Condom Sense: Questions and Answer
Ontario Ministry of Health June 1992,
In English and French, illustrated, 32 pp.
Reviewed by: David Dooley, The Interim
For all I know, Frances Lankin may be as scrupulous in her private life as she is unscrupulous in her public. As we do know, she has no qualms about funding Henry Morgentaler’s unsavoury business; she has no qualms either about letting her department publish, material designed to overcome the sense of shame young people might have in providing themselves with contraceptives.
Last June the Ontario Ministry of Health produced a small pamphlet, four inches by six inches, with 16 pages in English and 16 in French, entitled Condom Sense: Questions and Answers.
“What if I’m too embarrassed buy condoms?” asks, the hypothetical questioner. Here is the answer: “Everyone’s embarrassed at first. But buying condoms is easier these days. They’re sold in vending machines in many washrooms. They’re also found in open racks in stores so you don’t have to ask for them. Just pick up a package and pay the cashier.
“You could buy other things at the same time or take a friend along. The more often you buy condoms, the easier it becomes.
Remember, you’re not the only one who buys condoms. Millions are sold every year. Buy them with pride – you’re doing the smart thing.”
More than one message is conveyed here. Shed shame, shed embarrassment. Everybody’s doing it; you can do it too. You too can fornicate with impunity. In fact, wearing a condom is as morally neutral as wearing a seatbelt (see P. 15).
The pamphlet contains further details on how to buy, where to keep, and how to use condoms; In fact young men are encouraged to engage in self-stimulation and practice putting them on in private.
One question implied, but not asked is, “You don’t want to get AIDS, do you?” As usual, the truth about AIDS is not told – the fact that the vast majority of cases result from homosexual activity.
“Condoms can reduce the spread of diseases that are passed from person to person during sexual intercourse (anal, vaginal or oral). Many young people are getting these diseases, which include cervical cancer, genital warts, clamydia, herpes and HIV, the virus that can lead to AIDS.
But young people in Canada, as The Interim has often pointed out, are not getting AIDS from heterosexual intercourse; and it is very misleading of health authorities to say of imply that they are.
It is hard to overestimate the importance of Frances Lankin’s pamphlet. Millions of people are buying condoms, it says, why don’t you get used to buying them too? The implication is that millions of teenagers are having sex; why don’t you do the same yourself? The sooner you cast your modesty aside, and harden yourself to performing such actions, the better off you will be. The Ontario government says so.
Recently my friend saw a young girl hesitating in the condom section of a drug store. She was clearly unsure of herself; my friend, who is the mother of four children wondered whether she ought to speak to her or not. Eventually, the girl made up her mind, picked up a package and headed for the cash desk.
This girl could not have been more than 13.
She was going to surrender herself to some young man, who had seduction in mind, as long as he was “responsible” enough to use one of Ms. Lankin’s contraceptives. And she is only a child. Is there not a high probability that before she has reached the advanced old age of 16 she will be seeking another of the services Ms. Lankin’s Department supports – abortion?
Far better to put another publication into the hands of young people than this morally and physically destructive pamphlet – Bev Hadland’s new book, Hang on to Your Hormones (to be reviewed shortly in The Interim.)
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health is sending copies of this pamphlet directly to principals, bypassing the School Board and the Department of Education. At least thisis what happened in Toronto Metro Separate School System (MSSB).
An accompanying memo the physicians in charge of AIDS coordination praised the booklet in the highest terms and said that they were giving it the widest possible distribution
Following this the Deputy Director of Education in the MSSB sent out a “Flood Warning” pointing out that material in the pamphlet fails to respect the position of the Catholic Church regarding responsible sexuality and advising those who received the pamphlet to discard it and ensure that students were not exposed to it.