This week is National Condom Week. So in honor of the lovely little condom that necessary sex accessory, let me offer some serious latex love (or for those of you with latex allergies, polyurethane love).
I held my first condom in the 10th grade. My parents enrolled me in my town's first HIV/AIDS Peer Education Program. After learning how to use a condom during my first day of training, that night my parents asked me to demonstrate my newly acquired skill on a banana.
Condom. Something so small. Something so desperately important.
Condoms get a bad rap. People love to disparage them. People love to claim that they don't work. On a recent Dr. Oz show ("Sex Ed with Dr. Oz, November 13th, 2009), an OBGYN (a medical professional!) gave incorrect information about the effectiveness of condoms. She said that condoms were 85% effective due to product failure. I hope her error wasn't deliberate, but nonetheless, she was incorrect. Condoms are 98% effective against preventing pregnancy when used perfectly (consistently and correctly). However, based upon typical usage, condom effectiveness is 85%. This is not due to product failure. This is due to human error. There is a major difference between the two. The lesson should have been: condoms work. Especially when people know how to use them and use them each and every time that they have sex.
Last week, Lady Gaga and Cyndi Lauper teamed up to promote Viva Glam lipstick and the MAC AIDS Fund. Together, they spoke passionately and intelligently about the importance of condoms...and they spoke of the importance of getting women into the safer sex game.
Yes, women should be using condoms. Women should be carrying condoms. You're not a slut -- ugh, I hate that word -- if you have condoms in your pocketbook. And quite frankly, if someone thinks you are, why would you want to have sex with that person anyway? Why would you ever want to be friends with someone who mistakes responsibility for "promiscuity?" (I don't like that word, either.)
In the end, condoms are a health product, just like all the other things you keep in your medicine cabinet. Does it really matter that condoms cover our genitals? Aren't the vulva, vagina, and penis as equally as important as all other body parts? And by protecting our genitals, don't we wind up protecting our entire bodies?
On the cover of today's New York Post, Joslyn James, one of Tiger Woods' alleged mistresses talks about how she became pregnant twice by the golfer. And she proceeds to say, "(Sex) was never protected." What the hell were they thinking?
So dear condom (both male and female), how do I love thee?
You allow me to freely engage in sex without worry.
You allow me to protect my fertility, now and in the future.
You allow me to have protection against pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.
You allow me to shatter the incorrect messages about sex that so many young (and older) people get by enabling me to teach students that there are ways to safely explore sex - when they are ready.
You allow me to promote responsibility as a quality that one must look for in a partner.
So little condom, I know that I am married. I know that I have children. I know that I have been monogamous for a very long time. However, I am still committed to you. Each and every time. I won't have sex without you.
Hopefully, there are many men and women just like me.
Happy National Condom Week!