It happens but it is wrong. As is contraception of any kind. You do not have the right to decide when you want a child. God gets to decide. Sex is a beautiful gift but it is misused and if you are always having sex outside marriage you are turning yourself into an object and deserve better then that. Eveyone does. If he loves you enough he will wait for you to be married. The best way I have heard it put is this; Men give what feels like love to get sex, Women have sex to get what feels like love. Respect yourself and many of these problems disappear.
Top Ten Most Evil Men - Page 5 - Christian Forums — March 21, 2011
The Talk–America’s Doing It Wrong — May 3, 2011
[...] source: Consequences of U.S. and Dutch Approaches to Sex share: Blog this! Bookmark on Delicious Digg this post Recommend on Facebook Buzz it up share via [...]
Aoirthoir — June 17, 2011
Rates of getting laid:
Let teens have sex — March 24, 2012
Abortion and sex education | VoC Blog — September 13, 2012
[...] Research done by sociologist Amy Schalet of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, compared the differences in which parents in the US and parents in the Netherlands approached the topic of sex, and the accompanying large differences in the consequences. [...]
Ad_vanbentum — September 24, 2012
As long as Americans keep 'liking' God etc. things won't change very much.
jezwinda — November 1, 2012
Wonder how much the government of these other countries provide for their pregnant teens in way of prenatal care, wic, etc. Maybe if teens in US actually had to be responsible, rather than be given everything from government and family support, maybe they'd be a bit more cautious about using contraception?
Mark Power — October 31, 2013
The US has to average in blacks. That raises the rates.
quick hit: The smart Dutch take on teen sex | feimineach — December 30, 2013
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AshleyAugust — April 22, 2015
But the US can't have higher HIV rates, we circumcise in the US and that prevents STD's!
AshleyAugust — April 22, 2015
Despite all evidence to the contrary and a shaky study of a small population of men in Africa. And correlation always equals causation and despite there being no explanation of the HOW that would work.
mimimur — April 28, 2015
Should this really be about parents? Sex education in schools is a much better indicator of a country as a whole.
Ana Cristina — January 27, 2019
This last comment about sex education is very pertinent why I end up commenting in this wall. We are in january 2019 and in Brazil right now the new goverment, with a brazilian Trump version of a president, is using Holand as a sexual model to introduce sexual education to the population. One of the new ministers is saying that in Holand they teach the parents to teach the babies from 6 months of age how to masturbate, so they learn from a very early age how to use their sexuality. (The purpose in Brazil is say that this would teach a child how to be a 'boy' or a 'girl' in a very criticized homophobic agenda. In any case. My question here is: Is it true that in Holand the culture is as such that the 'goverment' teach the parents to teach their 6 month old babies how to masturbate? My purpose here is only to bring to light what is true or fake about Holand's sexual culture involving babies.
Jeff — July 23, 2019
Ana Christina, i'm not sure if you'd still read this, but i do feel compelled to answer.
Its fake, its a lie, its 100% not true.
The Dutch/Holland/Netherlands government DOES NOT involve itself in sex education for babies; the notion is ridiculous.
The absolute youngest i had sex education (in school, that is) in The Netherlands was at the age of 11 & my parents had to sign a consent form for me to attend the classes.
Nathaniel Billiott — August 29, 2020