Teen birth rates are eight times higher in the U.S. than in Holland. Abortion rates are twice as high. The American AIDS rate is three times greater than that of the Dutch. What are they doing right that we're not?
For starters, two-thirds of Dutch parents report allowing their teenage children to have sleepovers with their boyfriend or girlfriend, a situation even the most liberal American parents would rarely permit. Is there something Americans should learn from the Dutch about relaxed attitudes toward sex (and drugs — indeed, the Netherlands has more lenient drug laws than the U.S., but three times lower rates of marijuana use)?
Healthland spoke with Amy Schalet, author of Not Under My Roof: Parents, Teens and the Culture of Sex, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst....Quote:Coming out of the sexual revolution, the Dutch really decoupled sex from marriage, but they didn't decouple sex from love. If the first piece is that there weren't these immediate associations of teen sex with danger, the second is that it remained anchored in the concept of steady relationships and young people being in love.
There's a strong belief in the Netherlands that youth can be in love — boys as well as girls — that makes sex in many ways seem safer and more contained because it's embedded in a relationship....
It's become more popular to talk about teaching healthy relationships but a lot of that is about avoiding unhealthy relationships. Of course, that's important. But there's lots of attention to dating violence and very little talk about what it feels like to be in love. One of the things that always surprises people is that one of most popular Dutch sex education curricula is called 'Long Live Love.'
For boys, our culture devalues their impulse to love. But research shows that in the U.S., boys are quite romantic. Other research finds that for girls, recognition of sexual desire and wishes is taboo, so they have fewer tools to assess what's right for them. That makes things very difficult.