Are you single? Sexually active? Do you assume your partner or partners are healthy?
Disease isn’t personal. It isn’t judgmental. It doesn’t know if you attend church, if you brush your teeth and floss. If you’ve only had two sexual partners in a lifetime, or 302.
What about your teenagers? Do they use condoms? Are you making assumptions, or looking the other way?
A recent Times article reports that sexually active teenagers (14-17) are doing far better at using condoms than adults.
Is this a case of do as I say, not do as I do? Is it time for us to look to our adolescents as models of healthy behavior?
I have to admit, I find the statistics in this article both reassuring (relative to teens) and disheartening (for adults). As a woman over 40 (and on my own for 9 years), I’m hardly a wild child, but nor have I relocated to the neighborhood nunnery. In my own experience, I’ve been surprised by the number of times that a condom wasn’t part of the courtship, and a firm request was required. That, or lab work – in writing.
Protecting our teens
I am pleased to know that our teenagers are taking the need to protect themselves seriously. And I recall pointed, disapproving remarks when I’ve mentioned or written about making condoms available to my kids. No questions asked.
Who doesn’t think there’s a likelihood of sexual activity at 16, 17, 18? Who doesn’t think that the emotional, physical, and social issues around sexual behavior weren’t part of the discussion many years before that?
Sexually active over 40, and beyond
What concerns me is the drop-off in condom use over 40, by both men and women, even among casual sex partners. However, the data reflect that condom usage is considerably higher in black and Hispanic men.
In the 40-49 age group, condom use by women with casual partners is only 20%. In contrast, for the same age group among men, condom use with casual partners is roughly 35%. Now compare this to teens 14-17, male and female, with over 80% indicating condom use.
A woman’s view
Why are we disregarding the lessons of sexual health that we’re teaching our children? What role might self-image play in all this? What about our physicians?
Once I hit my late 40s, I was no longer asked if I was sexually active. Not by male doctors, nor female doctors. It was assumed that I was not, particularly as a divorced mother, working and raising kids. No discussion of birth control. No routine blood work for STDs. I had to request it – and do – as a responsible adult.
- Do these statistics concern you?
- Given the number of divorced adults over 40, shouldn’t condom use and routine testing be the norm?
- As women, are we embarrassed to buy condoms? To insist on their usage?
- How do you feel about providing them for your teens – just in case?