5 Really Bad Teen Pregnancy Prevention Ads

A brief history in public shaming.

By Jamilah King Mar 06, 2013

It’s often not the most ideal thing in the world for a teenage couple to get pregnant. But there are prevention strategies that work, and ones that simply don’t. That much was made clear to me while reporting on a [controversial new series](http://colorlines.com/archives/2013/03/new_york_city_tries_to_shame_its_teens_into_not_having_babies.html) of teen pregnancy prevention billboards that are slated to go up around New York City. "Fear-based messages just don’t work in teen pregnancy prevention strategies," she says. "[And these] ads are saying–falsely–that teen pregnancy is going to make you poor and keep you poor, but we know that *poverty* keeps you poor," Haydee Morales of Planned Parenthood told me yesterday on the phone. Lecturing or shaming anyone into doing — or not doing — anything usually doesn’t work. And that’s especially true for young people who are often yelled at by their families, schools, and society at large. Gretchen Sisson is a Research Sociologist at the University of California at San Francisco and has studied methods to reframe conventional approaches to teen pregnancy prevention. And to get the point across about just how awful the history on this is, she [put together a few of the most offensive ads on Tumblr](http://teenpregnancypsas.tumblr.com/). "I compiled these public service announcements to stress the point that the advertisements in New York, as problematic as they are, represent the rule and not the exception," Sisson wrote to me over email on Wednesday. "The majority of teen pregnancy prevention campaigns rely on shaming young parents — a stigmatizing, fear-based tactic that alienates young people. When ads like these appear in communities with higher rates of teenage childbearing and a young person sees them, she’s seeing an image that might be insulting to her older sister, her aunt, or her own mother." Text: "I had sex so my boyfriend wouldn’t REJECT me. Now, I have a baby. And no boyfriends."