I haven’t had much time to write recently – work and migraines have been getting in the way – but today I saw a headline flash past my eyes and I had to have my say.
So what caught my attention? Condom’s for 12-year-old boys, that’s what. Yes, you read right. 12-year-old boys.
12-year-old boys who will, I guess, then be on the hunt for 12-year-old (or God forbid, younger) girls to test them out on. For many reasons, this has to be so, so wrong.
The ‘Hotshot’ condom, which has been ‘downsized to fit its 12-14 year old customer base’, is already available in Switzerland, and, if the manufacturers have their way, will be heading for the British high street and your kids wallet soon.
Lamprecht AG, the condom manufacturer behind this controversial contraception for kids, claim they set off down this path in response to a study conducted on behalf of the Federal Commission for Children and Youth. A study which showed that not only were more 12 to 14-year-olds now having sex, but that an alarming number of them didn’t use any form of protection.
While as a parent, the idea of children so young having sex is a deeply disturbing one, and quite difficult to get my head around, it is hardly shocking news. It seems that every time you open a paper these days, there’s yet another pair of gormless babies staring back at you, sat there dressed head-to-toe in Mothercare’s finest and clutching their very own ‘hasn’t got a hope in hell’ baby.
When you see such a case of under-aged stupidity, it’s hard to know who you want to slap round the face first. The naive idiots apparently vying for the title of ‘World’s Youngest Parents’, or their own parents sat besides them, insisting that of course little Tracey and Dwain will make great parents – if they ever look up from their respective DS’s for long enough to notice what’s just popped out of Tracey and slid off the sofa.
So yes, there’s no getting away from the fact that (some) kids these days obviously have no fear of getting down and dirty with the person sat next to them in class. Nor that – judging by the sheer volume of pram-pushing girls in their Hannah Montana t-shirts – these kids ever think for a millisecond about the possible consequences of their actions.
England is now the teenage pregnancy capital of Europe, so I guess, on paper at least, arming kids with protection is a good idea. Or it would be if it wasn’t so wrong.
No child – boy or girl – could possibly be emotionally, physically or mentally ready to have sex at this young age. And no 12-year-old boy is (or should need to be) emotionally mature enough to be trusted with something as important as preventing pregnancy or the spreading of a life threatening disease.
Most boys of this age aren’t even responsible enough to be left alone in a house with a box of matches. Some would probably forget to wash, eat or sleep if their parents didn’t remind them too. So who really believes that a randy pint-sized man would ever want to make the effort, or for that matter feel comfortable enough to walk into a chemist and be asked – ‘Something for the schoolyard Sir?’
Of course there’s no disputing that such studies are needed to highlight how big a problem there is. Or that young boys must to be taught why they should be keeping it tucked away in their Ben 10 underpants until they are.. well until they are old enough not to be wearing Ben 10 underpants at least.
But that said, I think governments and Family Planning organisations are giving 12-year-old boys a little more credit than they actually deserve.
These kids in question aren’t having sex at ridiculous ages because they are maturing earlier than every decade that went before. Or because they are making an informed and intelligent choice about what they are ready to do. They are having sex because they see ‘Sex’ every which way they turn, and they think it’s cool to do it – and very uncool to have to admit they don’t. They aren’t going to suddenly get all responsible and grown-up just because they’ve got their own section at the condom counter.
So short of giving a free pack of 6 away with every computer game, or sticking them in with the fries when they up-size their Happy Meal, I really don’t see how providing XS Junior condoms is the answer. If anything it gives out the worst possible message to horny young boys everywhere – that actually it’s OK to convince the girl who sits next to you in class to drop her High School Musical knickers, and hop onto the bean bag for some ‘recess’ action.
Really it comes to this. If you put aside every argument about whether selling condoms to and for kids is morally or ethically right, what about it being legally right? It’s bad enough that school nurses are allowed to hand out contraception at all, and that under-age girls can get the pill without their parent’s knowledge. But making condoms specifically for kids? The last time I looked the age of consent was 16 – and for very good reason.
Of course SWAT teams aren’t ever going to swoop in and arrest every person under that age for doing something they legally shouldn’t, but if you actually provide young kids with the means to have sex, surely it’s the same as encouraging them to break the law?
What’s next? School vending machine’s selling alcopops in pink plastic bottles endorsed by Brittany Spears? Or ‘extra light’ cigarettes, with packets that feature the latest Disney film. After all, everyone knows that kids drink and smoke before they should, so why not make it more accessible and fun?
While we’re at it, why not go the whole hog and just let kids drive cars. I’m sure Toyota or Ford could design a ‘downsized’ car with booster seats and bigger peddles, so that their feet could actually reach the brake.
That would be crazy you cry, they’d end up killing themselves or someone else. Of course it’s crazy, and yes they surely would. Legitimising anything that kids are neither physically equipped to do or old enough to handle is a bloody stupid idea.
Yes, something needs to be done to stop young kids getting into bed and up the duff, but I fail to see how the solution will be found in a small, square packet labelled ‘Hotshot’.