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'Sex Without Condoms' Prompts Heated Debate

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For decades, Hollywood has been helping create fantasies about love, relationships and sex. Ironically, as a young woman notes in this L.A. Weekly article, Los Angeles can be one of the hardest places in the world to find any of these. Following a failed relationship and herbal abortion gone awry, Dani Katz writes that her quest for connection proves confusing. The dream of truly casual sex is a myth, she concludes.

Thursday, as part of Day to Day's series "What's the New What," Pendarvis Harshaw, a teen who grew up in Oakland offers his own provocative take on the California relationship dream. "Sex without condoms is the new engagement ring," he suggested in an on-air essay. Among his friends and acquaintances, ditching the condoms for other forms of birth control like the pill, signifies taking monogamy to a new level; partners are required to trust each other completely at the risk of getting an STD. Given that few of his friends in their late teens are thinking much about marriage, this transforms a prophylactic into a relationship sign-post along the lines of an engagement ring.

The piece provoked quite a bit of response.

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Some of the comments:

"Jesus, what a pile of useless crap your "what" report is. I listen to NPR for intelligent information not mindless hip-hop MTV sound bites, all puked out with an uneducated speech impediment. The notion that some kid humping without a condom is a grand sign of commitment, love, and responsibility, is laughable. But I'm actually encouraged by the ignorance of the youth described in the "story." It means a bright future for my kids, nephews, and nieces who will have no problem dominating such half-witted masses."

—Kristopher H

"I am absolutely disgusted by your program. As a 23-year-old, recently married college graduate and current master's student I was excited when I heard about a program that was going to talk about some of the trends in my generation .... How sick that your producers would highlight topics such as sex without a condom as being equated to engagement. Not only is that the most ridiculous claim I've ever heard, it's also a complete overgeneralization of the fact ... I will not be donating to NPR at any time in the future and you have lost my listenership and respect for your programming."

—Anne Tatlock

"Pendarvis Harshaw's essay should be on the WTF program."

—Barbara Plichta

Just one listener in Virginia wrote in to tell us he liked the essay:

Thank you for your comments today. It was rich, cool, funky and hip! Keep reporting the WHAT!

—Paul Economy

In defense of the piece, 'Youth Radio' clarified that Harshaw's point was not that couples solidify their bond by ditching all forms of birth control — just condoms.

Is it possible that people beyond Harshaw's circle look at condoms as an indicator of intimacy? Is it possible that if Harshaw had a different accent, people would have reacted differently to his observations?

Or are you also infuriated by this essay? Is Harshaw simply glorifying a dangerous lifestyle? Tell us below.

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