You know you've reached a new low in terms of reputation when you are named the worst person on reality TV. Not the second worst or third worst, but the very worst. Keep in mind that some of the people who currently have reality shows include women who take pride in being related to convicted murderers (see Mob Wives), and multiple women accused of physical assault (see Basketball Wives and a bunch of other shows.) But Kardashian mom Kris Jenner managed to best them all. Apparently being accused of pimping your own kids, and not demonstrating an inkling of shame about doing so, makes you worse in the eyes of most people than beating someone up.
But the woman nicknamed "Pimp Mama Kris" by some is not the only member of the family to be universally reviled. In fact, if this summer's Olympics had contests for being detested the Kardashians would sweep. Kim Kardashian recently received more votes than Jerry Sandusky, Bernie Madoff and O.J. Simpson in a contest to name "The Most Hated Person in America." That's right. There are Americans who feel that Kim Kardashian is more offensive than a convicted pedophile and O.J.
While I wouldn't go quite that far, I would certainly agree that if there were one word to sum up all that's wrong with American culture today, that word would be "Kardashian." So imagine my surprise when I actually discovered that the Kardashian clan's two most high profile women had actually managed to set a good example for a change.
When it was revealed during a recent interview that Jenner placed her daughter Kim on birth control at the age of fourteen, there were those who applauded the move, but others reacted with horror, judgment and variations of, "Well, that explains everything." The underlying sentiment being, "Well, obviously a girl who has the kind of mother who would put her daughter on birth control at fourteen will end up making a sex tape." But according to data, not only did Kris Jenner get it right but she is actually part of a growing movement of moms who are lifting their heads out of the sand when it comes to the sexual behaviors of their kids.
According to a study by Thomson Reuters, the number of American teen girls on the birth control pill has increased by 50 percent over the past decade, with one in five between the ages of 13 and 18 now taking it. That's over two million girls. One doctor interviewed by ABC News said he had prescribed it to girls as young as twelve. This shouldn't be all that shocking since over the last decade sexual experimentation among teens has begun earlier, with "hooking up" occurring with increasing regularity among the middle school tween set.
But the number of teens taking birth control remains a drop in the bucket when you consider the total number of teens out there, many of who either receive mixed signals from their parents when it comes to navigating the hormone fueled landmines of their teen years, or no signals at all. Two thousand teens become pregnant in the U.S. daily. A 2009 study published in Pediatrics found that more than 40% of adolescents had already had intercourse before having a talk with their parents about sex. Another study commissioned by the Center for Latino and Adolescent Family Health in conjunction with Planned Parenthood found that while many parents actually do discuss sex in some capacity with their kids, many (40%) don't actually discuss birth control. With only ten states including birth control in their sexual education curriculum, that means that parents really are crucial to insuring that sexually curious teens grow into sexually responsible young adults.
(As I have previously reminded those adults who worry that discussing birth control and safer sex with kids amounts to encouraging them to have sex, we enroll teens in driver's ed to prepare them for the driver's seat, and we don't think twice that doing so encourages them to steal cars in order to drive illegally. It's just a matter of making sure they are educated, prepared and safe.)
For all of the criticism of Kim Kardashian (and there is certainly plenty that is justified), one thing she has gotten right so far is avoiding bringing a child into the world that she is not ready to care for. This means her mom deserves credit for doing something right too. If only more parents would take a cue from Jenner -- just this once -- the world would be happier, healthier place for our kids.
Click here for tips on how to talk to the teen in your life about making healthy sexual choices.
Keli Goff is the author of The GQ Candidate and a Contributing Editor for Loop21.com where this piece originally appeared.