The generally-accepted wisdom about unprotected sex is not to do it unless you’re in a monogamous relationship. Given the risks, I understand the logic and can see why this position is publicly endorsed and promoted. But I find the message incomplete. You’ll get no argument out of me that sexually-transmitted diseases exist, persist and can kill. But an honest dialogue requires that we admit a truth that often gets left out of the discussion: Unprotected sex feels better.
In case anyone actually needs proof, consider the fact that condoms are fairly easy to obtain (even for free at many public health clinics), and we live in a society where most people know at least the basics of what can happen without one. Yet, according to the Centers for Disease Control, “STDs are one of the most critical health challenges facing the nation today”. Their research indicates that 19 million new infections are reported every year in the U.S. – and it affects every social strata. Add to that the number of unwanted pregnancies and abortions, and it’s easy to conclude that people generally prefer unprotected sex.
So, why is this an important part of the conversation about safe sex? Because to make a well-rounded case against a certain action, you must honestly address not only the negative aspects of that action, but also the benefits. Otherwise, as soon as people discover the benefits, you’ve lost all credibility.
This is particularly important when we’re talking to our children. Teenagers have a way of thinking that everything they experience is new and unique, and that when it comes to the “fun” stuff in life (like drugs, alcohol and sex), their parents either don’t understand or aren’t telling them everything. Yes, a conversation about safe sex is important. But have the entire conversation. That means that when discussing the birds and the bees and STDs with your children, your students or whomever you’re trying to convince about the dangers of unprotected sex, tell them the whole truth. Otherwise, when they figure it out for themselves, you may no longer seem like a reliable source of information.
So, sure, promote safe sex. I am all for it. But tell the whole truth, which goes something like this: “Sex without a condom feels better and more intimate, but it’s not worth risking unwanted pregnancy, illness, infertility and even death. So, I strongly suggest that you use a condom if you’re going to have sex.”
It might not be the most comfortable conversation, but the truth and the ability to discuss it is Powerful.
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