Oakland teen draws fire at NPR for saying straight teen barebacking is the ‘new engagement ring’

Image of a different kind of bare back by spiritus.molenuex.

Last thursday on NPR an Oakland (CA) teen talked about what’s up with his generation’s take on sex and condoms(MP3 link, three minute segment), saying that when a teen couple decides to go bareback — condomless — it is the serious sign of commitment for people his age. It started a firestorm in their comments, snip:

Thursday, as part of Day to Day’s series “What’s the New What,” Pendarvis Harshaw, a teen who grew up in Oakland offers his own provocative take on the California relationship dream. “Sex without condoms is the new engagement ring,” he suggested in an on-air essay. Among his friends and acquaintances, ditching the condoms for other forms of birth control like the pill, signifies taking monogamy to a new level; partners are required to trust each other completely at the risk of getting an STD. Given that few of his friends in their late teens are thinking much about marriage, this transforms a prophylactic into a relationship sign-post along the lines of an engagement ring.

The piece provoked quite a bit of response. (…read more. (thanks, Cyrus!)

But here’s the thing I’d like to say to the people in the comments who said things like, “(…) How sick that your producers would highlight topics such as sex without a condom as being equated to engagement. Not only is that the most ridiculous claim I’ve ever heard, it’s also a complete overgeneralization of the fact … I will not be donating to NPR at any time in the future and you have lost my listenership and respect for your programming.” Harshaw was talking about a reality, and not talking about forgoing birth control. Being a girl who grew up when sex with condoms was just plain part of sex, and anyone who asked to go bare was considered an asshole, I think we’re seeing the generation gap here big time. Going bare is a serious commitment to me at least, though quite a taboo, and even a pretty forbidden fetish here in the Castro. I’ll admit that sex without condoms or dental dams feels like a million bucks, but that I’m 100% disease-free because I wait for test results and emotional reciprocity to make that kind commitment? Priceless.

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  1. Listening Comprehension · Edit

    This was a news radio story by NPR about a sexual practice that is astonishing. That is why it is news. Should they report only news that most listeners like? That is classic shooting the messenger, NPR.

    John McCain wants to drill for oil offshore California. I do not like that and I am sure Violet Blue in San Francisco does not like that, but does that mean that oil development or anything else no longer is newsworthy?

    20 to 25 years ago I enjoyed several serial monogamy relationships, and they all involved sex with no barrier and the woman using contraceptive pills.

  2. To be fair, I don’t think he’s a teen — nor do I think he’s talking about teen behavior. From Youth Radio’s website:

    “People in their early 20s have grown up with heightened awareness of HIV/AIDS, and the dangers of having sex without a condom. So Youth Radio’s Pendarvis Harshaw argues that when a couple decides to forego condoms, it’s a serious commitment…that’s replaced the engagement ring. “

  3. Clearly, NPR is responsible for this reality, as reporting on it sent ripples back in the timestream and caused it in the first place.

    Or they changed the outcome by observing it, or somesuch. Damn quantum.

    Let the misdirected moral panic continue.

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