CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Questions About Our Condom Culture

Feb 8, 1996

What’s wrong with condom vending machines in schools? Let me count the ways.

1) The call for condom vending machines in high schools reveals a condescending attitude to our young people. It says, in effect, our young people behave like animals, they are unable to control themselves, and therefore we will just use the bandaid solution of condoms.

Why do we assume our young people have no self-control in this area, when in every other area of their lives – smoking, drinking, etc. – we admonish them to exercise self control? Such a double standard can only confuse our young people.

2) It deals with the consequences of a person’s actions, instead of tackling the root causes. With every other behavioural problem, be it drug taking or smoking, we take a clear stand. If we don’t want our young people to do something, we forbid it; we don’t simply protect them from the consequences of their actions. Thus we have campaigns that are called “QUIT” or “Just say no”.

There is near unanimity in this country about kids and drugs. We are certain that we want kids to stay away from drugs. We don’t tell high schoolers, “You’re not old enough to take drugs responsibly. But if you do decide to partake anyway, here are clean needles and syringes to prevent the worst consequences of your actions”. We are not – as yet – arguing that we should install syringe-vending machines in schools. We haven’t yet devised the slogan: “Shoot up if you must, but use a clean needle”.

3) Condoms do not provide safe sex. Medical experts now do not even speak of “safe sex” – instead they talk about “safer sex”. That is because condoms are a bandaid solution, and an ineffective solution at that.

C.M. Roland, editor of Rubber Chemistry and Technology, has said that “rubber contraceptives are inherently unable to make sex safe.” He says that condoms have holes 50 times the size of an AIDS virus. The inventor of the lubricated condom, Dr Malcolm Potts even admitted, “We don’t know how much protection condoms give”. Another researcher said, “Available data now indicate that efficacy of condoms has been largely overestimated”.

The British Medical Journal says the overall failure rate of condoms due to slippage and breakage is 26%. Other recent studies found condom failure rates as high as 36% and 38%. Another study found that women relying on condoms become pregnant 16% of the time. If so, what about sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)? A woman can get pregnant only one or two days a month – but she can get a STD 365 days a year.

4) Throwing condoms at young people sends out the wrong message. Consider the analogy of drink drivers. To warn others about drink drivers, we could issue all of them with a revolving red light. That way, as they drive down the street, others will be forewarned. This scheme would probably minimise road deaths to an extent. But surely the goal is to prevent drink driving in the first place, not just to make it safer for the drink driver to do so.

We take the same approach to smoking. We don’t tell our young people, “if you are going to smoke, smoke cigarettes with a filter”. No, we tell them not to smoke because it is a dangerous activity. Why don’t we tell teens that promiscuous sexual activity is dangerous, that there are at least 57 STDs ravaging our country, many of them fatal, and many of them with no known cure? Why don’t we tell them that playing fast and loose with sex can lead to an early grave?

5) Condom distribution encourages promiscuity. Critics deny this, but it is patently obvious. We simply reinforce peer pressure by throwing out condoms. We send a message to young people that sex is inevitable, so try to make it safer. We are telling them we don’t really care about them enough to put time into their lives to help them make lifelong rewarding decisions. We’d rather just hand them a bandaid and hope for the best.

Indeed, if we take this approach, why not go all the way? As one commentator suggested, why not provide high schools with clean, curtained bedrooms? Why not open brothels in schools, with regular medical checkups provided, all funded by the tax-payer of course? This is condom-logic taken to its natural conclusion.

But before we conclude that all young people are sex-crazed animals who just gotta do it, consider this figure: sex education advocate Planned Parenthood found in its own survey that the topic sexually active girls, 16 and under, most wanted information on (86%) was “how to say no without hurting the other person’s feelings”. Why can’t we help our young people to say no, if that is what they really want?

6) Been there, done that. A number of experiments have been conducted of the effectiveness of condom distribution in schools. In America hundreds of schools have been distributing condoms for quite some time – long enough to see how effective such a strategy is. The results are now coming in. Many studies find that the programs are failures. Just one example: Adams City High School in Colorado was the first school in America to freely distribute condoms. They now have a pregnancy rate 1/3 higher than the national average. Many other examples can be cited. Why use our young people as guinea pigs in an experiment that has been tried elsewhere and has been found wanting?

7) Alternatives are better. One has to ask why sex education programs featuring an emphasis on chastity and/or abstinence are ignored here. Overseas such programs have proven to be quite effective. One study, published in the left/liberal Atlantic magazine recently found that abstinence based programs, coupled with parental involvement, are the most effective forms of sex education available. And here in Australia, Dr Barry Earp has studied the effectiveness of condoms versus abstinence. He discovered that abstinence-based sex education has been shown to be “more effective in lowering rates of abortion and teenage pregnancy than programmes that just rely on information about the use of various contraceptives. There is an urgent need for Australia to widely implement abstinence-based sex education programmes.” If so, why do all the “sexperts” here refuse to even consider such programmes?

Our condom culture is failing our young people. Indeed, for some, it is shortening their lives, and ruining their fertility. Any culture that worships latex and glorifies unrestrained sexual indulgence, while minimising personal responsibility and self-control, is asking for trouble, and that is just what we are getting.

[1107 words]

One Response to Questions About Our Condom Culture

  • This is good material. I am concerned about the increasing rates of STI’s world wide. There seems to be a connection between the introduction of condom culture and the rise in the rates.

    The lack of belief in behaviour change among the defeatist minded pro condom lobby is making a lot of money for share holders.

    Dale Moore

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