“Sterilise all teenage girls” says Fay Weldon

// 15 February 2008

Fay Weldon has written a pretty outrageous piece for the Daily Mail in which she suggests that all girls between the ages of 12 and 17 should be forcibly sterilised. Yep, you read that right. Enforced sterilisation.

I have to say, I think that the promotion of long-term contraception to teenage girls, whilst continuing to stress the importance of using condoms, is a bloody good idea. Condoms sometimes break. And for some girls, long-term contraceptive injections or implants can drastically improve PMS symptoms. Make it available – yes. Actively recommend it in suitable cases – fine. But enforce it – are you frickin’ crazy? Surely this would be a massive infringement of human rights?

Weldon thinks that it’s the “loose morals” of today’s teenage girls that are causing them to breed like rabbits:

I do not believe it will encourage “promiscuity” because girls will feel they have nothing to fear in sleeping around. In truth, they seem to be doing that already. I’m afraid we are now in a time when sex is mere recreational pleasure to thousands of young women.

Oh, heaven forbid that sex should be pleasurable and fun for young women! She has a stab at sex education too:

Sex education hasn’t helped, and may indeed have harmed. Freud’s view of the psychosexual development of the child has been ignored. His opinion was that you interfere with the “latency” phase of ages nine to 12 at your peril, for fear of stopping further development.

In Freud’s theory, the latency phase is when a child unconsciously denies the facts of life until he or she is ready to face them. If unpalatable facts are forced down the child’s throat it’s traumatising, and progression to sexual maturity is halted.

In other words, if you start teaching the birds and the bees too early, all that the nine, ten or 11-year-olds will do is want to experiment with what they have been taught before they have the emotional capability to deal with the fallout.

Freud’s theories have always been massively controversial, and it’s inappropriate to imply that they should be heeded like this. And anyway, although it might seem a young age for children to need sex education, we live in a society in which children are constantly exposed to sexual images and often unrealistic depictions of adult sexuality. No parent, no matter how protective, can prevent their children from absorbing this, and so sex education is wholly necessary. In addition to exposure to raunch culture, children are physically maturing faster than they did a generation ago. There are many 9, 10 and 11-year-olds physically capable of reproducing. It may be an uncomfortable fact, but it is a fact, so swallow it. A girl in my class got pregnant at 12. Sex education needs to happen before children start thinking it’s a good idea to bump uglies. But Weldon seems to think that a good old-fashioned dose of fear and ignorance wouldn’t go amiss:

The trouble is that pregnancy no longer holds the fear for teenagers it once did. The social stigma has gone.

The fear of pregnancy used to stop girls having sex. To be pregnant and unmarried was a major life disaster (as it is still in some of our ethnic communities.)

You were disgraced, soiled goods: the child was removed, no one would marry you.

Let’s all stop and have a wistful sigh as we lament the loss of the good old days when silly girls knew their place…

It is worrying that pregnancy doesn’t scare many teenage girls. Getting pregnant at that age ought to be an absolutely bloody terrifying prospect. It means either facing the responsibility of having a child when you’re barely out of childhood yourself, or having an abortion, which is never a pleasant experience. But surely enforced sterilisation isn’t the way forward. It’s all a bit Brave New World for my liking.

Comments From You

Lauren O // Posted 15 February 2008 at 9:09 pm

Not only would it be ridiculous to implement theories as controversial as Freud’s, but even if Freud’s theories are correct, there’s no way sex education at a young age would have the disastrous effect on children Weldon thinks it would. When I was 9-12 years old, I was totally grossed out by the concept of sex and I’m sure I “unconsciously denied the facts of life until I was ready to face them.” I also had sex education in school at ages 10, 11, and 12. Did it make me have sex before I was emotionally ready? Nope. I didn’t lose my virginity until I was out of high school and totally able to deal with the emotional consequences.

BrevisMus // Posted 15 February 2008 at 9:33 pm

I’m surprised about the singling out of girls – surely it would be easier (and of course reversible for future procreation) to sterilise boys instead?

(not that I agree with either idea of course! It’s just interesting that Weldon appears to be putting all the blame on teen pregnancy on girls – regardless of girls’ morals (another argument I don’t care for) they’re not going to get pregnant without the help of a penis)

Jess McCabe // Posted 15 February 2008 at 10:50 pm

Could it be because she’s decided the patriarchy was quite a good idea, actually? And as for that feminism stuff she used to think was a good idea… well… how silly!

But in all seriousness, I think sex ed should be introduced earlier, and less half-heartedly – teaching about pleasure, not just scary things meant to put teenagers off sex, consent, etc, etc, etc. And the concept of basing anything on Freud… really, I don’t have the words.

Mwezzi // Posted 16 February 2008 at 12:07 am

Ah yes, this was discussed on the AltNation forums. Someone made the fabulous observation that, if the government wants to raise taxes or people are upset by certain nursery rhymes, the Daily Mail is up in arms and everyone there rants about freedom of speech and their rights and independence and the nanny state – but forcibly sterilising all those slutty teenagers against their will? They want it NOW!

EBaezaChavez // Posted 16 February 2008 at 12:51 am

Do they ever question why these girls get pregnant? What are they actually missing out on? If its the middle class girls they have abortions. If its the working class girls then generally they keep it (generalising quite alot here I know) and what? delay that job at the checkout by a few more years? Big wow!

