Condoms

As many of you know, I work from home. When I'm doing something that doesn't require total concentration and therefore silence or classical music, you will find me listening to CBC Radio 1 most of the day. (Pop radio makes me want to hit my head against hard surfaces as I hear the same songs over and over, day after day).

With the 16th International AIDS Conference happening in Toronto this week I'm hearing a lot about AIDS. And today I've been hearing a lot about condoms. And a bit of talk about condoms in high schools.

So I'm going to say this - I 100% support the availability of condoms in high schools.

Yes, I know that someone out there is going to say that teenagers shouldn't be having sex. Honey, you can believe that until the cows come home but it doesn't change the fact that teens ARE having sex. Burying your head in the sand isn't going to change that.

And yes, someone else out there is going to say, "But sassymonkey, if teens ARE having sex, shouldn't they be old enough to buy condoms?" Good point. Some do. Some don't. Some try.

Try? What do you mean by try?

Pull up a pillow kids (I don't have enough seats for y'all) and let me tell you a true story.

I grew up in a small town. A very small town where it's damned hard to go anywhere without seeing someone who knows your parents or a friend of friend or an aunt or uncle or your run of the mill nosy neighbour.

The first few years of university I went home for the summer. I ended up having a number of jobs where I worked with local youth. I worked as an organizer for a local youth group. I was a government youth worker. I helped organize a summer exchange program. I was around a lot of teens.

One day I was at my friends place and her 15 yo sister's best friend (who was the same age), who knew that she could talk to me and my friend about things like sex, asked me if I'd take her to the pharmacy to buy condoms. I asked her if she was sure she was ready to have sex. She said yes. I asked her if she had any questions. She said no but if she thought of any she'd ask.*

So I drove her to the pharmacy. While we were in the car I asked her if she wanted me to buy the condoms for her. Her response?

"No. This is my decision. If I'm doing to do it, I have to be able to buy condoms."

Colour me impressed. Really. What more could you ask of a teen who was going to have sex for the first time?

So we went and she bought herself some condoms.

After we went to a local fast food restaurant. We weren't there for 10 minutes when the cellphone rang. Someone had seen her buy condoms and called her father. Her father was livid. Home she went and she was punished.

True, she was young. And yes, I can understand why her parents would be upset. But I have issues with her being punished for acting as one would except a responsible adult to act. She bought what she needed to protect herself. I know women in their 20s who can't buy condoms (don't get me started on the ones that won't use them).

Did she eventually have sex that summer? I'm assuming so. It was near the end of my summer break and I didn't see her again. If she did have sex I hope to hell her parents didn't confiscate her condoms. Or that her partner was as mature and smart as she was and provided some of his own.
Her high school doesn't have condoms available to students. Teen pregnancy DOES happen at that school. Almost every year. I graduated from that high school with multiple girls who were mothers - some had several children.

Ignoring it doesn't make it go away. And it's not always easy for teens to buy condoms without facing punishment and wagging tongues. Just because they are young does NOT mean that their sexual activities ought to be fodder for public gossip. How would you like if if yours was?

Put them in the high schools and that way WHEN, and in many cases it is WHEN not IF, they decide to have sex, they'll at least be able to do their best to keep themselves safe.

*FYI - She was above the legal age of consent where I grew up.