Big Stink Down in the Subway

Who doesn’t enjoy a rousing No Good Deed Goes Unpunished story? I find them irresistible.

With all good intentions, the city launched a print ad campaign in the subways targeting teens. The ads warn about the hazards of an unplanned pregnancy. The tone of the campaign is a bit harsh and it caused an immediate backlash. The ads feature weeping children hectoring their moms about how miserable their lives are going to be because they had them as a teen.

The mayor’s office said the intention was to send a strong message that teen pregnancy has negative, life-altering consequences. It sure does! Planned Parenthood was furious. They released a statement saying the ads stigmatize teenage parents and their children and reinforced negative stereotypes about teen moms.


(I’ll vouch for the statement above. It’s a fact!) This one is my absolute favorite. Imagine you’re a pregnant teen and just want to take the R train to 34th Street. You board, someone gives you their seat because of your delicate condition, you look up and see this:


 That’s right, girl. He gonna dump yo pregnant ass. And teen dads aren’t spared either, although I’m pretty sure a 17-year old boy with raging hormones is wholly unaffected by this threat.


Further, Planned Parenthood said, “It’s not teen pregnancies that cause poverty, but poverty that causes teen pregnancy.” I’m not so sure I agree with that. The area of Cleveland I grew up in wasn’t poverty stricken by any means, but it certainly wasn’t a wealthy community and teen pregnancy wasn’t a problem. Is it an economic issue or is it a lifestyle/cultural issue? Dare to speak what’s on your mind.

*     *     *

Bonus pic from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Here’s Constantin Brancusi’s beautiful marble sculpture Bird in Space from 1923. It’s framed by two Max Beckman paintings in the background. I’ve developed a real affinity for the German Expressionists. Ernst Kirchner did some pretty interesting things.


30 thoughts on “Big Stink Down in the Subway

  1. I don’t think we can hang it all on “poverty.” There are so many factors, from lack of advice,mis-information to downright stupidity… it’s a long and wearisome list.

    I like much of Kirchner’s work. Not all, but some I’d be happy to live with.

    • I agree. Poverty is contributing factor but they’re using it as a crutch.

      I’m particularly fond of Kirchner’s Berlin prostitutes.

    • You got that right, my simian friend. There’s no restraint. Besides, all they’d have to do is practice birth control and none of that would happen! I didn’t like using condoms either, but I didn’t think it was optional.

  2. Ten years after i graduated from good ole Valley Forge H.S. they had a daycare center cuz so many students had kids, i don’t think it’s poverty but more a lack of education and information, believe me the boyos are gonna hear it from the old man and i will use the whole child support angle to show them the consequences of not being responsible for a few seconds and that’s coming from their papa who was none to responsible and incredibly lucky in his wayward youth… i myself was never given the “talk” but i might have been a special case, about the only thing i remember my dad every saying to me was “fatherhood is a big responsibility”, that was of course after his 16 yr. old son came strolling in one night after banging his girlfriend in said H.S. parking lot, the one who worked at Taco Bell, oh the wine of youth…

    • Are you kidding??!! Valley Forge had a daycare!? I had no idea and I was only over at Midpark. I don’t think they had it when I was in HS. I think there might be a decade between us. But we had a smoking lounge! Can you imagine!? Awesome! Gee whiz, VF was kind of a nice neighborhood, relative to Brook Park.

      Good advice to the boyos but you know what it’s like. Lust completely alters the chemicals in your brain. Plus, condoms suck. I lucked out, too. It’s a minor miracle I didn’t get anyone pregnant. Or worse.

  3. As if anyone’s going to look at a picture of a young child and change their pattern of fucking. Where in the world are teenage pregnacy rates the lowest? The Netherlands, where there is explicit sex education from an early age, sensible abortion laws, and good publicly funded childcare. I hope my daughters have lots of sex, happy sex, and have children when only when they want to.

    • What a generous thing to wish for your daughters! Seriously! I think that’s very evolved of you. Yeah, the ad campaign is totally ineffectual. A failure. I can’t imagine what they thought they were going to accomplish.

  4. I think those ADS are ridiculous and horrible! And they won’t change anyone’s behavior….! Hormones are Hormones, no matter what the economic situation is….
    When I was a Senior in High School, in 1949, in a middle to upper class town, ….a girl who was a junior got pregnant…..It was a bit of a scandal A young man who was a few years older than her was the father. They got married because it was what the parents thought they should do. It certainly was not what either of them had planned. Finances had nothing to do with it….Poverty was not in the mix, at all.
    That was a l-o-n-g time ago….And there was much less Birth Control available to both of them. I’m amazed that more teenagers didn’t end up in the same situation back then. Maybe they did and we just didn’t know about it.
    But today, the answer certainly isn’t in ADS like that in the Subway!!!