They should look at studies by the University of Nottingham (Paton) that the single biggest factor in cutting pregnancy rates (for all women) was education and not just of the sexual kind. Give these girls something more to aspire to and they might think twice about early motherhood.

Denise // Posted 16 February 2008 at 12:31 pm

WHAT has happened to Fay Weldon? Didn’t she used to be a feminist?!

Lucy // Posted 16 February 2008 at 6:02 pm

ugh, she’s so patronising, as a sixteen year old who has had sex education classes since the age of nine, I can safely say that being exposed to the facts of life for so long has never made me want to get pregnant nor would the prospect of being pregnant be attractive to me (just the opposite) because even though I may be female, I am able to think for myself- I don’t need to ‘behave like the boys’ to be happy. Being patronised like this we will just cause more teenagers to rebel, if we are treated with a bit of respect then perhaps things would be different.

Claire // Posted 17 February 2008 at 12:10 am

I’m nineteen and learnt the mechanics of sex when I was five after finding a kids’ biology book with interestingdiagrams in the local library. My mother and older sister have always made a point of keeping me informed and aware (I did get good sex education in school, but not until the final year of GCSE at the age of sixteen – too late for some of my peers). And surprise! knowing the potential consequences of sex has made me hold off until I’m ready. And when I am, I’ll know what to do instead of being ashamed and ignorant.

Quoting Fay Weldon:

“You were disgraced, soiled goods: the child was removed, no one would marry you.”

Ms Ginsberg is spot on. It’s so callous to hark back to an era of enforced humiliation and adoption, when one mistake made out of ignorance could ruin a young woman’s entire life. Is Ms Whelon by any chance a fan of the Magdalene laundries?

PS: Congratulations on getting this shiny new comments system up and running!

jo B // Posted 17 February 2008 at 3:37 am

Apart from the nonsense about sex ed being harmful (societies where it is compulsory and comprehensive have lower teen pregnancy rates and abortion rates according to the WHO) it would never happen as it is medically unethical. There are many reasons that young women engage in precocious sex, most of them are nothing to do with their own ‘recreation’ but to do with curiosity, peer presure, partner presure and yes, sexual arousal. No doctor who is registered to practice medicine in Britain would be allowed to do the ‘honours’ as suggested because it would contravein a number of caveats of their fitness to practice. Equally some types of long term contraception a contraindicated for pharmaceutical reasons, such as Depoprovera and other progesterone based implants because teenagers bones are still forming and their is evidence that these drugs can cause problems like increased risk of osteoporosis in the long term. Apart from that a lot of Docs are very anti when it comes to offering contraception to young women full stop. Perhaps that is the problem?

Denise // Posted 17 February 2008 at 12:25 pm

Fay Weldon strikes again! In today’s Sunday Times she’s written an article lauding Jordan (or Katie Price as she now wants to be known) and describing her as a ‘role model’ (of what exactly…?!).

JENNIFER DREW // Posted 17 February 2008 at 8:18 pm

I am not in the least surprised Ms. Weldon’s article was published in the Daily Male (sic). Of course teenage girls are all ‘sluts’ in Ms. Weldon’s and the Daily Male’s view. No need to consider teen boys’ sexual behaviour or the fact teen boys and adult heterosexual males are still presumed to have uncontrollable sexual appetites and therefore women and girls must be held accountable for male heterosexual behaviour. Re: my article on Who Is the Slut? Ms. Weldon obviously believes sexually active teen girls are ‘sluts’ but not sexually active teen boys. Seriously, research has consistently shown it is predominantly adult males who have impregnated teen girls not teen boys. But Ms. Weldon is helping to perpetuate the misogynstic notion that girls and women are either ‘whores or madonnas’ whilst of course conveniently ignoring the fact reproduction can never take place without the penis being involved. If one is going to suggest compulsory sterilisation then Ms. Weldon should be suggesting teen boys and adult males have a vasectomy.

Comprehensive sex education has shown to considerably reduce the number of teenage boys impregnating teen girls. Girls and boys need to learn about human sexuality before the age of 10 and it can taught in an age appropriate way without resorting to just biological and reproductive terms. Far too many girls are still not learning that female sexuality is in fact independent of male sexuality and not simply an adjunct to male (hetero) sexual desires. But of course there is a danger that if a girl learns it is normal for women and girls to experience sexual desire rather than learning it is their supposed role to be the object of male heterosexual desire, then there is the risk some women and girls might not accept or desire male-centered sexual demands. So we must continue to control and police girls’s and women’s sexualities but not mens’ and boys’.

Reproduction is not a female’s responsibility it is equally the male’s responsibility. After all, we constantly hear the phrase ‘a woman has a man’s child.’ This misogynstic term assumes that women and teen girls do not reproduce but are simply the vessels for a male’s child. In which case since it is males who supposedly create a child then it is males who must be held responsible for their sexual irresponsibility – NOT FEMALES.

constance // Posted 20 February 2008 at 10:36 pm

Wasn’t it fay weldon who left university because she got pregnant, even though she wasn’t married?

Danielle // Posted 21 February 2008 at 8:59 pm

I read the comments beneath her article, and I can’t believe how many people agreed with her! Unbelievable! You’ve got to wonder if people like that read books like the Handmaid’s Tale and secretly think it’s a good idea. It’s pure misogyny!

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