Appealing to Self-Preservation isn’t Appealing

If you live in NYC, you’ve probably noticed the controversial advertisements from the NYC Teen Pregnancy Prevention campaign. Designed to encourage safe sex among teens, the campaign (mis)uses provocative images and messages to try to scare teens into safe sex, or abstinence.

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By putting the message in the baby’s mouth, viewers are forced to read it, and into it, from the baby’s perspective. Therefore, when he says that he won’t graduate from high school because he was born to a teen mother, what is he expressing? That it would have been better not to have been born at all? Taking into account the quality of life of a potential child is more than reasonable, however this implicit suggestion, especially coming from the child itself, is particularly hard to swallow.

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This advertisement makes two risky, potentially alienating presumptions. The first is telling young male viewers, via the specific mention of child support, that they that won’t end up staying with the mother of their child. While this statistically most often the case, it’s not a reality that many young, unrealistic men will necessarily accept. The second assumption is that young men would rather keep their money than raise a potential child. Once again, this statement doesn’t accurately reflect the mindset of most young men (who, probably, are incapable of becoming concerned with their long-term finances in the first place), and the minority of young men this feeling does apply to wouldn’t want to identify with it.

The advertisements that received the most backlash in the media were ones of teenage, pregnant boys.

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