The Dutch are known for their liberal attitudes toward sex and drugs: while not officially legal, marijuana use and sale in “coffee shops” is tolerated in The Netherlands, as is prostitution, most notoriously in the street windows of Amsterdam’s red light district. Pragmatism, the Dutch have long believed, is better than punitive prohibition — and they’ve got lots of data on their side.While 12% of the American population has smoked marijuana in the last month, for example, the same is true of only 5% of citizens of The Netherlands.
As Salon reports, this practical attitude — and data favoring it — extends to teenage sex. Two-thirds of Dutch parents allow their 15-to-17-year-old children to sleep with their partners in their homes, according to a 2003 survey cited by the Salon post.
But rather than resulting in crazed teen orgies and high rates of teen pregnancy, abortion or transmission of STDs, the Dutch have far lower rates of these problems than the U.S. For example, the teen pregnancy rate in the Netherlands is just 12 pregnancies per 1,000 girls aged 15 to 19. In the staid U.S., there are 72 pregnancies per 1,000 girls the same age. The Dutch teen abortion rate is 20% lower than that in the U.S. And the rate of HIV infection in America is three times higher than in The Netherlands.