Condom use up amongst teenagers

By Amanda Marcotte
Monday, October 17, 2011 15:00 EDT
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I'm sure you've seen this story that's been passed around about the supposed "health" editor at xoJane who uses Plan B as her primary form of contraception. (Seriously, how rarely are you getting laid that this even seems like a remotely feasible plan of action?) There was much fail in that piece, including her casual assumption that condoms are only there if you sleep with a subjectively-defined "many people", as if STDs are the result of cumulative stranger-seed instead of exposure to contagious germs. This sort of thing might make you wonder—I know it made  me wonder—if younger people these days have been so poisoned by creeping prudery plus abstinence-only education that behavior like Cat's, which indicates a deep ambivalence about the morality of sexual pleasure, is common. I know it made me long for the days when Salt 'n' Pepa were talking about sex and TLC was flinging condoms around, and the pursuit of female sexual pleasure was taken as a right, instead of treated like some foul thing that requires self-punishment through repeated abortions. Or worse.

Well, I'm here to tell you that it may just be that Cat is an outlier, because the overall trend is towards more condom use, not less

As part of its National Survey of Family Growth, the CDC discovered that eight in 10 teen boys ages 15 to 19 reported they had used condoms during their first sexual experience. That's 9 percent more teenagers than the last time the CDC checked in, back in 2002. High school kids are still boning at the same rate they were 11 years ago—a little more than 40 percent for both genders—but they're getting smarter about it. Besides the rise of rubbers and the decline of teen pregnancy, the study also found that 16 percent of teen males "double up"—that is, use a condom in combination with a female partner's hormonal method—up from 10 percent in 2002.

As Nona notes, this shows that fears that better access to contraception will lead to more sex are ungrounded. Of course, the idea that "more sex" is some sort of bad thing to be opposed at all costs is what we in the biz like to call a problematic assumption. More bad sex is a bad thing, sure. But just more sex? If it's good sex, opposing it is like being opposed to sunny days and laughing with puppies. But even if you have a fucked-up way of looking at things and think that people feeling good has to bad, take heart. People don't have more sex because they use more condoms. Generally with young people who are already ready for sex, having it is a matter of people-based opportunity more than any other factor. The main obstacle to the fucking in the streets that conservatives worry so much about is getting people to do it with you. Since there's not a massive surge in people's attraction to each other, there really shouldn't be a surge in the havings of the sex. 

For those of us who actually like people and want them to be happy, this is just straight good news: Teenagers can be teenagers—that is, experiment and muddle their way towards adulthood—with a lower chance of getting sick from it. 

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
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