Sex as a Regrettable but (possibly) Necessary Evil

Our friends at Island Morning posed the question “Should condoms be made available in Island schools?” for this morning’s regular Friday-morning phone in. Yes, this is still an open question here on PEI. Sigh.

Of course we got to hear to usual range of “having condoms easily available will only encourage them” calls from people who presumably have forgotten completely what it was like to be a teenager and thus are completely divorced from any ability to be realistic about this issue (has there ever been an example in history of a teenager sitting on the fence about sex being pushed over the edge by the ‘implicit permissiveness’ that condom machines in schools are supposed to have? — “I know you think it’s wrong, Billy, but the school board wouldn’t install condom machines in the washroom if they didn’t want us to have sex”).

In this puritanical environment, those fair-minded people who can see the upside of making condoms as freely and widely available as possible are forced to couch every argument they make inside a fog of “and of course we also encourage abstinence.” Any suggestion that if teens are going to have sex it might as well be good sex would, I imagine, be greeted with expulsion, trial for heresy, or worse.

In other words, it’s somewhat okay to admit that kids are having sex — as young as 11 or 12 years old they said this morning — and it’s somewhat okay to seek a sort of “medical intervention” in the process by providing them with condoms, but these things are only somewhat okay if it’s generally suggested that sex is still wrong.

I can only imagine that the sex that results is inevitably conducted in non-optimal conditions, tinged with guilt, shame and fear of being found out, and likely often not symmetrically consensual. What kind of introduction to sex is this?

Perhaps a more useful question for the CBC to pose would be something like “What could we be doing to give our kids a healthier introduction to sex?” The longer we waste time on issues like condom availability — issues that the much of the rest of the world has grappled with and dealt with already — the longer we allow a culture of “sex as regrettable but possibly necessary evil” to persist.


Robert Paterson's picture
Robert Paterson on February 29, 2008 - 22:26 Permalink

So well put Peter — My kids are 28 and 30 now and we thought a lot about this ourselves — as you will find with Oliver.

Having had a simply ghastly introduction myself which I think has scarred me even to this day, one day after a few drinks I might tell you because it has its funny side too, I accepted that both of my kids would start at some time.

We did our best to encourage them to see this as part of loving someone and of being loved in return. The hardest part of all is to decide where this my take place — on the washroom floor of the school — in the back of a car — drunk at a party — in the bushes somewhere — or heavens forbid in their own room at home?

Meeting the boyfriend at breakfast was a jolt at first — but I think that my kids will tell you that being accepted as sexual beings — as being fully human — was a much better start than most of their friends had

This sex is a sin thing makes it dirty. It’s the same as drink. In places like Italy and France, drink is not a sin and hence a binge thing but a natural part of eating and hence living — as is sex.

I find it deeply sad in our society that we teach our kids that sex is either dirty or merely a mechanical act

Jennifer's picture
Jennifer on March 1, 2008 - 04:08 Permalink

I think our school systems need a rude awakening; our youth ARE having sex, and will continue to do so with or without condoms. Easier access to condoms will (hopefully) result in safer sex, NOT an increase of sexual activity. I remember being a teen and being embarrassed to buy tampons, let alone trudge up that dreaded “family planning” aisle!

In high school, (about a decade ago) we were taught “abstinence”; nothing about the confusing emotions associated with sex, nor the importance of protecting ourselves against STDs, a sad lesson one of my best friends now bears the burden of. I think my grad year was a record one for teenage pregnancy.

We can’t make decisions FOR our children, but we can hopefully show them the support they need to make healthy decisions for themselves- including safe sex.

Pat Garrity's picture
Pat Garrity on March 1, 2008 - 05:54 Permalink

I think that the removal of the demonization of sex from our schools/culture is just as important as education about STDs, pregnancy, birth control, etc. If sex were to become more ‘Europeanized’ in our culture, I think that the other issues would almost take care of themselves (dropping teen pregnancy rates, lower STD rates, etc).

Kevin's picture
Kevin on March 2, 2008 - 02:05 Permalink

has there ever been an example in history of a teenager sitting on the fence about sex being pushed over the edge by the

Pat Garrity's picture
Pat Garrity on March 2, 2008 - 06:59 Permalink

Why shouldn’t having sex be acceptable? And regardless of how “acceptable the face of sex” is, teenagers are going to have it, so they might has well have it safely and in an environment that doesn’t demonize sex.

