And, despite the AIDS scare, the Pill, not the condom, is the birth control method of choice among teen-agers who use birth control. One reason teen-agers do not protect themselves is ignorance but another, more important one, explained Los Angeles school board member Jackie Goldberg, is that "The ethic on sex has changed from 'Thou shalt not have sex before you get married or you're a slut' to 'Thou shalt have sex before marriage if it's in the heat of passion,' which is the ethic of television. Premeditated sex is still as sinful as it always was."
Planned Parenthood, the national organization that has campaigned extensively for lifting the television networks' ban on contraceptive advertising, based that campaign solely on curbing the teen-age pregnancy rate. Indeed, in a 1986 publication, "How to Talk with Your Child About Sexuality," Planned Parenthood dismissed AIDS with a couple of paragraphs--"It is possible, but infrequent, for a child or teen-ager to get AIDS . . . teen-agers account for less than 1% (of the cases)."
The networks, arguing that the moral or religious sensibilities of viewers would be offended, did not compromise until, in February, Surgeon General C. Everett Koop called on the broadcast industry to lift its self-imposed ban, saying, "AIDS kills . . . and sexually active people have to be told this." The networks now permit network-owned local stations to make their own decisions but still do not accept condom commercials for network programs. They have started running some public service spots.
Dr. J. Hugh Anwyl, executive director of the Los Angeles affiliate of Planned Parenthood, which annually sees about 13,000 clients in the 13-to 19-year-old group, welcomes the current widespread effort to promote condoms as protection against AIDS as a bit of "serendipity."
Although Planned Parenthood makes condoms available free to those who cannot pay, Anwyl says "not too many" teen-agers are requesting them as yet.
He said it will take "six months or so" before public awareness brought into focus by the surgeon general's report will trickle down to teen-agers.
Getting the Point Across
Anwyl believes parents should ask their sons as they leave the house whether they have their condoms as well as their car keys. He suggests, "They ought to be literally chained to a pack of condoms to get the point across."
He would like, too, to see "jazzed up" marketing of condoms, with eye-catching packaging, and condom vending machines in supermarkets, convenience stores and malls. There is an image problem, he said, if they are available only in service station restrooms. "They ought to be on shelves with the health foods, in a much more positive context."
Once condoms are freely advertised, freely accessible and readily accepted by both men and women, Anwyl believes, "that will push us forward to deal with the real question--what kind of sexual behavior reasonable, moderate human beings engage in.
"The old idea was that you only had sexual intercourse for procreative purposes, and some people still think that," he said. "Others think it's primarily recreational. Some teen-agers are saying, 'I want a baby because I want someone who loves me.' We really haven't dealt with those issues."
With teen-agers, Anwyl said, "We don't teach enough of the idea, 'If you really loved me, you wouldn't ask me.' In the light of AIDS, if you don't think through those things, you may be dead."
Catholic leaders maintain that promoting the use of condoms for sexual intercourse implies a sanctioning of sex outside of marriage, which the Catholic church views as immoral. Church doctrine also prohibits use of contraceptives. In December, archbishop Roger Mahoney of Los Angeles withdrew support of a Spanish-language AIDS education project designed for presentation to Latino parish members after learning that condoms would be discussed as a method of preventing transmission of the AIDS virus. The way to avoid AIDS, the Catholic leaders contend, is by avoiding sex outside of the traditional marriage relationship.
Dr. Morton Shane, a Westside psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who works with children and adolescents, had a different observation about the issue of teen-agers and fear of AIDS. "Often," he said, "they are feeling guilty about their sexuality and they expect punishment, so AIDS comes to the fore. Children who are phobic latch onto this. Sometimes, if they have that tendency to be self-punishing, they even put themselves in jeopardy. It's readily available as a way of torturing themselves. They might have sex with somebody they feel could possibly have AIDS and then worry about it."