Back in 1990, unsafe sex came an unremarkable 14th in the worldwide risk table for deaths among adolescent boys, and 11th in the risk table for girls, according to a three-decade, global Lancet study. It was, in other words, well below inadequate hand-washing as a threat to health. But by 2013, it was reported last week, unsafe sex had risen to be the second riskiest behaviour for boys and the greatest single risk to the health of girls.
The researchers know teenagers across the world are becoming more sexually active, and more of that activity is taking place outside marriage. What’s driving this is a mixed picture. These adolescents could be making their choices against a backdrop of chaotic migration and conflict, or within the airless confines of a forced marriage. They could be subject to the pressures of marketing and social media, or rape as a weapon of war.
You may think the context in Mexico is so different to that in Chad that there is no through-line to be drawn between them. You may think it basically coincidental that all the data travels in the same direction, a cocktail of happenstance and modernity, with a dash of Facebook. You’d be wrong. At the source of every problematic sexual trend among young people, from the abstinence movement in America to child marriage in Nepal, is misogyny.
No, don’t try to feel the width of Zoe Williams’ argument. Just try to test the logic.
Question 1: has the world become more feminist since 1990?
Question 2: Is bad sex killing more teenagers today than in 1990?
Now, Zoe is claiming that the answer to 2 is “Hell Yes!”. And I can’t believe that anyone at all is going to claim that the answer to 1 isn’t “Hell Yes!”.
Which leaves us, err, where?