Staying on the theme of teen sexuality and education, Frank McNamara, Jr. (former U.S. attorney for Massachusetts) has a fantastic column in today’s Boston Globe on condoms and sexual abstinence. In talking about moves to make condoms even more readily available for free to children as young as 11 (the mayor of Philadelphia offers to mail condoms to teens and preteens through a website), McNamara points out the two contradictory messages being transmitted:
“The first is amoral: sex in high school is tacitly okay, a recreational sport about which adults are agnostic, so long as it is ‘safe.’ The second is irrational: sex for high school kids is, well, not okay, but we adults trust neither you kids to abstain nor ourselves to lead.”
Teenagers are looking for leadership from their parents on this issue, and parents are responding in a way that leads to “cynicism and disdain for confused and cowardly adults and their incoherent ethical norms.”
The refrain of “safe sex” is easily translated in young minds “to invitations to have sex, as students interpret adult quiescence as a green light to experiment.” Who is likely to suffer the most? The young girls who are more easily coerced and exploited for sex will suffer. McNamara also rightly points out the statutory rape laws in Massachusetts which say that sexual intercourse or sodomy with a person under 16 is criminal in Massachusetts, and school that distribute condoms could easily be considered as accessories to these crimes.
“A school abdicates its responsibility and squanders an important teaching moment when it transmits a blasé ‘it’s-okay-to-just-use-a-condom’ signal, behaving as if it either doesn’t know or doesn’t care about the many destructive physical and psychological forces that scar kids venturing prematurely into this complex arena.”