All things are not so well in the world’s ‘wealthiest’ country. A study has revealed that a large number of teenage girls in the United States of America (USA) are forced to trade sex for food because of poverty. The study conducted by Urban Institute, a Washington-based think tank, found that teenage girls indulge in “survival sex” to make the ends meet, while the boys indulge in extreme activities like shoplifting or selling drugs.
The focus group study was conducted among 10 communities in the US. The study report, Impossible Choices, extensively quotes the participants. It says most of the teens talk about their “coping strategy” of sex for food in terms of “transactional dating relationships.”
The report quotes one of the participants in rural North Carolina as saying: “When you’re selling your body, it’s more in disguise. Like if I had sex with you, you have to buy me dinner tonight… that’s how girls deal with the struggle… That’s better than taking money because if they take money, they will be labelled a prostitute.”
The disturbing findings of the study show teens not only indulge in selling, stealing and engaging in “survival sex”, some even “directly trade their future to meet immediate needs.” Teen interviewees in Chicago told the researchers that they were using the “tactic of failing school or class” so that they could be placed in summer schools where two meals are guaranteed every day.
The report says teen food insecurity requires urgent action in the US. It adds that the “risky behaviour” is not typical of all teens. However, the report shows the extent to which “desperate” and “food-insecure” teenagers are taking themselves to “survive”.
The findings raise doubts over several welfare legislations by the US government in the past 20 years. It also questions the spending priorities of the US Congress and highlights the impact of slow wage growth in one of the world’s richest countries.
Susan Popkin, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute and lead author of the report, thinks that the situation is only getting worse for the poor teenagers. “It’s a situation I think is just getting worse over time,” she was quoted as saying by The Guardian.