Context: Last month Kim Kardashian told Oprah that her mom, Kris, allowed Kim to go on birth control at 14, when she disclosed to Kris that she was going to have sex with her boyfriend. Cue the backlash.
I had somehow missed this (probably because I couldn't care less about the Kardashians and their vapid empire of highly manufactured, pseudo-reality controversies.) But when I did hear about it, it was clouded in a discussion on NPR* of, "Would you put your daughter on birth control at 14 if she said this to you? Is it bad parenting?" type questions.
I'm not surprised that this is a talking point. We, as a society, are very afraid of sex...especially from teens. We're uncomfortable with admitting that they are sexual beings, so we resort to calling people like Kris Kardashian a bad parent instead of thinking a bit more critically about what is really going on for adolescents. And overall, we just loooove judging other parents. I wanted to see what other people were saying on this issue, so I took to Google. That's when I came across this gem about the situation, at Hollywood Life:
Teens are still very immature, especially teenage boys. And that means that 14-year-old girls can end up feeling used and abused after a sexual relationship. Their self-esteem can be completely shattered especially if the boy ends up abusing their trust and blabs about their sexual relationship, or even worse, takes and shares illicit photos and videos.
...Instead of setting up Kim immediately with birth control, you should have had a detailed discussion about what it means to have sex – the responsibilities and the dangers in terms of pregnancy and STDS, points out Dr. Berman. Having sex at 14 truly is like playing with fire, even Kris if you took Kim to see a gynecologist and to get birth control. There were other physical consequences she could have suffered, as well as emotional fallout.Oh boy.
Let's take a look at the problems that I see here:
1) Are we really going to run with the stereotype that all girls approach sex emotionally and all boys approach it emotionless?
2) Nice jab at Kim's video-classy how you fit that in.
3) How do we know that Kim was "immediately" signed up for birth control without any discussion? Were you there? What we do know is that Kris felt it was right for her daughter to ultimately be put on the pill. We have no idea what other support, discussion, and follow up that Kim and Kris shared. In fact, in Kris' own words (from the second linked article at the top):
"You can try and talk your kids out of [having sex], but unless you lock your child in the closet and throw the key away, they’re going to do what they feel," she says. "So my philosophy has also been make sure your kids are healthy, well taken care of and educated." [Emphasis mine]I hate to say it--I really do, but I agree with Kris. If my hypothetical future daughter came to me in a manner similar to this, I think I would have responded similarly. Now, I would absolutely make sure that she had every bit of information she needed and really understood the decision she was going to make. And this wouldn't be the first time we would talk about this stuff! I would have been having age-appropriate sex education and healthy relationship talks all along the way. I would keep the channels of communication open and try to empower her with as much information as possible. You know that old cliche "knowledge is power?" Well it's a cliche for a reason.
By all accounts, it feels like Kris did the best she knew how.
Listen, I am in no way advocating for young teens to just start having sex. But I am advocating for being very realistic about what your individual child is dealing with and empowering him/her with the a full range of information and choices. I think that the potential consequences for children who DON'T have the opportunity to have these discussions, who grow up in sex shaming environments, and who sneak around, are dangerous. I can say anecdotally that the teen moms I've worked with in the past have said to me in plain language that their parents never talked about sex with them.
So please excuse me if I don't think that the worst thing Kris Kardashian has ever done is put Kim on birth control.
*In other news, I write about stuff I learn from NPR so much that it is now a tag! Congrats, NPR. You earned it. Or something.