What sucks about condom snorting

Sure it’s a little gross to watch someone snort a piece of latex up their nose and pull it out through their mouth. We can all agree that it’s one of those stupid things young people do, just like sticking cinnamint gum wrappers to your forehead until it burns, piercing your own ears with safety pins, or standing against a wall while a friend runs into your chest to make you pass out. In my opinion, these types of shenanigans are developmentally appropriate; for the most part, everyone survives and grows out of it and it’s no big deal. The problem with condom snorting is not that teenagers are snorting condoms, but that journalists are having a field day with this because they’re snorting condoms. Like, condoms for sex.

For example, Kat Stoeffel writes in New York Magazine’s The Cut (emphasis added):

Teenagers are snorting condoms up their noses and pulling them out of their mouths, on camera and on the Internet, according to a Huffington Post report that raises more questions than it answers. A YouTube search for “condom challenge” yields more than 200,000 results, most of them NSFW due to gross noises. Is this the “gateway sexual activity”? Or is this what happens when there’s no sex ed? Is it an elaborate ruse to buy and possess condoms? And is this better or worse than the condom’s intended purpose?

Seriously? Let me clear this up.

“Is this a gateway sexual activity?” No.

“Is this what happens when there’s no sex ed?” No. What happens is one out of two young people will get an STI by the age of 25 and most wont know they are infected.

“Is it an elaborate ruse to buy and possess condoms?” No. Teenagers have every right, if not every imperative, to buy and posses condoms. Just like teenagers should own helmets, wear sunscreen, and use seatbelts, they should possess and use condoms. If they want to snort a few up their nose, so be it.

“Is this better or worse than the condoms intended purpose?” ARE YOU KIDDING ME?  Teenagers have sex. Condoms should be used for sex. Teenagers should use condoms when they have sex. Snorting condoms is not going to keep teenagers from having sex. There’s nothing wrong with teenagers having protected sex. Condoms are used to have protected sex. It’s really awesome when teenagers use condoms to have protected sex. Do we need to go around one more time?

I’m not sure what the health risks are of condom snorting, but I imagine choking is a legitimate concern. Still, it’s a fairly innocuous pastime compared to the expansive list of dangerously stupid things teenagers have devised to occupy their time, like skateboarding off rooftops, playing with fireworks, giving themselves homemade tattoos, etc.

The media hand-wringing over condom snorting is reminiscent of that of the cinnamon challenge, but this time it will have the added bonus of panic since this time they’re snorting lubed latex that’s made for (hushed whisper) s-e-x. 

This is a case where kids will be kids, and adults need to grow up.

True Blood Danger: The Health Risks of Vampire Sex

It was only a matter of time.

For the past couple years (thanks to Twilight and it’s R-rated cousin True Blood) the world has been seduced by the notion of vampire sex. After finishing season 3 of True Blood, I remember remarking to a friend, “I wonder if people are actually trying this?” Turns out, they are.

This MSNBC report identifies biting and licking each other’s blood as a new “teen fad.”

Teenagers obsessed with the “Twilight” vampire saga, or those simply fascinated with fangs, reportedly have been biting each other — hard – and then licking or sucking the blood.

It reports some important health risks of this behavior as well:

Such talk alarms medical experts, who warn about the dangers of blood-borne diseases such as hepatitis and HIV, as well as the risk of nasty infections. Typically, 10 to 15 percent of human bites wounds become infected.

“If you break the skin, your mouth is pretty dirty,” said Dr. Thomas Abshire, a pediatric blood and cancer specialist and spokesman for the American Academy of Pediatrics. “The human mouth flora is dirtier than a dog or cat’s.”

It doesn’t surprise me that people are doing this. In True Blood, we see blood sucking as a sexual act – one that heightens intimacy and pleasure. After watching 2 seasons of True Blood back to back, I cannot say it hadn’t occurred to me that this was something people might want to try.  Plenty of people are kinky, and considering the popularity of Twilight and True Blood, biting and blood has become sexualized – even fetishized. I agree that those who have been tempted to experiment with this should be aware of the health risks listed above. It looks like there may need to be a call for education about STI transmission through blood and biting, as well as information on keeping human bite wounds clean.

But much of the MSNBC story annoys me. I highly doubt that teenagers are the only people who have tried, or are doing this. I also doubt that “These are kids who think they are real vampires,” as Dr. Orly Avitzur, the medical advisor to Consumers Union, the agency that publishes Consumer Reports magazine, stated. I agree with a student quoted in the piece who argued that biting is a common practice that has “gotten a bad rap because of this whole vampire thing. In reality… a lot of teens bite – and leave marks – for the thrill of it.” According to his statement, it sounds like biting is common, but licking or drinking blood is not. The MSNBC article suffers from the obvious sensationalism of the story, but does make a necessary point about health risks of biting and licking blood.

So how do we educate adventurous and curious folk about the health risks of playing vampire? Can we find a way to provide non-judgmental education without encouraging the behavior? And who’s responsibility is it to provide this education?

At the base level, we need to remind people that blood is dangerous; even if vampires cannot be infected with HIV or other STIs, (although in an early episode of True Blood, they reveal that vamps are susceptible to Hep D), humans can. Any time another person’s blood gets in your body, you are at risk for STIs like HIV – which, unlike vampires, is a very real threat.