It came almost as quickly as it was erected.
A giant pink condom was lowered onto an obelisk in Sydney on Friday to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS. Almost immediately, a cry of “won’t somebody please think of the children”, soared into the public conversation.
“There is a time and place for talking to children, and an age-appropriate time for parents to talk to children about condoms.
“Parents do not want to be forced into a situation where they have to explain something that’s not relevant.”
Like the famous giant butt-plug statue in Paris, the condom has raised the eyes of many in our communities, who are worried about the impact public conversations about sex have on our community, and in particular our children.
As they do, we have to ask, what are they so worried about?
Francis’ argument boils down quite simply — that the ‘protection’ of children from sexualised imagery is more important than public campaigns associated with things such as the pink condom.
It is a simple position. The internet, pornography, advertising and social media are bringing sex to children at a much earlier age. Research shows for example that kids are accessing porn online as early as 6 years old. With this, people like Francis argue we are sexualising kids too young — taking away their childly innocence and opening them up to all kinds of danger.
On the surface it could makes sense. Psychologists have argued the early sexualisation of children can have serious impacts on mental health and development — turning kids into sexual beings at a time when their body and mind just aren’t quite ready for it. And so it makes sense that we need to protect our children from sexualised imagery such as that of the pink condom in Hyde Park.
Unfortunately this misses the real issue. In fact, children need to be provided with more space to talk about sex, not less.
When Francis talks about the rights of parents to have conversations with kids about sex at ‘appropriate times’ what she actually means is the right for kids to be shielded from conversations about sex entirely.
Remember these are the sorts of conservative crusaders who also campaign against sex education in schools, and they are certainly almost never going to talk about sex in a way that covers the vast array of issues facing kids who are LGBTIQ for example. ‘Sexualisation of children’ is being used a pretext to ignore sex all together — to once again block our collective ears in the hope our kids won’t have sex until their wedding night.
Unfortunately this has an impact. Lets have a look at the issue of HIV/AIDS – the focus of the pink condom. Last year a report from the Kirby Institute found that in 2012 HIV infections rose by 10 per cent in Australia, the fastest increase in 20 years. The culprit? As the Institute’s Professor David Wilson said: