Saturday, May 13, 2006

Teenage pregnancy

Just been an interesting discussion on an internet forum I go to about teenage pregnancy rates and why england has the highest in western europe. I found this table with birth/pregnancy/abortion data for 15-19 yo girls from lots of countries.

A few related thoughts from having lived in Spain for 4 yrs:

1) There is a much smaller gap between the generations in Spain. Older people act younger - at one festival I got chatting to a group 50 and 60 year-olds still out on the town at 5 in the morning. Younger people don't necessarily act any older but they don't have the same contempt for older people. Stop to ask a group of surly and socially-awkward-looking teenagers for directions and they will answer in a bright, friendly and helpful way in Spain much more often than I found they would in England. I don't know if this is a cause or an effect of Spaniards living with their parents for much longer than is typical in England. It may mean that parents have more influence over the excesses of their children.

2) Booze. After 4 years I still haven't identified categorically the difference between the spanish and the british approach to booze. Spaniards seem better able to hold their drink. They can stay up all night drinking spirits by the gallon but still rarely seem to get blind, unconsciously and uncontrollably drunk in the same way that the british do. One thing is that british go out with the express intention of getting drunk. The british refer to their social lives in terms of getting drunk. (We're out on the piss. What did you do Saturday? Got leathered. etc) The spanish refer to their social lives in terms of having fun (la marcha).

3) Attitudes to sex. The spanish are quite an earthy bunch and tend not to be shy away from topics which would make an englishman blush. A friend aking a park attendant for the nearest toilet was told, "Depends, do you need to shit or to piss? If you need to piss, this place is full of trees. For a shit you'd need to go to the other side of the boating lake where there's a public toilet." Prostitution is much, much more visible in Spain. Madrid is next to a large park which is hopping with near-naked prostitutes cat-calling to the steady stream of cars driving up and down the strip. What is especially odd about this is that, during the afternoon the traffic is a mix of solitary men, taxis and families and old people out to take the air. Joggers and cyclists often run up and down the strip too, fending off interest. All over Madrid "club" or "whyskeria" signs flash in neon. These are brothels. There are 4 within spitting distance of my office (as an aside, the area is called "neighbourhood of the conception" and all the streets are names after virgins "de guadeloupe", "de africa" etc). Today's El PaĆ­s, the socially conscious national daily paper, carries three full pages of adverts for call girls, brothels and massage parlours. Some are job offers.