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:
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"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?
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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.