What course for schools on distributing prophylactics?



Condom ad

Brazil Your Business Blogger and Charmaine recently had to opt-out portions of the penta-posse from a mixed-gender sex education class.

Public schools. Not much calculus, but lotsa condoms.

Charmaine wrote the following article for The Washington Times some time ago.

How safe is “safe?” Or “safer?” In any discussion of condom distribution in schools, this fundamental question must be kept clearly in focus.

The bottom line is that condoms are not effective in preventing pregnancy or the transmission of HIV. Presenting condoms to immature teenagers — particularly in a school setting — as safe, or “safer,” is irresponsible public policy.

As a contraceptive, condoms have a very high failure rate. Planned Parenthood’s research shows that condoms have a failure rate of 15.7 percent at preventing pregnancy over the course of a year. This is a standardized rate; for specific age and demographic groups, the rates soar to 36 percent and 44 percent.

Despite this unpromising performance, Planned Parenthood, the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S. and others remain vocal advocates of distributing condoms in schools. They argue that more education would cut down on the user failure factor that contributes to these fluctuating failures rates.


Thank you (foot)notes:

This article was originally published on December 11, 1994 and still remains valid today.

Charmaine Debates Condom Safety on NBC

Would it? Research from the Alan Guttmacher Institute, an organization with close ties to Planned Parenthood, found that of women ages 15 to 44, women 20 to 24 had the highest failure rates. Surprisingly, women 15 to 19 and women 25 to 34 had very similar failure rates.

The women in each age range were grouped into “high” and “low” rankings, reflecting the low and high rates of pregnancy among groups of women who have higher rates of user-failure.

Only among women over 35 were all of the women in an age range able to achieve failure rates under 19 percent. Even this last group of women — presumably more mature, in more stable relationships, better educated and with overall lower fertility rates — report failure rates as high as 5 percent.

This gives us a rough idea of how well “more educated” might work: age, which correlates with more education and greater maturity, does make a difference. But not enough. When we switch to evaluating condoms for HIV prevention, the stakes are a lot higher: Failure is no longer measured by unwanted pregnancies. Failure is measured by death.

Nevertheless, despite its poor showing as a contraceptive, the condom has been reincarnated as a disease-preventing device. We now see dancing condoms in federally funded television commercials, and hear from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the surgeon general that using a condom is the way to prevent the spread of HIV.

This is simply not true. It is, in fact, a dangerous lie.

The underpinning of the universal-condom-use philosophy is the idea that everyone is at risk. Everyone . As a result, a negative view of sexuality is creeping — subtly and unacknowledged — into our public sex education.

By distributing condoms to school children, and publicly urging everyone to use a condom every time they have intercourse, we are teaching our children — as well as adults — to distrust the people with whom they are have sex. Why are we accepting, even promoting, the idea that one would sleep with someone one does not trust?

Most people do not behave that way. This is perhaps the most unrealistic element of the universal-condom-use policy: Most people (particularly teens) have convinced themselves that there is at least a minimum level, usually more, of trust involved before they decide to have sex with someone.

The condom philosophy says just the opposite. Passing out condoms in schools is a fear-based approach to sexuality.

It communicates other negative messages to our teens. It is possible that a teen can receive a condom from a teacher and then honestly think that teacher believes he or she has the strength of character to say “no?” Do we want our teen-agers to live up to these kinds of expectations?

Imagine the scenario: A young man is trying to convince his date to have sex. She knows he has in his pocket a condom he received in school. Planned Parenthood’s research shows that peer pressure and “thinking that everyone else is doing it” are the top two reasons teens have sex. What kind of added pressure is she feeling now? Even her school thinks everone else is doing it.

These two teens go on to have sex, using that condom with fear, inexperience and fumbling. How realistic is it to think it was used correctly? Even if it was, how sad. The young girl probably didn’t get HIV, but the condom didn’t protect her from other sexually transmitted disease, like Chlamydia, that could impair her fertility later in life. And it certainly didn’t protect her self-esteem.

The alternative scenario of two teens who use the condom flawlessly isn’t a much prettier picture. That takes experience. Is that what we want for our teens?

This isn’t just a debate about pregnancy and HIV prevention. It’s about teaching teens to be healthy in all areas of their lives.

The research is quite clear: Teens who get involved in sexual activity have multiple partners, high rates of sexually transmitted diseases, lower grades and higher rates of suicide.

Condoms don’t provide protection for any of those consequences. Our teens deserve better advice. They deserve the truth about the power of abstinence.

Charmaine Crouse Yoest [Ph.D.] [was] a Bradley Fellow at the University of Virginia and a public policy consultant [now at the Family Research Council]. Excerpted from the winter issue of Priorities magazine.


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