The Condom Distribution Debate
The topic of condom distribution in public schools has caused many heated debates throughout our country in the last decade. Proponents of distribution state that free condom distribution will ensure that teenagers will practice safe sex and that the rate of sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy will decline. Opponents of distribution state that free condom distribution will encourage sexual activity and foster the idea that premarital sex is acceptable. Judges in federal court have even considered whether or not condom distribution and sex education without prior parental notification violates parents' First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The only viewpoint absent in a discussion of this very controversial topic is the one that holds the most value: the viewpoint of America's teenagers. Teenagers are the only ones who can fully explain why condom distribution fails to respond to the needs that foster sexual activity among young people.
Though I am not a sexually active teenager, refraining from sexual involvement has been difficult. I have been in serious relationships where the desire to have sex has been complicated by emotional expectations. Abstinence is especially hard in a society that seems to promote sex, as long as it is "safe" sex. I feel that the support, which used to come from authority figures such as parents and educators, is crumbling because of the initiation of programs such as condom distribution. It is as though parents and schools have forgotten that some teenagers, for whatever personal reasons, do not desire to be sexually active. I do not minimize the need to educate teenagers about safe sex and the risks of sexually transmitted diseases, for I am fully aware of how sexually active American teenagers are today. The latest statistic I read on this subject claims that "Most teenagers (75% to 86%) have their first sexual intercourse between the ages of 15-20" (Fanburg). No doubt a large majority of American teenagers are sexually active, but I believe the assumption that all teenagers are, or desire to be, sexually active is fallacious. I think that in making this assumption, we have oversimplified the solution to the problem. I am confident that if we took the time to ask why so many teenagers are sexually active today, we would discover the solution is not a simple one. Maybe we have not asked in fear of discovering that a satisfactory solution requires more thought and energy than deciding whether or not to keep a basket of condoms in the nurse's room.
John Leo, a columnist for U.S. News and World Report, reveals hidden solutions to preventing the problems caused by teenage sex. These solutions have remained hidden because they involve directly communicating with American teenagers. Leo's article specifically discusses the opinions of young women about sexual intercourse, motherhood, and self-esteem issues. The title of Leo's article, "Learning to Say...