Kevin's picture
Kevin on March 2, 2008 - 15:41 Permalink

I agree sex shouldn’t be demonized but that isn’t the point. The issue is (or ought to be), “[made] more acceptable especially for those who may not be mature enough to understand or handle the consequences”. Those who are immature and horney are going to see those machines as an advertisement for having sex. There are a lot of high school kids who are simply not ready and there are lots of consequences that kids simply don’t understand that go well beyond pregnancy.

I was chatting with a woman the other day who lamented that the guy often disappears when a teen pregnancy disappears — “the boys should just keep their zippers up” she said. When the woman’s movement got going it spent the first fifty years on the issue of the vote, but for the last sixty years the emphasis has been control over their own bodies and in particular, their reproduction. Once a pregnancy exists the choice has been made (rape is a different matter). Both parties understand which one might get pregnant and which one will not. The choice is theirs, and it cannot be shared equally — women absolutely must shoulder the bulk of responsible becasue the consequences are more significant for them. And so, after ‘winning’ the battle to remove partriarchy and clergy from their reproduction, many now dress in the most provocative way possible (their choice) and still demand that young men take half the responsibility for reproduction issues (for whom biology has made them good ‘target trackers’ and perpetually horney). When all the liberal/libertarian/anarchist bullshit is removed from the situation the remainder of it falls under the weight of its own hypocricy. Young men should practice restraint and young women should practice modesty in sexual matters — with a greater emphasis on those qualities there would be much less heart-ache.

Regardless, putting condoms in schools solves the problem of access to condoms and opens a can of whoop-ass on a ton of other issues including the matter of young horney men with the “c’mon, everyone else is doing it — and it’s SAFE now…”. To hell with the emotional issues, to hell with the consequences, forget that condoms break, forget that even when they don’t break many sexually transmitted diseases can still thrive.

Y’know, I can understand when kids make these arguments, but it really astonishes me that adults, many of whom have gone through emotional pain because of their experiences with sex (not every act, and not every person, but many many have), can make these arguments and allow themselves to believe that a few condom machines are going to solve more problems than they create. It’s really astionshing. The reality is so clear.

oliver's picture
oliver on March 2, 2008 - 18:44 Permalink

Sex is a consuming preoccupation as a teen, it’s fueled by imagery everywhere in ads and entertainment, and you know you can’t be frank about how you feel with anybody. Could it be this has anything to do with teen alienation, nihilism, scofflaw-ism, vandalism, murder, rape and suicide? A conservative education teaches Homer, according to whom the original Trojan war as well was over sexual honor. It doesn’t justify the cost.

Steven Garrity's picture
Steven Garrity on March 3, 2008 - 02:47 Permalink

Are kids having unprotected sex because they can’t get to the drug store?

Son or daughter = opinion's picture
Son or daughter... on March 3, 2008 - 15:46 Permalink

Can’t help but think that some of the opinons shared are a reflection of whether one has a ‘son’ or a ‘daughter.’

1. ‘Sons’ are often encouraged as sex is a sport for many in society re; young men/fathers

2. ‘Daughters’ potentially end up having a sexual ‘experience’ that can result in her parents having to raise another infant

3. ‘Sons’ are testosterone/ pleasure seeking often with equally immature partners

4. ‘Daughters’ are often relationship driven, but sometimes lured by men much, much older for sex. It’s not uncommon for 18, 19 year old ‘daughters’ to be having sex with 30-35 yr. old MEN, this doesn’t often apply to 18, 19 year old ‘sons’ having sex with WOMEN 30-35 years old.

Maybe I’m way, way off base, but I think one’s opinion re: teen sex is largely determined by whether you have a ‘son or a ‘daughter.’

Andrew MacPherson's picture
Andrew MacPherson on March 3, 2008 - 19:45 Permalink

So why not point the finger squarely where it belongs — at the CHURCH — which from my vantage point still the most important sociological influence on PEI. Things don’t seem to have changed since the 80s when this issue was probably originally addressed in other places. The demonization of sex actually makes it more appealling, I am speaking from experience.

Also, if I had a teenage daughter I would be even more in favour of condoms in the schools for the reason stated in point 2 and 4 above.