    • How did that couple end up? Did they have a long, happy marriage? I sure hope so.

      Not to play on a stereotype of the city but don’t you think NYC is the absolute LAST place you’d see a dumb thing like this? You can’t stop two teens awash in lust. One of the criticisms of the campaign is it tells kids NOTHING about how to prevent an unwanted pregnancy. They should have thrown in a line or two about birth control. I think abstinence is too much to hope for at this point.

  5. there is no easy answer, but education (not in the form of ‘abstinence only’), and total access to safe, affordable (free) birth control will help. i was on the board at the local planned parenthood affiliate for a few years. in a mid-sized mid-western town, we had 200-300 girls UNDER 15 coming in every month for free pregnancy testing. many of the same girls would come in every month – and not only get a full physical, but get full birth control access and information. one of our social workers did a study… interviewed them and took some data.

    they sort of wanted to be pregnant. when a girl becomes pregnant? she becomes important. people are nice to her. give her presents. her own mother is excited for a new grandbaby. she could get more assistance and get on the road to her own subsidized apartment (and sometimes get out of a terrible situation at home).

    the “men” poking these 13-15 year old girls? 16-18 year old boys. who might think about sticking around for a little while to see what this ‘father’ thing was about…

    not sure what to do about that. the posters aren’t the right answer – shaming teen parents isn’t a good strategy. but the information on the posters is dead on target, so long as it is accompanied by full access to reproductive health care…

    • That this came from the office of the quasi-liberal and, in my mind, enlightened, Michael Bloomberg is a big shock to me. He’s not had many missteps in his tenure as mayor but this one is a doozy. The posters should have at the very least provided some options for avoiding unplanned pregnancy other than wagging an adult finger.

      Ah…it’s great to sit up on this lofty perch and cast stones. It really never does get old.

  6. I love Brancusi’s work, and know bugger all about the German Expressionists, however I plan to learn.

    As for those ads: bonkers. All they’ll do is increase the feeling of smugness and superiority in certain people.

  7. Hey, thought I’d come over and visit as you’ve been visiting at mine quite a bit!

    To me, those posters are pointless, they’re rather like those messages aimed at teens that say “Don’t smoke because in about 20 years time you might get really sick” (Although worded slightly better than that!). Just telling teens about future consequences of things does nothing, it’s only because we, as adults, have experienced lots of consequences that we really understand them. I’m generalising of course, there are teens that understand about consequences, just as there are adults that don’t, but overall I would say that campaign is rather worthless.

    On a lighter note, in my area’s local council, there is a job with the title ‘Coordinator of teenage pregnancies’ – caused much amusement when they advertised the vacancy!

    • Hello there. Nice of you to stop by.

      One would think that New York City is a modern metropolis run by a super-sophisticated, super-aware government, in tune with the modern world and knowledgeable about the ways of young love. It turns out that the government here is just as dopy and clueless as governments everywhere! We’re not so smart. Seriously, who did they think was going to respond to these? I’m surprised they’re not defaced.

  8. What’s happened to your original blogsite?? I’ve been trying to access it for over a week and it just shows a black screen with occasional white flashes and … nothing. I found you again through google but what’s going on? Puzzled.

    • Ah. Well. This is my genius plan to revamp my blog as a self-hosted site. See how well this has worked out! None of my regular readers can find this place. Just the way I planned it.

  9. As a former pregnant teen, I seriously doubt this campaign would’ve stopped me from fornicating. I was educated regarding sex, and came from a lower middle class home, but I chose to play it wild and loose, for various reasons. Unlike most pregnant teens now, I chose not to keep my child, and I put her up for adoption. I went on to graduate from high school, and obtain a college degree. Most pregnant teens, I think the number is around 60%, become pregnant again within a year or two after their first child. These numbers astound me! But at some point, teens started to think it was “cool” to have a child at that age, and society started reinforcing it by offering daycares at high schools. When the high school in my community opened their daycare I was floored. It’s not that I don’t think that everyone has a right to an education, but I thought that was going a little far! I am not saying that all teen mothers are terrible mothers, or that they can’t go on to be successful adults. However, let’s stop glorifying teen pregnancy like they do on those “Teen Mom” shows. Look how that one teen mom on there turned out—doing porn, with her father’s approval.

