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Confluence and Condoms

While busy procrastinating on the wide wide web, I found an excuse for having my say about sex (education) in the wake of Hallmark's Father's Day and the confluence of the following:

a post on Frank Cimatu's blog about a new ad for Trojan condoms,

a post on Howie Severino's blog about sperm, and

an old article on BBC about sex abstinence. (I love following links and reading old news.)

I like the Trojan ad. Anthropomorphic pigs in a bar. One of them buys a condom from a vending machine and turns into a handsome young man and immediately attracts a pretty young woman. I think the fairy tale aspect of this advertisement will appeal greatly to children. It has the brilliant potential of making future condom-users out of them, the way the indelible Marlboro ads make future smokers out of kids fascinated by the appeal of thundering hooves, heaving rivers, the raw, the wild, and the leather-faced legend of a man (All that in a cigarette!). The Trojan ad should be shown in the Philippines, in the mornings with children's programs, and at prime time for the whole family to see and ingest. This will probably never happen. Fox and CBS have refused to air the advertisement on moral high ground. I can just see the holy indignation of our bishops, should the ad ever find its way here. I can just hear the loud protestations of families, educators, and political leaders: No to condoms! Yes to abstinence!

Of course, of course, we saintly Filipino Catholics heed every word of our church leaders, especially when it comes to their advice on sex and marriage, which, as we all take for granted, is solidly founded on experience. That is why we are not over-populated, we don't have to fear AIDS (28 cases recorded in little Baguio alone), we never have accidental/unwanted pregnancies (I just read a report on the high rate of unsafe, self-induced abortions among Filipinas), and we don't have teenage mothers (Go ahead, ask any high school or college kid you know and they will know of at least one or two pregnancies among their peers).

I was shocked when my daughter came home one day saying they had just had one special class on sex education. My cousin-in-law was even more shocked because in her exclusive, all-girls, Catholic school, they never said the 's' word. They only called it 'the Act'. (How erotic and evocative! 'The Act'. Picture a rapturous chorus of angels singing in the background while a couple in The Act climaxes together.) When I was her age, they called it 'Personal Hygiene' and we learned all about using sanitary napkins. Nobody said anything to us about sex and how hard it would be to resist when we came to the age of raging hormones. Well I was disturbed because nobody said anything about that to my daughter's grade six class either. They were simply told that the best protection is abstinence. While it's true that abstinence is 100% effective for preventing pregnancies and sexually-transmitted diseases, it is simple short-sightedness (not to mention the height of hypocrisy) to say that we don't need to provide other forms of prevention, protection, and information for the rest of the very human, hot-blooded, hormonal population. (Case in point, moi, and Manang Precious, and my daughter and all her high school friends on the cusp of adolescence and about to discover their sexuality, and all those testosterone-filled boys out there, future sperm donors, would-be fathers.)

So anyway, on that day when my daughter came home perplexed from one 'special class' on sex education, I stepped off the edge and threw myself into the dark abyss of risky parenting decisions, and told my daughter about condoms. More ranting on this matter, when I have her permission to disclose the contents of our conversation. Suffice it to say, for now, that the abyss wasn't as dark or as deep as I had feared. I am not going to burn in hell for telling my daughter ("but she's just a child!" you say) to use a condom on the day she decides she's ready for sex. If she heeds this, maybe my daughter will not be at risk for AIDS, she won't get pregnant before she's ready for it, and she'll be careful about picking her sexual partners. Jumping into that abyss has given me further reasons for optimism about my daughter's future.

When I tell my relatives and friends about this, I register their quiet shock, the raised eyebrows, the unspoken discomfort, and the uneasy shifting of weight in their armchairs. But hah! I'm not done with this topic yet, because it makes me mad!


Anonymous said…
It is often said that sex education is the responsibility of parents to their child. But in an over-populated nation such as ours (like you said), one cannot overlook the prevalent mal-education. Starting from this premise, we ought to be a little skeptical with the THINGS THAT WE KNOW TO BE RIGHT ONLY BECAUSE THEY HAPPENED TO US. Really, some intervention is needed to fix.. well., the malady. But who do we trust? The school? I think you have said enough about that (but is abstinence not the best advice for your child's age?). Unfortunately, people tend to put forward dogmatic ideas of right and wrong totally negating the fact that puberty is a period of self-awareness where the person concerned is at the threshold of becoming a fully grown responsible individual able to chart his/her own destiny thereby having the liberty to bestow upon its self (and body) democratic and natural privileges (whether right or wrong in any sphere of influence). Yes, having said all that and however ambiguously dogmatic this may sound, the only person to trust in your case is your daughter and her chance to exercise her potential.

At twelve, do I think she’s ready to know the use(s) of condoms? Hmmm.. I don’t know. Who knows when one should be ready? But the floodgates have been opened, and me in your place, I will throw the service raft and provide her with the necessary survival kit complete with instructions written in a language she understands and pray only that she comes out in the end in one piece and stronger.

-my penny’s worth –J&B
padma said…
Yes of course abstinence is good advice for her age group, but my point is, it's not the ONLY advice there is to be given. When it's the only information that's dispensed, THAT'S dogma. I'm still part-prude and wouldn't go into the how-to's of condom use with a prepubescent girl.I haven't forgotten, she's just a kid! It is enough for now for her to know of their existence and the safety they can afford. But you'd be surprised how much prepubes already know about sex. She knows of at least three friends of friends with teenage pregnancies, one of whom died while giving birth. Where exactly they get their (mis)information, I don't know. When do they see their first kissing scenes or sex scenes in the movies, on tv, in pictures in magazines and posters, on the internet? So yes, the floodgates have been opened, but not by me alone. My position on this is that the more these things can be discussed openly and comfortably within the family, the better.
Anonymous said…
You know, I must say that you are absolutely right, i.e. 100% spot on. I feel that you know that you are right. Relax. I sense that you care enough for your child to border on panic. If she is precocious as you think she is then there is no real reason to worry. Getting pregnant is a slice of life that is almost trivial(in the sense that it happens naturally of course), if you follow the greater scheme of things. she will be fine. As a matter of fact what is to be expected is that SHE WILL DO BETTER THAN YOU. So relax and live your own life. She will have her own.

