Dear Mr. Friedberg,

When I was in middle school, I knew three girls who had babies before we graduated. One has had a second baby already. By the time we graduated in 8th grade, many of us were 14 and a few were already 15. Two of the kids I know turned 16 the summer after 8th grade. And a lot of people had been having oral sex. Some had been having intercourse.

Did you read this, which was also in the Huffington Post?

“One in eight youth are sexually experienced, having engaged in intercourse, oral sex or both before the age of 14,” the Journal of Adolescent Health reported in 2006. According to the Project Connect study, supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

* “9 percent reported ever having sexual intercourse…and 8 percent ever had oral sex (active or receptive).”

* “Of those who reported intercourse, 36 percent were age 11 or younger at first sex, 27 percent were 12, 28 percent were 13, and 9 percent were 14 or older.”

* “Alarmingly, 43 percent of sexually experienced participants reported multiple sex partners.”

Here in Texas, most of our sex education at school is abstinence-only. They teach us about the existence of condoms and other birth control, but they don’t teach us how to use anything safely or where to get it. I don’t know how much birth control will make kids decide to have sex that didn’t have sex before, but I do know that it will make a lot of kids who are already having sex safer. And it will mean fewer abortions and fewer teen pregnancies and less AIDS and less STD’s. Which is more important?

—-Freckles

Malcolm Friedberg: Sex, Condoms in Schools

Eleven-year-olds shouldn’t be having sex.

A middle school in Maine is handing out condoms
. Middle school children are as young as 11 years old. Is it just me, or is 11 just a tad shy of an appropriate age for intercourse? I don’t think I had even made it to second base by then. In fact, I don’t even think most 11-year-old girls had a second base.

According to an op-ed in the New York Times Republicans in Congress are attempting to add $28M to the State Children’s Health Insurance bill that was vetoed by the president. The money goes specifically to teaching abstinence. The editorial states that studies show that abstinence doesn’t work, and abstinence programs teach false information.

Clearly, if kids are getting bad information, that issue needs to be addressed.

But the fundamental point remains: Isn’t handing out condoms encouraging 11-year-old kids to have sex?

In the Maine article, a supporter of the handing-out-condoms program states that society can’t rely on parents to protect their children. So, does that mean its now the State of Maine’s job to make decisions on the behalf of parents? And, even assuming Maine has the ability to make the “right” decision to protects kids (although I’m unsure how one could determine that), under what rationale is handing out condoms the best decision?

The government should not be the forum for imposing personal values, but aren’t there some lines we don’t want to cross?

Malcolm Friedberg is the author of Why We’ll Win, a set of books that explain the law behind hot-button social issues to laypeople.