Does everyone know that it is National Condom Month? Are you participating?
As I have written before, the “Land of Enchantment” seems to inspire creative, out-of-the-box (no pun intended) thinking—including in the New Mexico Department of Health. So to encourage the use of condoms, an image of a “protected” red chili pepper is being used to drive home the message “Wrap it up!”
However, my editing brain reacts to the order. It sounds like they’re talking about a hot dog. If “it” is a penis, perhaps the slogan should be “Slide it on!” This is because “Slip it on!” evokes the possibility of a sloppy, loose fit. I did, after all, watch a video cartoon by the American Sexual Health Association (ASHA) demonstrating the correct technique.
But I am fully supportive of New Mexico going colorful in behalf of National Condom Month.
I made the point recently that we rank very low in certain esteemed categories like education (#48), economy (#47), and opportunity (#46). On Valentine’s Day (also National Condom Day), we learned that we rank very high in sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). In fact, we’re #5 in the nation. First place goes to Alaska, which will be easy to remember, since it starts with an “A.” Three Southern states also beat us out, but I won’t name them. I have relatives living in each one.
But I stray–and now to California. It was students at the University of California at Berkeley back in 1978 who came up with the idea of encouraging safe sex by celebrating Condom Day on Valentine’s Day. One of their slogans was “Don’t be silly, protect your willy.”
Forty years later, I feel compelled to point out that a masculine perspective still rules to a certain extent. The chili pepper image serves to clarify that bias. It’s clear that protecting the chili pepper is the priority. However, we all know that the pepper contains many seeds that can escape and sprout–in the feminine garden.
Nevertheless, it was good that this approach went national in raising youth awareness of the importance of safe sex, as in also avoiding unwanted pregnancy. The condom, however, has not been a very effective solution. For one thing, young people haven’t liked the “hassle,” and when the male abdicates responsibility in that regard, it’s really awkward for the female to take it on.
In fact, the incidence of unwanted teen pregnancy began to drop only when girls gained access to birth control pills, even though the daily dose was also often forgotten. The most effective option is an IUD that can provide protection for years.
As you can tell, my focus in this matter is on teen pregnancy rather than disease prevention. The problem is that the consequences of the former are not equally shared by the sexes.
IT’S ALL IN THE NUMBERS
DoSomething.org, a global organization dedicated to motivating teens to improve their lives, says that 8 out of 10 dads don’t marry the teen mother of their child, and of course they are also not obligated to provide financial support. The graduation rate from high school for the mother is only 50%, and less than 2% earn a college degree by age 30. An untimely pregnancy can doom the young, unmarried mother and her child to a life of poverty.
The disadvantages go on and on. The cost to society is high in terms of welfare, healthcare, foster care, the high incarceration rates of children, and lost tax revenue due to the inability of unwed, uneducated mothers to get good jobs. The feminine is rising nationally, and perhaps with it will come the means, the right, and even the responsibility to postpone childbirth until the optimum time.
The importance of the latter is illustrated by yet more numbers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2015, we ranked #3 in the percentage of unmarried mothers and #4 in the teen birth rate. With those categories so closely linked with poverty, it is no wonder that New Mexico ranks #3 among the most impoverished states.
Fortunately, the good news is that the teen birth rate is falling nationwide, and evidently the main reason is that teens are more frequently abstaining. This may be due in part to effective sex education programs. However, another surprising possibility is the distraction of “screen” time. It gets in the way of social interaction and may be more interesting even than sex. The way things are going, you know, this will only increase with all ages. And here I was worrying about this phenomenon. Maybe Trojan is too.