The question really is "are you happy with your own, especially now that your daughter is about to break free?'

But having said that, nothing is more tragic than a misinformed monkey. Enough said. J&D
Anonymous said…
I read my blog above and I must have come across like an obnoxious idiot. But I know a couple who would leave pornographic materials lying around the house and let the kids grow up with them like nothing. Then one day, they sat down with their daughter and told her that she cannot have sex.

The daughter was aghast of course, but the parents added that she cannot have sex until she is sixteen. And when she turns sixteen, they said, that she will have to go to a clinic where she will get proper instructions preparing her for sex life.

You see, that saved them from the untimely and risque elaboration of family planning methods to a young and curious mind (which all kids are), treating the issue as that of getting one's drivers license. Because every parent knows that if you let any of these kids to look through the key hole, they will find ways to break open the door. When that happens, you better be ready for some serious explanation.

Of course, no one knows your kid more than you (that is why i think you are right and you know that you are). But when you open the "first sachet" of condoms to a "kid", I think, that is the time you start treating her like an adult.

You saying "she's only a kid!" while at the same time saying "But you'd be surprised how much prepubes already know about sex." is rather contradictory. At this day and age, everyone is getting information overload, alot of them unnecessary, uncalled for, unsolicited thereby worthless. Unless it's something that bothers a child, there is no point of filling her lunch box with goodies that she wont eat anyway. Most parents do this, mostly to satisfy their own guilt.

But this is just an opinion. - J&D
Anonymous said…
Oh, and you know why they say abstinence "it's the only information that's dispensed. THAT'S dogma." ? Because they too (like you), think that she's just a "kid" (i.e mind not ready). Again, who knows when one should be ready, right? In my opinion adult censorship does more damage to one's culture than migration. But what do I know about such things..? - J&D
the mad hatter said…
heya Padma, an interesting entry, and very brave. When I was growing up, we had a special sex-education class in 5th grade. Parental permission was needed obviously (this was in a predominantly Muslim country, albeit in an international school) Boys and girls were seperated. My parents gave their permission, and my mother 'balanced' it out by lecturing me on the virtues of virginity and abstinence. I was ten at the time.

I don't remember much, except there was talk about menstruation, and why this was, and about sex being part of the reproductive process. I don't think there was any mention of how to use a condom. Maybe as to why there would be a need for a condom. And I learnt what the F word really meant. And there was mention of the AIDS epidemic in there somewhere too.

I think it is a good step to take on your part. Being here in the US and going to a woman's college, I've learnt that a woman's body and reproductive rights is a huge battle ground, and as women we are part of that battle. Filipino parents are always saying how education is power, I don't understand why they don't apply this to sex-ed.

I think the more we keep silent on the matter, and the less we discuss the ramifications (from pregnancy to STDs to general attitude towards sex) the more we do the youth injustice. Sex is unavoidable, whether in the media or in double-entendres, and to avoid or render the suject taboo wil only fuel kids' curiousity anyway.
Anonymous said…
Hello Mr./Ms. J&D,
I have just read this interesting blog exchange about sex education and the youth. Since I don’t know you personally, were your comments made with sarcasm?--- because they seem kind of condescending to me. Why would a parent’s guilt be a motivation to inform their child?
In today’s world we are given so much choice. Our lives move fast and things happen before we know/plan for it... once something has happened it is too late to do anything about it and we are forced to move on in our busy lives. Yes, we move on--- but it is not easy. Because of the pace of life, we have to find ways to make life a little easier. We have to explore all the possible options. We sift through the choice and find the best matches for the given situation.
We are lacking affection and comfort in "21st Century World"... We crave to be close to someone. Just lay close to each other and... maybe even do “THE ACT”.
Sex is extremely prevalent-- and the mean age of the subjects drop as the days go by.
We hear of young 12,13 14 year old kids being sexually active.
You say, “Unless it's something that bothers a child, there is no point of filling her lunch box with goodies that she wont eat anyway.” But how do you know when the child is ready for the so-called goodies.
Isn’t it better to play it safe… Isn’t it the parent’s responsibility to open the floor for conversation---to provide all the information to facilitate making informed-choices.
How many parents really know when their kids are sexually active? How many kids tell their parents the first time they masturbate? Or how many kids actually tell their parents? Becoming a sexually being is a pretty private affair… often not something people share with their parents…
It is much better to enter the world of sexuality with awareness and information so one could make the best choices for oneself.
The Nashman said…
I used my first condom at age 4. Not on my pipi, silly.

My mother gave me a box of condoms. I blew into them and played them like balloons. I discovered they easily burst whenever it came into contact with the blades of tiger grass.

The church doesn't want to sensibly limit our population mainly because who else would go to their private schools? Kaya nga may discount sa SLU if you have a sibling studying there at the same time. Ergo, thrifty parents are encouraged to keep doing The Act every year to avail of this generous discount.
padma said…
Thank you everybody for sharing your opinions, personal views and experiences, and some words of encouragement too. More comments came in but my daughter, her high school friends, and my sister and her best friend have decided that they're below-the-belt and not worth our time. So they won't be seeing the light of day on MY blog. Again, thank you very very much to those of you who've come forward with something informative, poignant, flammable, and funny to say! And thank you too to my young advisers who've read this exchange -- tough girls all of them! A big round of applause for these young, free-thinking women!

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