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Perspectives

Publication Date

5-1-2012

Abstract

This literature review examines how magazines and parents portray cultural ideas about sex, how girls use these ideas to understand their own sexuality, and how these ideas impact their contraceptive use in interpersonal relationships. Simon and Gagnon’s Sexual Script Theory is used as a theoretical framework to explain these three levels of sexual scripts: cultural, interpersonal and personal. American teen magazines and parents are compared with their Western European counterparts to illustrate how cultural presentation of sex impacts contraceptive use. In the United States, where there were 41.5 births per 1,000 to girls aged 15-19 in 2008, sex is portrayed as a guilt-producing activity. Similarly, contraceptive use is seen as burdensome. Conversely, in Germany the birth rate in 2008 was 9.8 per 1,000 and 5.2 per 1,000 in the Netherlands. These significantly lower birth rates are explained by the presentation of sex as pleasurable, as well as high acceptance of contraceptive use. While a national change in the presentation of teenage sex is impossible, increased discussion of contraceptive use in the United States could help remove the stigma, thereby decreasing both sexually transmitted disease and pregnancy rates among teenagers.

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