April 17, 2008
Abstinence for Realists
Pardon me while I get a little off topic here - but I had a good laugh when I learned about this new brand of condom available online. A recent study showed that while abstinence only sex education may briefly delay the onset of sexual activity, it results in teens being less likely to use condoms and contraception when they do become sexually active. Even worse, uninformed individuals may resort to dangerous attempts at preventing pregnancy or STDs (as this story suggests). As someone who works every day to keep sexually active youngsters healthy, this condom is the kind of abstinence I can get behind. The kind that acknowledges that eventually, abstinence comes to an end... and you'd better know what to do at that point.
I recently heard a true story of a mother who bought her 12 year old son two boxes of condoms and told him not to come out of his room until he could put them on in the dark with one hand behind his back. He is now an avid peer sex-educator. Wow! I know we can't all be that mom or that kid. But if you have young people in your life, take one small minute now to think about what you can do to increase their awareness of how to care for themselves as they develop sexually. One mom I know has a drawer in the house where the kids know there will always be plenty of condoms, and that the condoms will always be replaced without questions. She tells the kids their friends can take the condoms too. Brilliant.
Last week I had a mom come to our clinic with her 16 year old daughter (who had been sexually active for a year) to get her daughter on birth control. She blinked back tears throughout the visit, feeling a little overwhelmed at seeing her baby as a sexually active young woman. I was so proud of her for being brave enough to face those intense emotions, deal with such sensitive stuff, for her daughter's health. It was clearly not easy for her. In fact, it looked downright messy and uncomfortable. But she did it.
On our patient forms we ask: How old were you when you became sexually active? Every day I will see at least one patient who answers 13 or 14. And at least weekly someone answers 12 or 11. I mention this to convince you that it is not too early to talk about sex in your house! If you are already doing this, thank you. You are not only keeping your kids healthy, but all their friends too. As we in the medical profession know, they trust their friends way more than anyone with a healthcare degree. So get as much accurate, straightforward information into their little circles as you can!
Ok, ok. Soap-boxing finished...for now.