I have to admit, when I came across the news I’m about to share with you I did a double take and then I squirmed a bit.
“Extra small condoms for 12 year-old boys go on sale in Switzerland” was the headline I read in the Daily Telegraph.
Seriously? I thought. Condoms for kids?
Well, yes, seriously. And there are some very serious reasons that led to the condom’s production and some very serious reasons why they have the potential for some very severe consequences – both good and bad.
Lamprecht, the leading condom manufacturer in Switzerland, produced the small scale condoms after family planning groups in the country and the Swiss Aids Federation campaigned for their production after some studies revealed their shocking demand.
A study from the Federal Commission for Children and Youth, for example, found that more 12 to 14-year olds were having sex in comparison to the 1990s and, worse yet, not using protection. A German study also found that a quarter of participants aged 13 to 20-years old thought standard condoms were too large.
As a result, Lamprecht decided to fill this need with “Hotshot” condoms that have a diameter of 4.5cm as opposed to the 5.2cm of standard condoms.
OK, I know this is a very controversial issue and the name “Hotshot” for the condoms, I think, was a very poor choice, but studies have shown that kids this young are having sex whether they are ready or not.
Should these kids have the knowledge and means to protect themselves if they do decide to have sex? I definitely think so.
Are condoms the only part of that answer? Absolutely not.
What we really need is comprehensive sex education to teach kids about the consequences of sex and what they need to know to protect themselves if they do decide to take that step. Without contraceptive choices kids can contract sexually transmitted diseases and young girls can face unplanned pregnancies at drastically young ages.
I think if we can all agree that 12 is too young to be having sex, I’m sure we are all in agreement that 12 is way too young to become a parent. What happens to the young girls these boys impregnate?
As Nancy Bodmer, who headed the government research, points out, “They [boys] do not understand the consequences of what they are doing and leave the young girls to take care of the consequences….The results of this study suggest that early prevention makes sense.”
I agree that early prevention is absolutely necessary, but early prevention cannot only consist of a condom named “Hotshot.” Kids need intervention. They need to be able to ask questions about sex and get honest information. They need good role models to help them combat peer pressure to have sex at younger and younger ages. They need the tools to build self-confidence and esteem so sex isn’t used as a vehicle to gain popularity.
What we don’t need is young girls becoming mothers while they are still children themselves. What we don’t need is children raising children. What we don’t need is kids giving each other sexually transmitted diseases that go untested because they don’t know what they are and are too afraid to ask.
With intervention I think condoms can be a powerful tool of prevention, but I have to say that with a name like “Hotshot” I have to express some concern. Granted I haven’t seen the branding of the condoms yet, but if they are aimed at 12-year-old boys and their name indicates anything than I imagine that they will be cool, brightly colored, and fun looking to attract a younger audience.
If this is the case, I’m worried. Kids often treat sex as a game (Have you ever heard about rainbow parties? Or jelly sex bracelets?). Will “Hotshot” condoms create a new game for kids to play? Will they become a popular fad and encourage some to have sex earlier?
We don’t know the answers to these questions, but I advise Lamprecht to consider all these things as they roll out their new product. “Hotshot” condoms are currently only available in Switzerland but the company has expressed interest in expanding sales to the UK which has the highest teen pregnancy rate in Europe.
Do you think “Hotshot” condoms will ever make a visit to the U.S.? I highly doubt it, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t educate American kids about sex either.
What do you think about “Hotshot” condoms? Are they a good idea? Will they do more damage than good? Conflicted? Let’s hear what you have to say!
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Photo by Meddy Garnet used under a Creative Commons license