Teen Sex And Condoms – Should we or should we not?

By Dr John Hui

In the light of concerns surrounding teenage sex, abortions and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), many have called for the introduction of “sex education” into the curriculum for teens. More often than not, such education suggests that the answer lies in promoting the use of contraceptives, in particular condoms.

Such an approach presupposes that:

  • Contraceptives are effective in reducing pregnancy and STIs; and
  • Teens will use contraceptives correctly all the time.

Both these presumptions are not supported by fact.

Firstly we must know that only barrier contraceptives, such as the condom, may help to reduce the risk of acquiring STIs. Even then condoms do not offer 100 percent protection, as studies have shown that consistent use of the condom can only reduce the risk of HIV transmission by about 80 percent[1], Gonorrhoea by about 50 to 62 percent, and Chlamydia by about 26 percent.[2] It offers much less protection against STIs that are spread by skin to skin contact, such as Herpes and Genital warts, since there are areas of the genitalia that are not covered by the condom.[3]

Secondly the condom can only be effective in reducing risk if it were used consistently and correctly. In reality, many people, especially youth, fail to do so. One local survey of ‘at risk youth’ found that about 42 percent had experienced slippage, and about 32 percent had experienced breakage.[4]

Other studies showed that only between 8% and 48.4% of those surveyed use the condom consistently.[5]

Therefore, an adequate response to the issue of teen sex must go beyond a merely biological one. Even in a purely hypothetical situation where we assume the condom is 100 percent effective nd used all the time, and thus the risk of acquiring STI is virtually zero, wrong choices (in this case engaging in premarital sex) affect us negatively. This is because we are not merely biological beings, but a unity of body and spirit.

Indeed, studies have shown that sexually active teenagers are more likely to be depressed and more likely to attempt suicide than teenagers who are not sexually active (even after controlling for sex, race, age and socio-economic status), and most sexually experienced teens are already reporting feelings of regret over premature sexual intercourse.[6]

Therefore, an adequate response to the issue of teen sex must go beyond a merely biological one.

As Dr Stephen Genuis once remarked in the British Medical Journal, merely promoting condoms “disregards the complex nature of human sexuality and fails to tackle the underlying social and emotional needs of young people, who are often trapped in high risk sexual behavior as a consequence of difficult life circumstances.”[7]

Which is why the Church proposes a very different approach to the topic. This is based on our vision of the human person, who as a living image of God in the world consists not only of the body but the spirit as well, in an integrated whole.

So while “sex education” deals with only the biological aspects of a person, “sexuality education” takes into account the entire make up of the person as male or female. Sexuality is a fundamental component of the person that expresses the call to love as God loves.

Educating children in sexuality cannot be isolated from formation in other areas, such as character development.

It is only when we recognize this, and form our children in a holistic manner, that teens will be able to make the right decisions when faced with issues like these.

And counsellors have been unanimous on this point: that teens with good relationships with their parents are much more likely to make better decisions in life.

This is why the role of parents as primary educators of their children can never be over emphasized. Parents are the best channels for sexuality education of their children, because they are in the best position to form and equip their children with the virtues they necessarily need to live a good life.

As Pope Francis has said, “Parents always influence the moral development of their children, for better or for worse. It follows that they should take up this essential role and carry it out consciously, enthusiastically, reasonably and appropriately.”[8]

Did you know that Humanae vitae had predicted the issues that would arise from the widespread use of contraceptives? Come to our HV50 Conference to discover more about the message of Humanae vitae. Sign up NOW!

Catholic Medical Guild’s Bioethics Centre

The Catholic Medical Guild of Singapore (CMG) provides a resource for those who are seeking help in answering real-life ethical dilemmas on issues ranging from contraception and abortion counselling to that of end-of-life care in a manner that is both professional and faithful to the teachings of the Catholic Church.

