Isn’t it wild that the most effective safe sex campaign for young people on the island is the free Pasante you get when you order a ‘Shag on the Prom’ from Peggy’s?
Sixth-former Mitzi Danielson-Kaslik, 16, is on a mission to improve the sexual health of the young people on the island, by campaigning for free condoms for sixth formers (16-18 year olds).
The idea that students old enough to consent to sex should have access to free condoms isn’t particuarly new: these discussions have been going on for years. While free condoms are at the forefront of Mitzi’s campaign, she is keen to open up the conversation publicly about contraception and sex in young people. She has noticed a reluctance to talk about sex (and particuarly young people having sex) among the Manx public. When it comes to public discussion, it really is No Sex Please: We’re Manx.
One of the concerns that is frequently raised about allowing teenagers to access condoms is that it will encourage teenagers to have sex. Mitzi doesn’t think that’s the case. She’s right- it does seem naive to think that access or lack of access to condoms will affect whether teenagers are out banging or not. Teenagers are hardly going to see a condom and think ‘well, actually, that’s convinced me to get out there and hump everything I see’- nor is a lack of condoms going to stop teenagers in the throes of passions. If over 16s are going to have sex- which they’re perfectly in their rights to do- they may as well be protected from pregnancies and STIs.
You may wonder why, if sixth formers can bang like adults, they can’t buy their own condoms like adults? Mitzi, however, highlights that condoms aren’t cheap. Coronavirus has affected us all financially this year: expecting young people to be able to afford to have safe sex is quite an ask. Mitzi isn’t tremendously concerned about free condoms in schools being a means to alleviating the embarrassment of being 16 and handing a packet of johnnies to the nice old dear at the co-op who remembers when you were coming in to buy packets of sweets- but it’s a point that Dr Al, the Minister for Education, Sport and Culture has publicly made. If getting hold of condoms is too embarrassing, teenagers aren’t going to use them.
While the GUM clinic has, in the past, provided condoms and walk-in advice sessions, the service is currently only providing pre-booked STI tests and pregnancy tests. While at these sessions it is possible to obtain free condoms, Mitzi thinks this is ‘shutting the stable door once the horse has bolted’. Even if condoms do become more easily accessible at the GUM clinic, Dr Al has noted that it excludes students who live outside of Douglas. It’s a good point: could you be bothered coming into Douglas from Ballaugh just for a couple of free condoms?
Another argument levelled against the campaign is that the teenage pregnancy rate on the island is far lower than in England. While Mitzi believes that this data doesn’t give a complete and accurate image of the island’s pregnancy rate, it’s worth noting that condoms don’t simply protect individuals from pregnancy: it also protects them from STIs. While Mitzi’s campaign is currently focusing on condoms, she hopes that schools will also introduce dental dams, which protect individuals engaging in oral sex.
So far, Mitzi’s campaign has been received well, garnering support from fellow students, teachers, and the Dr Al. The practicalities of introducing condoms into sixth form centres are still being figured out. You can sign Mitzi’s petition here.