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Condoms, emergency contraception, and Christmas single censorship

December 18th, 2007

Dr Petra

Do you ever have a day when you feel like you’ve been on the crazy pills – or is that just me? Today was definitely one of those days.

The media was in a pre-Christmas frenzy over a number of stories that were either old news, misunderstood news, or just a bit baffling.

First off we had the excited coverage of doctors requesting that cabbies give out condoms this Christmas. WOOOOOOOO!

The press reacted as though this was a very new story, and a lot of coverage in papers and on the radio focused on whether it was okay for cabbies to give out condoms. Many publications seemed to take the view that this was yet another step closer to hell for the nation and that folk who weren’t planning on having sex would be bound to try it if a cab driver gave them a condom.

We know from research that if you make condoms available in public places – taxis, bars, restaurants, clubs, then people may be more likely to have a condom to hand if they get lucky. What doesn’t work is simply handing out condoms – there’s no guarantee they’ll be used. But if you combine making condoms available with someone on hand to remind you to use them (like your friendly cabbie) then it may be you’re more likely to practice safer sex.

Having a cabbie give you a condom won’t make you more likely to have sex – chances are if you’re getting it on in the back of a taxi a night of fun’s already on the cards. However, giving you a condom may well make you both a lot safer.

The real story was lost in all the fuss over the morals of making condoms available. And that story was that research on people presenting to GU clinics indicated many had contracted STIs after having unprotected sex and following heavy alcohol use. The researchers were calling on the government to make a closer link between alcohol abuse and unsafe plus increased sexual activity. Sadly it seemed the media had missed this is a key message from the Department of Health – so perhaps practitioners, politicians and journalists can all do their bit to stress something that’s not exactly rocket science. If you drink a lot you’ll be more likely to have unsafe sex.

In the middle of all the fuss about giving out condoms willy-nilly were additional reports that young people were going to be able to get the morning after pill (emergency contraception) WITHOUT EVEN HAVING TO ASK FOR IT!!!!

Yes, the right wing papers were full of fury about a scheme about to be piloted by Dorset Primary Care Trust which will allow young women to present a card to a pharmacist if they want the morning after pill.

Cue more outrage, disgust and reader responses berating slutty girls, and predicting increases in promiscuity and all manner of experimentation.

All of which again missed the point which is that Dorset PCT are running a pilot scheme to see whether providing cards will help make it easier for girls to access services and enable them to better manage their sexual health. Similar schemes have been used to enable people to get chlamydia tests via pharmacies and it may be a card scheme can help those who’re embarrassed to ask at the counter for the morning after pill. The thing is we don’t know whether the scheme is a good idea or not until it’s been tested and evaluated. But today’s media coverage panned it before it’s even got started. A great way to run an unbiased study.

Then in came the news that Thabo Mbeki - the South African president who bought you the idea that HIV didn’t exist (or if it did it could be cured by eating beetroot) was being replaced by Jacob Zuma who in a country ridden with HIV didn’t use a condom for sex – but did claim to have protected himself by having a shower after. The phrase frying pan and fire spring to mind as fears grow for the future of HIV/AIDS prevention in the troubled country.

But there was no time to worry about condoms, cabbies, emergency contraception or South African politicians since the really big news of the day was all about protecting our ears from offensive lyrics.

Yes, Radio One is going to bleep out the word ‘faggot’ in the song Fairytale of New York by The Pogues and the late Kirsty MacColl. Apparently this is because they didn’t want to upset the gays. Now previously it was fine to allow one of their key presenters to be homophobic, but seemingly Radio One have come over all sensitive during the festive season and won’t allow us to hear the word ‘faggot’ again.

Strange, that they’ve allowed us to listen to it for the past 20 years without any concern. And they’re not going to also bleep out the words ‘slut’ and ‘arse’ that also pepper the song. Which presumably means they think they aren’t offensive to anyone – except all us slutty types. And people who don’t like songs about arses.

So to mark the end of a very peculiar day I think we should all revel in singing the uncut version of Fairytale of New York. Because we now live in a country where the majority of our media heartily disapproves of any attempts to help us manage our sexual health. But will protect our delicate ears from those certain words they deem bad.

Merry Christmas your arse!

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