The Most Important Condom Demo
By Stefanie Slade Winfield, Colorado Youth Matter Senior Capacity Building Manager
September 30, 2015
I am no stranger to talking about sex.
Throughout my career, I have trained countless educators to teach sex ed. I have waxed poetic on the benefits of talking to youth about sex and answering all their questions, and have taught facilitators to coach parents on how to use teachable moments to initiate these important conversations with their children. I have shared with parents, friends and even strangers in the supermarket the importance of answering questions honestly and accurately. However, when I recently had the opportunity to share this information with members of my own family, I wondered if I really could practice what I preached and answer questions in value-neutral and supportive way – the way I teach others to do it.
A few weeks ago, I left from a Saturday Get Real Training of Facilitators to spend the night at my in-laws house where my nieces and their parents were visiting from Kentucky. When I went to my car later that afternoon to grab my overnight bag and saw the safer sex box I had received at the training, a light sparked for me. I asked my sister-in-law if she wanted to go through the box with me and her 2 daughters and was slightly surprised and extremely delighted that she said yes. My nieces are 17 and 15, and the younger is in the midst of her first romantic relationship. We all realized this was exactly the right time.
Although I was nervous and a bit embarrassed, the conversation went better than I ever could have imagined. We talked about each birth control method in my box, and the girls grilled me with great questions. Coming from Kentucky, where sex ed consists solely of abstinence-only education, they had never seen or heard of many of the methods. They kept wishing their friends could have been there to hear all the information as well – many of their friends were already sexually active and didn’t know any of the methods we were talking about. Their questions were honest and straightforward: What is the best of option for teenagers? When is the right time to on get birth control?
When I pulled out condoms and the Woodie, I asked them if they had ever seen a condom. Yes, they said, a used one in the park. I proceeded to do the most important condom demo of my career. When I asked if they wanted a chance to practice, the 17 year old blushed and declined, while the 15 year old jumped at the chance, grabbed a purple condom and practiced the first safer sex skill she had ever been taught.
When my mother-in-law joined in on the conversation, I knew we had changed the tenor of our chat. It was no longer “the Talk,” as we often feel these conversation to be so heavy and weighty, but just a dialogue among loving family members about topics that matter, a sharing of thoughts and information with those we trust.
I wish all young people had the opportunity to learn about their sexual health in as safe and caring a setting as I had the privilege of providing for my nieces. And I wish that all young people had the support of a parent or guardian like my sister-in-law, who demonstrated with her presence and participation in the conversation that she wants her children to know and understand this information. I hope my nieces will feel empowered to share the information and the experience with their friends and encourage their friends to talk to their parents or aunts or any other caring adult in their lives.
Someday soon, I will need to have this same conversation with my own 12 and 9 year old children. I hope that when it comes time, my daughter and son will appreciate my honest and straightforward approach, and will see me as a supportive and loving resource. And if not, I hope that they in turn find an aunt, uncle, or parent of a friend they trust, so that they can continue the conversation with those who love them