Last week NPR aired a radio essay by youth commentator Pendarvis Harshaw calling sex without a condom "engagement 2.0." Harshaw said that for his generation, going bare shows "trust, commitment and the prospect of a shared future." Today Boinkology highlighted the heated debated this segment generated, both on the NPR comment board and other sites.
From the NPR comment board:
"That had to be one of the most horrifying things I have ever heard."
"Make one mistake, one strays from being faithful and now TWO of you have AIDS."
"NO! NO! NO! I'm a high school guidance counselor and God forbid my students listen to NPR!!!"
Other listeners realized that Harshaw was not advocating condomless sex; he was simply describing a trend among his peer group. Furthermore he wasn't describing wanton bareback humping. His version went like this: couple has an "intense sitdown;" when they've decided they're ready to trash the rubbers, they both get screened for STDs, and decide on an alternate method of birth control. That sounds pretty responsible, no?
To be fair, there are myriad dangers involved. Young people who see forgoing the latex as a sign of commitment might do so without taking the requisite precautions; that would be a dangerous. And if one member cheats she could bring a disease into what her partner thought was a safe relationship. But if couples are faithful and follow the path described above, condomless sex could be ok.
Speaking from personal experience, sex without a condom does feel like a commitment. And while it may not be a first step down the aisle, as Harshaw describes, his description shows that his peer group views it as a huge decision whose potential consequences are equally large.