Roll down the rubber!


Last Sunday I read this letter from Mark Anthony Falzon to the Times criticising the “absitinence as prevention” approach in sexual education. Dr Falzon concluded that “In other words, the best research indicates that it does not make sense to promote abstinence as a means of protection from STDs. ” It might seem like another letter from the “liberal” core aimed at correcting the ultra-conservative theories with which our island is replete. A Bayer Health Care Yasminelle Poll seems to confirm Dr Falzon’s statement directly:

The Maltese are among the most careless Europeans when it comes to protecting themselves during sex, while on the other hand the island has a conservative attitude towards sexuality, according to the results of a new survey. When embarking on their first sexual venture, 62 per cent of local respondents, who were aged between 18 and 49, failed to protect themselves from sexually transmitted diseases or an unplanned pregnancy, preferring withdrawal or use no contraception at all. The Bayer Health Care Yasminelle Opinion Poll shows that the Maltese are burdened with the most serious thoughts and pangs of conscience – they have the strongest association of sex and marriage of all the 12 countries that took part in the survey. (Times of Malta)

While in the rest of Europe condoms are the first choice in a sexual encounter in Malta it would seem that just 40% would choose this method of contraception. On a positive note (?) only 21% of Maltese seem to be willing to have sex without being in love. Around 40% of the Maltese would like to be seduced with the words I love.

No (clean) sex please, we’re Maltese.


3 responses to “Roll down the rubber!

  1. I did not read Dr. Falzon’s letter so I do not know if he was referring to official education policy. Some interesting facts though – in Malta we have an SRE program (Sexuality and Relationships Education) which in content is one of the best in Europe. Their approach as far as I know is the ABC strategy – which is Abstinence, Be faithful, use a Condom. I.e. first try to abstain, if you cannot, be faithful and use a condom. The problem is not what we’re teaching our kids but the lack of people involved in these programs.

    Unfortunately until the last scholastic year there were 4 teachers for the whole of Malta. 2 for primary schools and 2 for secondary each teacher working 2 days a week on this program. This year, if I am not mistaken, 2 have moved on doing other things and they have not been replaced. So we have one teacher for primary schools and one for secondary.

  2. Rupert’s point about a lack of personnel to implement the (questionable) ABC policy is interesting. However, it begs the question of why there are not enough people. To my mind the answer can only be that it is not a policy that is receiving sufficient official support. Besides, education through school teachers is one of many means of publicity. The public health authorities either are not adequately funded or simply have not dedicated resources to a powerful long-term sexual health campaign.

    Sexual health is still treated as taboo and the predominant voice remains a non-secular call for abstinence. Public health one of the primary responsibilities of any government and the most succesful public health achievements are all preventive. Government can build as many Mater Dei hospitals as the budget deficit can accommodate but it will continue to fail its duty towards the people if religious principle or general shortsightedness prevents the population from receiving an education about contraception.

    Finally, this is not a uniquely Maltese phenomenon: in the USA’s bible belt the teaching of abstinence has also resulted in poor sexual health practices. Teaching abstinence or allowing abstinence to be taught as the principal preventive technique is a failed method. I would add that it is an unacceptable abdication of the State’s obligations.

  3. It wasn’t that long ago when I was sitting in a class room and was getting lectured by the PSE teacher about sexual health; fortunately our teacher went into detail about various methods of contraception (and yes we laughed our heads off, but you tend to do that when you’re 15). Being a mixed school I think this was good – but there are other schools which still teach abstinence. We also were thought the ABC thing (it sounds familiar)

    However, preaching abstinence sometimes feels as though one is telling students that the best way not to gain weight is by not eating, and the best way not to feel bloated is not to drink.

    Whether we like it or not, teens do experiment and yes they do have sex – and the only people to lose out are teens themselves since they’re not being properly educated.

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