Condommania vs. abstinence

Sometimes you just have to accept the unexpected.For instance, who could have predicted the outcome of the poll that was conducted last semester on this newspaper’s website, Are our local students out to suppress the sexual revolution? If numbers don’t lie, it seems as if they are.The poll in question was worded, “What do you think about the distribution of condoms on campus prior to Valentine’s Day?” By far, the two most popular responses were “It’s putting the wrong idea into students’ heads” (28 percent) and “Bad idea” (25 percent). The next runner-up, “Good idea” came in at a meager 15 percent.So evidently, most community college students here in the free love capital of the world are rejecting the idea of free contraceptives. Doesn’t that seem a little odd?Wouldn’t it be more appropriate to ask, “Is that prudent?” Perhaps a few more numbers will help clear things up.The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has estimated that there are 12 million new cases of sexually transmitted diseases in this country per year, and only 40,000 of those are cases of HIV/AIDS. There are more common STDs that are transmitted by skin-to-skin contact. That means that slapping a piece of latex on a limited area of your anatomy is not very effective if unprotected skin comes in contact with infected skin. These STDs include syphilis (70,000 new cases per year), herpes (estimated at one million per year), and HPV, a virus associated with cervical cancer (5.5 million per year).As startling as these figures might be, statistics like these are subject to change. There is one, though, that never changes.Abstaining from sexual activity is the one and only 100 percent effective way of preventing the transmission of STDs. Whether it has become cliché or not is irrelevant; the only safe sex is no sex.Even if the chances are statistically slim that transmission of an STD would occur during protected sex, condoms are not invincible. According to CDC data, condom breakage occurs once every two hundred times.Thinking “It’ll never happen to me!” is delusional. The unexpected happens.What I want to know is, if STDs are as big a deal as we are told they are, why am I not getting a very good education about the only totally effective way to prevent them? Why were my college classmates and I once taught in class at Skyline that condoms are “even better” than abstinence? That is just blatantly inaccurate.Not only has there been patent inaccuracy, but a lack of balanced handling of the issue has been apparent. Have you ever been offered information about abstinence by health education professionals distributing literature around campus? Neither have I.At the average Bay Area high school or college campus, it seems that the most commonly assumption about those practicing abstinence are that they just can’t seem to get any action. That may be true in some cases. However, it is also true that some people would rather not worry about when the testing bus is going to be swinging by campus next.Of course, physical health is just one aspect. Studies have shown that a marriage is much more likely to end in divorce if one or both of the partners were sexually active prior to their marriage, but no amount of impersonal statistics will help heal emotional or psychological injuries. Encouraging condom use may end up protecting the user from some STDs, but condoms do not prevent broken hearts resulting from failed sexually active relationships. If it is such a good idea to protect our genitals, shouldn’t our emotional well-being be protected just as intently?The concept of “nothing risked, nothing learned” has merit, but there are much better things to risk than both physical and emotional health by being unwisely sexually active. There is no doubt that protecting yourself from unnecessary harm is the smart thing to do in any situation. However, we seem to have given some momentum to the problem while neglecting the obvious solution.Education that does not emphasize real solutions to existing problems is not education. It is misinformation. There are few things more dangerous than misinformation. If the faculty care about their pupils, they will teach them thoroughly or become partly responsible for the harm that students may experience as a result of a failure to provide all the facts in a balanced manner.If the distribution of condoms is going to happen, it should be only after we have spent all the effort and resources possible to encourage those not in long-term and fully-committed mutually monogamous relationships (e.g. marriage) to exercise self-control. It is no excuse to dismiss the issue with catchphrases like, “Well, boys will be boys.”After all, there’s no joy in being a prude for prudishness’ sake. On the contrary, the reward for being prudent is immeasurably more fulfilling.