The Philadelphia Health Department launches a safe sex campaign called “She Takes Control” that promotes female empowerment and responsibility by encouraging female youth to carry condoms. Pennsylvania is one of the many states in the U.S. that suffers from high rates of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) among teenagers — they are as much as five times the national average. STDs are increasingly prevalent in Philadelphia and Philadelphia County, with 1 out of 3 youth getting an STD during their teen years. In fact, PA ranked seventh highest among the 50 states in 2008 for AIDS cases. While many states and cities focus on sex education in public schools as solutions to STDs and unwanted teenage pregnancies, the Philadelphia Health Department (PHD) decided to take a separate route: a safe sex campaign targeting young females.
The new campaign, “She Takes Control,” follows an earlier campaign, “Take Control Philly,” launched last April. The later program gives free condoms to teenagers between the ages of 11 and 19 through 160 distributions sites and a mail-order program. However, only 22% of the mail orders came from females. According to Dr. Caroline Johnson, director of the Department of Public Health’s Division of Disease Control, this disparity was because “Adolescent boys were much more interested and accepting of these condoms.”
Why were boys more receptive than girls? Well, that is because of the stereotype of carrying condoms means that someone is loose or sexually promiscuous, especially when it comes to females. Generally, American youth find males who carry condoms to be much more acceptable than females who carry condoms, labeling the males as “studs” and the females as “sluts.” Unfortunately, society has taught youth that it is okay for males to be sexually promiscuous as a demonstration of their manhood, while women are supposed to fight back the advances of males and remain “pure” and “innocent.” Many describe this attitude as the “sexual double standard.”
This attitude is what “She Takes Control” is trying to counter. It is already bad enough that only 60% of Philadelphia boys are using condoms the first time they have sex, 20% lower than that national average. With the new campaign providing free condoms, and its website listing info because of stereotypes, fear, or stigma. For in the end, the ridicule of having an STD or becoming a teenage mother is far worse than being teased for carrying a condom and being a sexually responsible individual.
With the campaign providing free condoms and its website listing information about STDs (how to use condoms, where to get condoms, and about testing and treatments), and offering resources for parents about how to talk to their kids about sex, hopefully Philadelphia will see an increase in female youth carrying condoms and taking control of their sexual health. Women and girls should NOT depend on their male partners to carry condoms. Nor should they let men or boys decide the fate of their sexual health through unprotected sex by trusting that these guys get tested regularly and are free of any STDs. All teens need to respect their bodies and take care of their sexual health, regardless of what others might think of them, or their sexual health, regardless of what others might think of them, or because of stereotypes, fear, or stigma. For in the end, the ridicule of having an STD or becoming a teenage mother is far worse than being teased for carrying a condom and being a sexually responsible individual.