The latex condom is the only form of birth control that provides protection against both pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. While not infallible, using a prophylactic correctly is much safer than not using one. The optimal safety strategy, if abstinence is not chosen, calls for the male to wear a condom, while his female partner uses any of the three hormonal methods: the pill, Depo-Provera or Norplant.
One of the most heartening changes in young people’s sexual habits, says Dr. Claire Brindis, is that boys have begun to share responsibility for birth control. “The pendulum has shifted,” she observes. “Contraception no longer falls solely to the young woman.”
Even so, too many boys try to squirm their way out of donning a prophylactic before sexual activity. You’re probably familiar with some of the reasons (excuses) typically given:
“It ruins the spontaneity.”
“It dulls the sensation.”
Girls, too, may have an aversion to condoms, though the reasons typically have less to do with physical pleasure than with the stigma often associated with this much-maligned form of contraception. Some young women, for example, say that using rubbers makes them feel “cheap,” when in fact they should congratulate themselves for being sexually responsible. Others worry that to keep a few condoms in their purse or backpack, just in case, might be misconstrued as a sign that they’re easily coaxed into bed or that seduction was on their agenda all along. It’s been found that adolescents who carry condoms are nearly three times more likely to use them for protection during intercourse.
When discussing birth control with teenagers, the message is the same for sons as it is for daughters: to have intercourse without a prophylactic, even once, could potentially derail their future and possibly even cost them their lives. They need to inform any and all sexual partners that no condom means no sex—no excuses, no exceptions.
“Teenagers still believe they can ‘tell’ who has HIV and who doesn’t,” observes Dr. Donna Futterman. “The line I hear from boys and girls is, ‘I can look in a person’s eyes and know.’ ” The fact is, we can’t confirm anyone’s monogamy but our own. We trust our romantic partner to be both true and truthful, but a study that surveyed about two hundred HIV-positive patients at a pair of New England hospitals revealed that four in ten of the infected men and women admitted they’d never informed their partners of their condition. Furthermore, nearly two-thirds of them did not always wear a condom.
Arming our sons and daughters with this information can help them face down the pressure to have sex without condoms—or to have sex at all.