The CMG bioethics centre consisting of moral theologian, Fr David Garcia, OP and medical doctors trained in medical ethics will be available to address ethical dilemmas via the email cmgethicscentre@gmail.com, or if necessary, through a personal face-to-face dialogue at a date and time that can be arranged.

 Sexuality refers to our capacity to love and to procreate, and in a more general way the ability for forming bonds of communion with others.[9]


Sexuality is a good. It is a way of relating and being open to others. It “has love as its intrinsic end, more precisely, love as donation and acceptance, love as giving and receiving.”[10]

 Chastity is a virtue that frees us for authentic love, which is to love as God loves. Chastity helps us make a sincere gift of self to others, according to the state of life we are in (whether as singles, consecrated celibates, or married people). It is through living out the gift of our sexuality this way that we find true fulfillment.[11]

Singles live out this virtue by being a gift to people around them. They avoid sexual intercourse which is reserved for those who are married, since sexual intercourse is essentially the consummation and renewal of a couple’s wedding vows.

Consecrated celibates forgo marriage, and thus sexual intercourse, not because it is bad, but because this enables them to give themselves to God alone with an undivided heart.

Married couples are also called to chastity in marriage. They do this by giving themselves exclusively to each other, freely, totally, faithfully and fruitfully “till death do they part”. These 4 aspects of their wedding vows are consummated and renewed, in and through their bodies, in conjugal intercourse.

Some common topics[12]:


Instead of becoming a “sincere gift of self” to others, one turns inward and self –centred, using one’s gift for self gratification instead.


Instead of being a total gift, we do something to reject an integral part of ourselves at the point of conjugal union (our fertility). In so doing, we intentionally close ourselves to the life-giving aspect of God’s love. We become unfaithful to our vow to love totally and fruitfully.


In pornography we make use of others, and demean their dignity, instead of respecting and seeing them as persons made in the image and likeness of God.

Pre-marital and extra-marital sex

Marital sex is meant to be a renewal of a couple’s wedding vows in and through their bodies. Outside marriage, sexual intercourse tells a lie with the body, for there are no marital vows to be renewed in the body in the first place.


Direct abortion intentionally seeks to destroy a human life already conceived. It violates the fifth commandment “Thou shalt not kill” and can never be justified.

[1] Weller S, Davis, K. Condom effectiveness in reducing heterosexual HIV transmission (Review), The Cochrane Library 2005, Issue 3

[2] The June 2004 Bulletin of the World Health Organization noted that with consistent use of the condom, the risk of acquiring chlamydial infection was reduced by about 26 percent, and that for gonorrhoea by 62 percent. Bulletin of the World Health Organization Vol. 82 Number 6 Genebra June 2004

[3] This is largely due to the fact that “Genital ulcer diseases, like syphilis can occur in both male and female genital areas that are covered or protected by a latex condom, as well as in areas that are not covered.”  CDC fact sheet at www.cdc.gov/std/syphilis/STDFact-Syphilis.htm#protect

[4] Wong ML, Chan RK, Tan HH, Sen P, Chio M, Koh D.. J Pediatr 2013;162:574-80.

[5] Are condoms the answer to rising rates of non-HIV sexually transmitted infection? No

Stephen J Genuis, British Medical Journal. BMJ. 2008 Jan 26; 336(7637): 185.

[6] BMC Public Health. 2009; 9: 282. Published online Aug 5, 2009. doi: 10.1186/1471-2458-9-282

PMCID: PMC2907520 “Relationships, love and sexuality: what the Filipino teens think and feel”,

Jokin de Irala et al

[7] Are condoms the answer to rising rates of non-HIV sexually transmitted infection? No

Stephen J Genuis, British Medical Journal. BMJ. 2008 Jan 26; 336(7637): 185.

[8] Amoris Laetitia, 259

[9] CCC, #2332

[10] TMHS, #11

[11] “Man, who is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself.” (Gaudium et Spes, #24)

[12] cf CCC, #2351 – 2356