Andrew MacPherson's picture
Andrew MacPherson on March 3, 2008 - 19:50 Permalink

Also still waiting for the new “liberal” government to give women the reproductive freedom choices that exist in almost all other provinces in Canada but I’m not holding my breath…

David Fleming's picture
David Fleming on March 3, 2008 - 20:31 Permalink

Young men should practice restraint and young women should practice modesty in sexual matters — with a greater emphasis on those qualities there would be much less heart-ache.”

Really? The school system has preached that for as long as it has allowed sex into its curriculum. Young men and women have, despite that, been having sex for just as long. If it is indeed the root of the “problem”, the people who created the message aren’t hitting home. They need to revise their message.

In the meantime, while teens are having sex, how about we make the resources available to them? Noone’s ever had sex simply because they’re well prepared, in terms of equipment. Teens do, and will, have sex when they want to have sex, with or without a condom. Which would you rather?

Kevin's picture
Kevin on March 4, 2008 - 17:16 Permalink

Really? The school system has preached that for as long as…”

Home, not school, is the place to learn morality. Teaching facts about sex in school is a good thing and no parent should have the right to opt-out their children. How sex is used is something that schools simply cannot, and should not, do (other than indicating that anyone has the right to abstain and deserves to have that choice respected).

BTW, my earlier comment was that young men and women “should practice”, not that anyone should “preach”. It comes from the self or it doesn’t come at all. It never comes if parents set a poor example.

oliver's picture
oliver on March 4, 2008 - 21:59 Permalink

Are kids having unprotected sex because they can’t get to the drug store?”

I believe sociological studies say some kids some places are having unprotected sex because they would have to go to the drug store for contraception, and some teen pregnancies are resulting. Has no study been done in PEI? It’s probably hard to get reliable data in any case.

James's picture
James on March 5, 2008 - 03:05 Permalink

the most important sociological influence on PEI”….

I think the church definitely WAS one of the most important influences in Island culture/society until the 1990s. We have seen a long but gradual decline in this institution since Alex Campbell’s development program in the 1970s wrestled control of many of the Roman Catholic institutions such as St. Dunstan’s University and the Charlottetown Hospital and Charlottetown Hospital School of Nursing (all of these took place in 1969 IIRC). The United Church of Canada, the Presbyterian Church in Canada, and the Anglican Church of Canada have all had much smaller roles in terms of their influence in Island society (in recent decades). The decline in church attendance since the 1980s and the closure and consolidation of many rural churches is in keeping with the urbanization of our province, and urban families tend to not be as religious, since there are other distractions available. CFA’s don’t tend to be as religious as Islanders…. As Islanders who are presently 50 years or older continue to age, we might well see the last great hurrah of Christianity on these shores as most people under that age range identify as atheist or agnostic, etc.

As for the most important sociological influence on our sandbar? By far it is government. Government is far more incestuous and nepotistic in PEI than in any other jurisdiction in North America. 500+ elected representatives for only 136,000 citizens….

oliver's picture
oliver on March 5, 2008 - 18:47 Permalink

Government is far more incestuous…”

That could explain the condom issue right there.

Marian's picture
Marian on March 6, 2008 - 00:20 Permalink

Hi, I know this is off topic, but could anyone recommend a replacement for my iriver T20 (which seems to be busted)? I’m looking for something that will make good quality MP3s in substandard (from an audio perspective) environments (like the iriver did). I don’t appear to be able to get another iriver here in Ottawa, otherwise I would do so.

Andrew MacPherson's picture
Andrew MacPherson on March 6, 2008 - 21:26 Permalink

Having not lived on the island since mid-90s I suppose I can’t comment. All I know is that for all the conservative boistering from the province where I have lived most of my adult life (Alberta) women have the right to choose and the public school system does proper sex ed. I have commented here before on my frustration with the very presence of a publicly funded Catholic School Board.

The seperation between church and state on PEI has never really happened. Church attendance may be down but everyone has a grandmother or a mother or an aunt or an uncle etc. that would be overtly or covertly preaching traditional values. Maybe I’m wrong maybe the fixed link has brought in all those bad non-tradional values everyone was afraid of. Somehow I doubt it. I have many friends, relatives, acquaitances on the island and visit often and the only thing I see changing are the number big box retailers. But I guess condoms are available at Wal-mart so…..