Everyone had condoms - red ones, yellow ones, condoms with lubrication, condoms without. Some were flavored, others were plain. A few were even ribbed.
Teenagers grabbed them by the fistful Wednesday at the annual “It’s Your Choice” conference at Spokane Community College.
Along with posters and informational pamphlets, the condoms were there to remind them to be safe - to prevent pregnancy and protect themselves from sexually transmitted diseases.
“Some teens don’t realize how important this is,” said event coordinator PJ Watters. “They don’t think it’s going to happen to them.”
Sponsored by the Spokane Area Teen Pregnancy Prevention Coalition, the conference was designed to teach youths about sexuality and birth control. For six hours, more than 100 high school students listened to speakers from Planned Parenthood, the YWCA and other organizations.
They learned about emergency contraception - using birth control pills in higher dosages to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex. They saw diagrams of the various IUDs available. They talked, played games, asked questions.
Speakers were frank and to-the-point on subjects that ranged from relationships to the surgical insertion of Norplant. To attend the conference, students needed written permission from their parents.
“There’s so much to learn,” said Angelina Ackaret, a junior at Cheney High School. “I didn’t even know what an IUD was before today.”
During a workshop called “The Game of Risk,” students brainstormed ways to reduce risk in their lives, as well as the factors that influence their decision-making. They also gathered in a circle and played “All Those Who …,” a game similar to musical chairs.
“All those who played sports,” shouted the girl sitting in the middle. Everyone immediately stood up to find a new chair to sit in.
“All those who have had unprotected sex,” said another.
Five got out of their seats.
In between workshops, teens walked around the Student Auditorium lobby, where informational booths provided diagrams on how to use a condom; a crying baby doll to discourage them from having children; and business cards for local support organizations.
Besides free pencils and plastic sport bottles, some came home with graphic images: “Sex with one partner can still be group sex,” was the message on one posterboard covered with pictures of crab lice. Another had a photo of a baby with a $218,543 price tag. “Choose,” the poster said, comparing the baby with the $2 price of a dozen condoms.
“Or just don’t do it,” read a note on the bottom.
Other giveaways appeared silly to some, such as the keychains with the pop-up condoms. Although the keychains said “Break In Case of Emergency” or “The Roll-On With Maximum Protection,” the message hit home, many students said.
“I’ve learned that fathers have 100 percent responsibility for pregnancy,” said Chris Gailley, a 17-year-old junior at Riverside High School.
During a workshop titled “What’s A Real Man Got To Do With It?,” Gailley, along with two other boys, were floored by the statistics: 80 percent of boys and men under the age of 20 who are unmarried and don’t finish high school live in poverty, said Dan Wolfley, a case manager with Spokane Mental Health. Three-quarters of criminal adolescents have grown up without a male role model.
The boys also realized how little they knew about women and pregnancy.
When asked questions like, “When during the month can a woman get pregnant?” or “What’s a woman’s most sensitive body part?,” their only response was a giggle or a shake of the head.
Most teens don’t talk about sex and birth control in school, several participants said. Many don’t feel comfortable asking their friends. Some don’t even know what to ask.
“Sure we talk about sex,” said Jodi Porter, an adolescent health educator for Spokane Regional Health District. “But the stuff we teach here are also life skills.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Graphic: Teen pregnancies