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Time Mag frets: Why won’t teens use condoms? Teen response: Duh–condoms are no fun

November 14, 2013

Time wrings its hands:

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the percentage of American students using condoms hit its peak at around 60% a decade ago, and has stalled since then, even declining among some demographics. A recent study released by the Sex Information and Education Council of Canada found that nearly 50% of sexually active college students aren’t using condoms. Other reports have found that while teenagers are likely to use a condom the first time they have sex, their behavior becomes inconsistent after that.

Health officials from Oregon to Georgia are ringing alarm bells about rising rates of sexually transmitted diseases, worried that kids aren’t getting the message.
When condom-usage rates were on the upswing in the ’90s, America was in the midst of an AIDS epidemic that was claiming young lives daily. The fear of the disease gave heft to safe-sex campaigns. Today, public-health officials are partly a victim of their own success; contemporary teenagers grew up after the terror had subsided, thanks to antiviral drugs and those messages that helped bring infection rates down. “The young people today know HIV as a manageable, chronic disease,” [CDC youth specialist Laura] Kann says. “It’s not something that can kill you in their eyes. So that leads, most likely, to an attitude that it’s not something that they have to protect themselves from.”
The Time solution: More condom-promotion, natch.
Sex education is more robust than it was for previous generations, but a 2012 Guttmacher Institute report revealed that while nearly 90% of high schools are teaching students about abstinence and STDs, fewer than 60% are providing lessons about contraception methods.

***While it’s hardly a sexy, revolutionary proposition like remaking the condom, Kann says the key to driving condom use higher is more education. Canada’s survey, for instance, was revealing about how relatively unimportant the students considered STDs. Those who used condoms were much more likely to cite pregnancy than STDs as their main concern; 54% said their single motivation for using protection was birth control, while just 6% cited STDs as their sole reason.“It’s really critical for kids to know about their risk,” Kann says. “They need to know how to get tested. They need to know how to prevent infection. And we can’t do that alone here at CDC. We’re going to need action not only by this agency but also by parents, by schools and communities.”
The only problem: it doesn’t seem to work. High schools in the District of Columbia, for example, not only tell the kids all about condoms; they hand them out for free right on the school premises. In 2012 the DC school system gave away 200,000 condoms, about 16 apiece for the District’s 12,792 high-schoolers. The result? DC has the highest rate of teen STDs in America.

Even Time acknowledges that something seems to be wrong:

Even in places where there’s money and free condoms to go around, health departments haven’t necessarily seen safe sex go viral. New York City health officials are reporting that only 1 in 3 adult residents uses protection, despite years of PSAs and prophylactic handouts under Mayor Michael Bloomberg. While condom use among young people in New York City is slightly up since 2009, that puts it on par with the stagnant nationwide average.

My suggestion to Time’s reporters and editors: Read the comments section to your story, and you’ll discover why, despite decades of drum-beating, the rate of condom use isn’t budging. Here’s a sample comment:
Because sex sucks with a condom, people aren’t scared straight anymore.
Or, as Kathy Shaidle put it:
Schools and gay pride parades and walk-in clinics give them away (preferably the candy coloured type) in the same way that people give out candies that nobody really eats on Halloween. It’s just a thing people do now without even really realizing why. Pretty typical of every other State/Elite/Establishment rule.
A box of condoms by your bed says, “If you can see these, chances are really good we’re having sex pretty soon.”
Then nobody uses them because they’re slimy and fall off or won’t go on to begin with and ruin everything.

But you can’t tell that to the condom drum-beaters.

Posted by Charlotte Allen

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