Informed consent to sex is important to ensure sexual abuse doesn't occur. Health professionals working with teenagers, must ask themselves what can be done for teenagers who choose not to make that choice? Again and again these health professionals are dealing with teenagers who render themselves unable to make an informed decision, by deliberately getting very drunk. They therefore relinquish responsibility for their sex lives.
Young people are continually pressurised by the media. Girls are told they must be shaved, buffed, waxed and thin to be desirable. This unrealistic image is drummed into them via TV programmes, the internet and magazines. Boys should be witty muscle men with six packs. Magazines highlight celebrity transgressions - a sweaty armpit, cellulite, hairy legs, too much or too little make-up is ridiculed.
Teen programmes such as Hollyoaks, Orange County, even Friends, have unrealistically attractive role models. No-one is that perfect, but the pressure is on from an early age. Eating disorders and depression in the young are increasing.
Adolescent social interactions include a constant exposure to immediate evaluation on Facebook, Twitter, tagged photos, etc. A bad image can knock confidence and increase anxiety. It's much easier to be able to laugh and say, 'I was really drunk.'It provides an excuse for not being perfect, for making mistakes, for having unprotected sex and it somehow not being their fault.
Growing up is when we learn how to be independent, to be responsible for our actions and accountable for our relationships. However, society's attitude to sex is so contradictory it's no wonder teenagers use drunkenness as a coping strategy. They play Russian roulette with sex. Vulnerable young adults with low self esteem are the most at risk.
Young people lining up for the morning after pill or for STI treatment are making an informed choice; lots of mistakes and lots of losers. It seems so wrong, yet how we can put it right in our current confusing sexualised culture?