Condoms for 11-year-olds

That’s the headline I read on the cover of the Philadelphia Daily News a few weeks ago. It did exactly what it was designed to do. It grabbed my attention and made me buy the paper! I mean, I’m a parent. Mind you, my daughter is only 6-years-old, but 5 years is not that far away!

I finally got a chance to check out the website they were referring to. Teens Take Control is from the Philadelphia Department of Public Health. The website is geared towards those between 11 and 19 years old and provides information on sexually transmitted diseases and how to prevent them, complete with videos on how to put on a condom, male or female.

What? Why are we showing 11-year-olds how to put on condoms? But wait. It gets better. The website also offers free condoms by mail to anyone in Philadelphia between the ages of 11 and 19.

Now you might be thinking the same thing I was thinking initially, which was pretty much, “ELEVEN IS WAY TOO YOUNG TO HAVE SEX!” And you’d be right.

But here’s the other side of it, some of them do have sex. Believe me, as the parent to a little girl, that thought appalls me like no other, but it’s true.

I had a friend when I was 14; he was 12. We were talking one night and he confessed to me that his girlfriend (who was the same age) was pregnant . . . with their second child. Several months later a girl from my street was forced to get an abortion by her mother. Why? Because the doctor told her that her 12-year-old frame would not survive a pregnancy and a delivery.

But they’re babies! Yes, they are. And it’s disturbing, but I, for one, would much rather them not have to pay for their mistakes with their lives. Teaching them how to use condoms, and providing them, is the only way I know how to do that.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, 13% of teens report having sex before the age of 15. Ok, that’s young, too young, but still better than 11, right? It is, but even if only 1 or 2 % of 11-12 year olds are having sex, isn’t that enough to get involved? If you step into a school, won’t you typically see at least 100 11-12 year olds? And if even one or two of them are at risk for contracting a sexually transmitted disease, isn’t it our duty to get involved and help them prevent it? But for my hometown, that number is still much higher. 25% of 6th grade students surveyed in West Philadelphia schools claimed to have had sex by the time they were 11 years old.

It makes me sick to think about it. It makes me want to grab my child and move away to a private island. It makes me want to ship my daughter off to an all-girls boarding school when she’s 10 years old. But I can’t do those things. I certainly can’t do those things for the all of the teens in Philadelphia . . . or across the country and even the world, because teen and preteen sex is not just an issue in my hometown.

In 2008, 25% of teens across the country carried at least one STD. That’s more than 3 million teens. It’s not a pretty picture. It’s not how we want to see our children. I mean, they’re our babies. We want to see them watching TV shows with talking animals or pop star high school students, not watching videos of a penis putting a condom on itself. We want to see them carrying baseball cards or pictures of the Jonas Brothers in their wallets, not condoms.

I don’t think anyone here is condoning young teens and preteens having sex. They just want to help protect the ones who already are. I don’t want to think about it. At the moment, I have the luxury of choosing whether or not I do. The Philadelphia Department of Public Health has to think about it. It’s their job to think about these things, and they’re doing the best they can with the world that surrounds them.

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by amber on May 18, 2011 at 10:34 pm

    WOW. That’s all sorts of awkward, and disturbing. I totally feel you on wanting to run to a private island with your daughter, I would probably feel the same way. I know the reality is that sex is more, and more common now, and it also seems as though the age of which someone becomes intimate like that is getting younger, and younger.

    I’ve always felt it was very unrealistic to believe that someone will wait until a “proper” age for sex, or even wait until marriage. I was raised to believe that sex should be something you do when you get married, not before, but I ended up losing my virginity well before that. It’s just one of things that’s out there, and there’s no real way of keeping abstinence a sure thing.

    I think the best way to cope with it is through education, so it’s good that they’re promoting safe sex, but it’s a little scary that on of their target recipients is barely in middle school.


    • Yeah, this is one of those things that just has me pulled in both directions. I tried to show the arguments within myself with this one. I really, really don’t want to think about it!

      The survey of 6th graders in West Philly was just appalling! But what do you do in that case? Do you lock them all away? Or teach them to protect themselves?


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