Dear ‘middle-class Pakeha’ parents,
I’m sorry to burst the ‘my kids are better than your kids’ bubble, but it’s time to get real and acknowledge that it doesn’t matter what colour skin our kids have – or how much money you have – they will have sex.
We’ve all had sex, haven’t we. Our kids wouldn’t exist if we didn’t. So will your kids, eventually. That’s how the life-cycle works. Teens have been having sex since the beginning of human life, and no religion, law or punishment in all these years has stopped it from happening. But we can stop them from developing a major health issue that is now preventable. I’m talking about the Gardasil vaccination, and here’s why.
Let’s get squeamish. Sorry dads, but this is a pre-Gardasil woman’s reality. Fellow mums – I’m sure that like me, many of you have had to deal with cervical abnormalities over the years.
The letter that arrives in the mail (or these days, often a text) reminding us that we are due for our smear. The gulp we have at that moment, that feeling of dread. Sadly, a lot of us ignore these reminders, and go years without smears because we fear them so much. A percentage of us will go on to be treated for cancer, and some of us die from it. Those of us who do go have to do the whole bottom half off, on a table, in an extremely undignified position thing with a GP – and while some of us find it fairly easy, many of us find smears painful and/or frightening.
And for 1 out of 4 of us it’s triggering, because we have been sexually assaulted. Now this is a very important thing for you to think about as a parent that I know you don’t want to think about – but its reality. If your daughter is sexually assaulted in young adulthood and has not been vaccinated, she has a high chance of contracting HPV. Do you want your daughter to get cellular abnormalities or cancer – needing more triggering treatment thanks to a rapist with HPV? You need to remember that not all teenage ‘sex’ is consensual.
Then there’s the letter and/or phone call from the clinic. If we’re lucky, it’s normal. If it’s not, we deal with anxiety, a strange feeling of guilt, and a wait to go to the Women’s Clinic at the hospital for a colposcopy. Legs up in stirrups gripping a partner/friend’s hand exposed to at least 2 medical professionals we met 5 minutes ago snipping a chunk of cervix out. Lying on the couch in discomfort for the rest of the day with a wheat bag and Panadol.
For me, that’s where my journey with CIN ended because the biopsy got it all, but unfortunately for some it’s too late, and they begin treatment for cervical cancer. Note that if it’s too late, your daughter may need a hysterectomy. I had a hysterectomy at 24 – not for this reason – but I can attest to how soul & life destroying losing the ability to have children is at such a young age. It is an absolute tragedy, and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.
Do you want this to be your daughter’s future? Do you really want your daughter to go through this because you’d like to hold on to the belief that your daughter isn’t like ‘those (apparently more slutty) kids’? Rich teens have sex. Pakeha teens have sex. Highly intelligent teens have sex. You most likely did, and so will they. Such is life.
The fear that vaccinating your child against a deadly disease which just happens to be sexually transmitted is going to make them start having sex is just so illogical to me that I get really frustrated. There’s a reason it’s done so early – because as much as we like to delude ourselves that we can control our children’s lives – they will make their own choices, and if they really want to have sex, they will. Also, sadly, while we do our best to protect our children from sexual predators, we do not always succeed.
The two vaccines (Gardasil and Cervarix), say the Ministry of Health, ‘are effective against HrHPV types 16 and 18, which are thought to cause up to 70% of cervical cancer. It is expected that over time this will have a marked effect not only on the incidence of and mortality from cervical cancer, but also on the volumes of abnormal cytology and colposcopy assessment.’ Brilliant. So many lives saved, so much stress eliminated. So why not save your daughter’s life? If it was a vaccine against bone, breast, leukaemia etc – you’d be jumping at the chance, right?
My son is 12 (and a half mum) and in Year 8 in a decile 8 high school. His female classmates are getting Gardasil vaccinations at the moment, so he came home the other day and asked me what it was all about. We’ve had the sex talk a couple of times already, but I didn’t need to mention sex to explain to him what it was about – and neither do you! An explanation that there was a virus that people can get that causes cancer later in life for girls and this vaccine will stop that from happening satiated his curiosity. He asked me if he needed it too. I explained that one day boys will probably get vaccinated, but girls are getting it now because it harms girls worse than boys. He expressed his relief that at least he didn’t have to get ‘another bloody jab’ and went out with his mate to do parkour training. Conversation over. It’s that simple.
So why this belief that if you get your daughter vaccinated at 12 years old she’ll be rushing out the door after school to have sex? The nurse vaccinating your daughter doesn’t give her it and then pat her on the back, telling her to go forth and have sex with as many boys as she likes now because she’s safe.
The Gardasil vaccine is only sexualised because you have sexualised it in your own brain. It is you who are thinking like this. Your daughter isn’t. So please, do the right thing by her, and gift her an adulthood free from anxiety and smears, and possibly procedures, infertility and cancer. It’s inevitable that she will have sex, eventually, but only your choice not to vaccinate her makes the above inevitable. The right choice is obvious.