Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Putting Juveniles at Risk Becuase Juvenile Sex is Taboo

Juveniles are in a precarious position when it comes to issues of sex. It is certainly a taboo to suggest that youths are sexually active -- and youths are subject to the influences of their peers, the concerns of their parents, and the sex-education classes of their schools.

I've been researching the sexual proclivities of juveniles and the associated taboos. One good recent example of this issue is the debate surrounding the Gardasil vaccine. This vaccine lowers the risks of cervical cancer. A debate arises, though, because cervical cancer is avoided by lowering the risks of getting HPV (a sexually transmitted disease). The optimal age for giving this vaccine is about 11 years old.

Some parents were up in arms that 11 year olds would be vaccinated against a sexually transmitted disease -- asserting that absitnence is the best vaccine for HPV and preventing other sexually transmitted diseases. This narrow-mindedness is the same false-logic that leads to absitnance-only sex education. The youths subject to abstinence-only sex education have been shown to have the same, if not higher, pregnancy rates because they are not introduced to appropriate forms of contraception.

These 11-year-old girls will one day be sexually active adults. I hope, as their parents do, that their entry into the sexually active community is a healthy, happy, personal choice. I do not understand, nor do I agree with the logic that keeping kids in the dark about sex and safe sex decisions will keep them away from it. Rather, I think this denial is dangerous and harmful to kids.

Young girls are in no position to demand this vaccine. They probably don't even know it exists, and if they do, they will probably not be able to articulate their interests adequately, nor understand the potential benefits. Rather, it is prudish to think that we can keep these youths as little girls forever, shielded from ever becoming sexually active. Protecting them from cervical cancer -- that happens to be transmitted by a sexually transmitted disease -- does not remove risk from sex. To the contrary, it might be an opportunity to explain the dangers, responsibilities, and potential consequences from sex at a time when youths are old enough to understand, but hopefully young enough to be removed from this daunting -- adult-like world.


Blogger eponcz said...

I've been doing some research on youths on the Internet for a paper I'm writing. I didn't mention in the original post, but the Supreme Court often approaches issues of juvenile sexuality with a "least harm" perspective.

With the "least harm" perspective, the Court tries to avoid "helping" youths by hurting them. For example, youths have access to over the counter contraceptives. To deny youths access to contraceptives so that they won't have sex would in reality be harming youths (who will probably have sex anyway -- but now unprotected sex) in the interest in helping them (keeping them away from sex).

2:43 PM  

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