Saturday, January 12, 2013

What? Free Condoms... Really?

Um, uh, what... really? That's what a lot of my friends said over this winter break to me when I gave them free condoms. I was encouraged to give out condoms over my break, not something I would have done under my own volition but I had fun doing it. Reactions ranged from mild disbelief to hysterical laughter. Most people thought I was joking and none thought I was being completely serious about my offer until I handed the product to them. Ever since I started my work at Teen Link, I have taken delight in righting the wrongs of my friends and the sloppy sexual education given in a private high school. Knowledge like where to get free condoms, how to use them and realistic consequences of not using them elude most people at my school. Other than a scare tactic presentation sophomore year, my school has done little to nothing to educate students about sex. I have tried to help my friends out before by giving them cards from Teen Clinic (the best place ever). I've also handed out a pamphlet or two on age of consent laws to a few people who I knew might just need to take a look at them, but never have I done something as awkward as literally giving out condoms.

At first it was more than a little werid. You try working in "hey, you want a condom" into your next conversation and you'll see what I mean. As I gave out more and more to my friends it became almost a running joke that people expected. They usually laughed until I insisted they keep the condoms, then it didn't seem so funny to them. Many asked me why they needed to have one if they had no plans on having sex. I responded by saying "ya never know." At this point the guys would say "thanks," agree and slip it into a secret compartment in their wallets, while girls would give me an even stranger look and try to find a place for it in their purse, where no one would ever accidentally find it.

Almost every time I tried to give one out I was rejected on the first try. Only after insisting three or four times would a person accept the condom. Only a couple of people, the ones in serious longer term relationships, knew about help they could get at places like the Teen Clinic and Planned Parenthood, and even then they did not know how much of it was confidential as well as free. Everyone knew that they could get free condoms from Planned Parenthood, but the couple of guys I know who have gone said they were met by judging glares and even a couple of picketers outside. This was hardly the encouragement they needed to utilize these resources and be as safe as possible. Especially at my school, a Catholic private school, having condoms is weird. That is not to say that people aren't having sex, because they are. Often it just happens by "mistake," and unless you're in a very serious relationship, having sex lands people, or girls, I should say, with some pretty shity lables and reputations, which is actually pretty 'F'ed up. Sex is always covered up, shamed, or glorified. I guess its hard to be real about something you don't really know much about.

The truth is that we just don't have the education to know about this kind of stuff. We aren't taught what sex is, how to safely have it, what it means or the actual real life (not made up religious) risks of it. We also don't ever get to learn about the benefits of having safe sex, or that sex can be a positive thing when we actually know about our bodies, respect ourselves and respect the people we get with. 

Sex is not meant to be some big secret or complex equation. And it is definitely nothing to be ashamed of.  All we need is some honest communication, respect, education, and, of course...  condoms (which conviently come in all kinds of sizes, flavors, and made specially for both genders). I would just encourage you to always have easy access to condoms and always carry one to a party, because ya never know when you're going to need one. It doesn't matter if you're a guy or girl, take safety into your own hands. And always feel free to call Teen Link for a confidential place to talk about relationships or anything else.


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