"Desperate Housewives" is not shy about dealing with sexual relations. And for a second, I thought that they would even take advantage of the opportunity to give condoms the thumbs up when partaking in sexual relations — especially when the issue comes up with a character who, as the voice over from heaven reminds us, is "two-timing" on his girlfriend.
In the show Julie, the 16ish year old, is talking with her boyfriend Austin about needing the pill because condoms are "only 85% effective". When mother Susan overhears, she tells her daughter several reasons why not to have sex: "sex kills" and you "don't want it to burn every time you pee." After Julie lies to her mother about not having sex, using the my-friend-is-having-sex excuse to explain away why she was talking about condoms, the scene ends with Susan saying that condoms alone don't protect you.
The second time the subject comes up, Julie and Austin are trying to persuade his aunt to help them get the pill so they can be responsible. Again, Julie notes condoms are only 85% effective — and Aunt Edie responds "Is that true? I can coast all the way to menopause."
I mean dang, what a missed opportunity to pitch using condoms to prevent against the spread of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV! How great it is to have these young people wanting to be extra careful about protecting against pregnancy, and looking for adult help in doing so. But it wouldn't have taken much to make a mini-pitch for trying to prevent the spread of disease as well.
Sexually transmitted diseases and infections know few boundaries and there are about 19 million new cases every year in the United States — approximately half of which occur in those aged 15-24. And while probably more parents of 15 year olds watch Desperate Housewives than the 15 year olds, it would have been great to plant the seed in these parents heads… perhaps spurring them on to converse with their own kids about these issues.
Now, I don't think we should rely on prime time television to teach the lessons that should be taught at home AND in our schools. But surely the 20 plus million viewers of Housewives could have benefited with a reminder that condoms help prevent the spread of disease. After all, it does run on ABC — and C is for condoms.
And PS — Condoms are 98 percent effective in preventing pregnancy when used consistently and correctly. But to give Julie credit because she just started having sex, the first-year effectiveness rate in preventing pregnancy among typical condom users on average is 86 percent, which includes pregnancies resulting from errors in condom use.
Editor's note: Watch the sneak peak below – or check out the full episode, titled "Not While I'm Around," on the ABC website (the relevant clips are at minutes 7 and 11:13).