    • It seems that teen pregnancy is declining (on this coast, anyway) which is a healthy development. But c’mon. Which self-satisfied bureaucrat came up with this? High school daycare kind of blows my mind, too. I thought a smoking lounge was a big deal!

      I thought the “Teen Mom” was intended as a cautionary tale? Is that not correct? I’ve never seen an episode. PLEASE don’t tell me they’re glorifying being pregnant at 16! Doesn’t it depict how hard life is if you have a baby in your teens?

      Thanks for sharing your story. I have a slew of questions regarding the adoption that are, frankly, none of my damn business. That doesn’t preclude me from being curious, though. Might make for an interesting series of posts. Just sayin’.

      • I think it glorifies teen pregnancy in that these girls are being paid to participate in the show, and becoming “infamous” in some sort of sick way.

        You’re actually not the first person who has suggested posts on my experience. I will delve into that arena after this most current wave of crap dissipates. 😉 I am always open to questions.

        I am truly bummed that I missed out on the smoking lounge at school! I hate that feeling of really wanting a cigarette after not having smoked for 2 1/2 years.

  10. You totally threw me there UB! Who is this new person on my post being all sensational? So now what do I call you? Eh? EOPS? You’re just trying to make life difficult for me. Cool title though 🙂 You have been prolific in my absence, I must catch up. Anyway, those posters…harsh! BUT…smacks a lot of truth doesn’t it. I don’t believe poorer areas create more teenage pregnancies though there’s probably less to do but go shagging and depends on the way you’ve been nurtured and whether Mummy and Daddy have told you to keep your tights up or don’t give a toss. I think most teens are raging with hormones and it’s just biology. Gotta get into their frontal cortex to stop their limbic lust!

    • Yes, well, you should have bloody well known it was me because I was being all sensational and whatnot. I decided to self-host, mix up my blog and not tell anyone. Rather rude, in hindsight. Call me Exile. Continue to call me UB, if you wish. Call me Ishmael. Whatever works for you.

      It’s not like *I* didn’t have raging hormones when I was 17! We all did. But we didn’t need a silly poster to keep us in check. Shall I prattle on about the fraying moral fabric of society? Ach. What’s the point? If I succeed in keeping my daughters out of the maternity ward until the time is appropriate, then I’ll be satisfied. But I know posters in the subway aren’t going to matter a whit.

  11. I find it particularly obnoxious that these ads target the girls, mainly, just that one ad specifically addressing the guys. I don’t agree that poverty is the cause of teen pregnancy—it might be true that teen pregnancy is more common in some lower socio-economic areas, but it’s insulting to assume that because your family doesn’t fit a certain tax bracket, you’re more inclined to get knocked up at 16. Lack of education, lack of common sense, lack of personal responsibility, and lack of understanding of the real ramifications of pregnancy—those are more legitimate contributing factors in my book.

    But then from what I hear, there’s also a “cool” factor in being a teen mom in some schools—which boggles my mind. If that’s the case, peer pressure is a fantastic motivator, isn’t it. Everyone else is having babies, I will too!

    Me, I never wanted kids anyway, so the idea of getting pregnant as a teenager would have been horrifying beyond belief.

    • Yes, this is an odious campaign. (I’ve been waiting a long time to use “odious” in a sentence.) Let’s face it, Weebs, who gets the raw end of the deal in an unplanned pregnancy? The girl. Guys are like bees who like to flit from flower to flower and spread their pollen. It ain’t right, but it’s biological and can’t be stopped. The poor flower is left holding the seedling. So, as obnoxious as it is (and you’re right, it IS!) I think it’s proper to target the goyls. That being said, it’s a terrible campaign that offers nothing but condemnation. In New York City! Did you ever think you’d see something like this in the subways?! It’s a good thing we left.

      Or is it?

  12. “Chances are he won’t stay with you?” Fuck, even if you’re 30 AND married, chances are he won’t stay with you. There’s is no guarantees in life. Why can’t they just promote safe sex and abortions???

    • Isn’t that a happy message? Can you imagine being pregnant and all hormonal and emotional and reading that? It’d spoil your week. And you’re right. Give them some solutions to consider. Yelling at the poor things isn’t going to help a bit. It probably wasn’t their idea to begin with!

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