- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 16, 2010

In a news story that has ricocheted around the world, the London Telegraph has reported that a Swiss condom maker has introduced an extra-small condom, suitable for sexually active boys who want to avoid pregnancy or HIV/AIDS.

The “Hotshot” condom, available only in Switzerland, has already launched a thousand jokes about teeny weenies, European assets and “pint-sized protection for preteens,” as the New York Daily News put it.

But kiddie condoms could become part of the sex-education toolbox. The “Hotshot” will be distributed in Swiss schools as part of a prevention campaign by the Swiss AIDS Federation.

The “Hotshot” is distinctive because it is an estimated 1.8 inches in diameter, slimmer than the 2-inch diameter of a regular condom. “You might say hey, that’s not a big difference, but when you take it into proportion or look at a ruler, that’s a very, very big difference,” Nysse Norballe, a spokeswoman for condom maker Lamprecht AG, told the BBC.

Swiss AIDS Federation contacted Lamprecht about making a smaller condom when it saw data on the increase in sexual intercourse among Swiss youths ages 12 to 14. These youths weren’t using condoms, partly because they didn’t fit correctly.

Evidence of very young teen sex has made headlines in Europe. In December 2008, a Swiss girl named Ramona gave birth to a baby boy she named Nico. Ramona and her boyfriend were both 13 at the time. Then in early 2009 in the United Kingdom, Alfie Patten saw his baby daughter — conceived when he was 12 — come into the world. Chantelle Steadman, the baby’s mom, was 15.

The new “Hotshot” seems to have been met with pragmatic approval in news reports.

“I think you have to face up to the problem. What’s important is the fact that we’re actually talking about their sexuality and not trying to hide it,” a woman told Australia’s the World Today. “[E]arly prevention makes sense,” Nancy Bodmer, who led research into young teen sexual activity for the Centre for Development and Personality Psychology at Switzerland’s Basel University, told the (London) Telegraph.

But in America, there hasn’t been a lot of applause, at least publicly.

“Count on European ‘intellectuals’ to come up with new devices to encourage children to freely engage in sex,” Traditional Values Coalition leader Andrea Lafferty said on RightSideNews.com.

“Swiss ‘Hotshot’ condoms for 12-year-olds normalize and condone sex at this age,” said Richard Panzer, executive director of Free Teens USA and co-author of “The War on Intimacy: How Agenda-Driven Sex Ed Sabotages Committed Relationships & Our Nation’s Health.”

America has its share of very young lovers, too. In 2007, 6,218 girls ages 10 to 14, gave birth, according to federal data.

In 2003, the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy issued a report called “14 and Younger: The Sexual Behavior of Young Adolescents.” It found that by age 12, around 4 percent of U.S. children have had sex; this rose to 10 percent by age 13 and 19 percent by age 14.

Young boys were more likely to be sexually active, with 22 percent becoming sexually experienced before age 15, compared with 17 percent of girls.

The national campaign urged parents to pay closer attention to their middle-schoolers, especially if the children had “dating” relationships.

It also recommended middle schools have teen-pregnancy prevention programs, since “addressing sex and its consequences — as well as contraception — for both girls and boys cannot be put off until the high school years.”

The “Hotshot” is likely to stay a European novelty for the moment, but should the United States ever decide to follow suit — which it might, given the federal government’s full embrace of condom-centric comprehensive sex education — Condomania is ready to serve. America’s original condom store already markets the “Iron Grip” condom, made by Caution Wear Corp., as the “slimmest” in the land.

Cheryl Wetzstein can be reached at [email protected]

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