Number of teen parents bound to increase post-Valentine’s Day

The prevailing wisdom in most media-saturated societies says sex plus money equals the good life. This faulty equation is significantly changing the self-perception of many teenagers, their pursuit of happiness and envisioned future. If they are required to write on postage stamps their ultimate goals, different variants of this would appear: to outdo Cleopatra and make Croesus look poor. This aspiration is brazenly dramatised during Valentine’s season.

Valentine’s Day is increasingly taking on the defining character of a moral holiday. Raging passion largely shape its observance.  Dating violence reaches all-time high.  In the spirit of the day, many teenagers will indulge in carefree sex.  Some will get involved in romance-induced brawls. Others will use illicit drugs for the first time. This is worrisome. Even ardent laissez-faire elite who promote sexually liberal views would agree that the moral health of society is gravely endangered when sex, drug, alcohol and gambling become “teens’ issues”.

Valentine’s Day has a peculiar moral tone which, in the name of love, extols the do-whatsoever-you-like attitude and subjects reason to obsession. Also, it seemingly suspends conventional systems of thought and social conduct thereby making untested assumptions to set the ground rules of social activities. Hence, at the drop of a hat, many would engage in sexual activities in front of a camera.  The “strong,” in search of sluttish sex, bullies the weak, exploits the vulnerable and commits outrageous obscenity. Society has a moral duty to save libido-driven teens from plunging into the vile world of violence.

President Barack Obama of the United States of America, when proclaiming February 2014 as National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month, noted, “each year, one in 10 American teenagers suffers physical violence at the hands of a boyfriend or girlfriend.” Since, we do not have reliable data, because we hardly report abuses, it is fair to say that many Nigerian teenagers face similar danger.

Dating violence causes many problems. It could predispose survivors to sex disorder, self-loathing, dependence on alcohol, illicit use of drugs and other antisocial habits. If not well managed, their academic performance and zest about life may decline. In fact, those molested today are likely to molest others tomorrow.

There are places where dating violence are likely to occur. Some examples are: secluded places and overly permissive moral context where pleasure trumps scruples.  Whenever moral environments are conditioned in ways that allow people’s mood to determine what is good, values become disposable, whims rule over principles and insanity becomes an evolving norm. Hormones will dictate rightness, particularly for adventure-seeking teens.  “Seek pleasure, avoid pain” will gain the status of an article of faith.  Unfortunately, those who follow the dictates of hormones eventually wallow in regret.

Valentine’s Day ought to rekindle the flames of love. But since, Hollywood spells love as sex, true love is becoming ghostlike. Everyone extols its transformational virtues; however, very few experientially know what it is. This is mostly true of those who were raised in the era when television began to play the role of babysitter. Their working definition of hell is love without sex.

Generally, in popular culture, chastity is depicted as a value of bygone repressive era. Television, music and film are riddled with illusions about the magic of sex. Teenagers are led to see it as mere recreation, a way of lessening tension, forging wholesome bonds, a proof of love and spark of genius. Consequently, many young people are not skilled at cultivating life enriching platonic relationships. The satisfaction of libido is now central to their concept of an ideal girl-boy interaction.  This has made many teens to do something sexual they didn’t really want to do.

The numbers of teenage parents in Nigeria are bound to increase in the months ahead, because of Valentine’s Day escapades. The implication is, many girls and boys will drop out of school and become streetwalkers, pocket pickers or unskilled labourers in sweatshops. Teen parents are vulnerable in many ways. The burden of raising children can hinder them from truly experiencing the deep joys of human flourishing. It is beyond contestation that parenting is an uphill task; it impedes growth in all facets of life when undertaken hastily. Hence, many teenage parents, particularly mothers hardly optimise their capacity for exceptional achievements. Likewise, their children’s growth is often retarded.

Again, post-Valentine weeks are marked by increased shotgun weddings. Those who consider having children outside wedlock as a stigma will do everything to ensure they get married. While those who are not financially endowed or see the foetus as mere body part may resort to abortion.

Given the health and social dangers fraught with teen sex, it is imperative for us to step up efforts at educating teenagers about refusal skills and the merits of delayed gratification. Refusal skills will enable them to deftly avoid participating in high-risk sexual activities, by enhancing their sensitivity to early warning signals of brewing romantic tragedy. Teens who can create escape exit are hardly victims of dating violence and unintended sex.

Parents need to lovingly stress and re-stress the values of continence.  Without the active support of parents, it is difficult for teens to truly appreciate sex for what it is and cultivate habits that facilitate lifelong happiness.

Similarly, school authorities should ensure that classrooms, playgrounds and so forth do not become hunting grounds for sex predators. This cannot be overemphasised, since our collective future is largely hinged on the worldviews, habits, safety and happiness of our teenagers.

Omozuwa Gabriel Osamwonyi writes from Abuja