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Blaming Sex Talk ‘Squeamishness’ for Rise in STDs

No, really. The CDC thinks Americans don't talk about sex enough.

by
Clayton E. Cramer

Bio

November 25, 2009 - 12:06 am
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Another one of those groups that must be really, really hung about talking about sex has an even more severe problem:

Sixty-three percent of syphilis cases were among men who have sex with men.

If you haven’t been paying attention, “men who have sex with men” is the preferred term now for homosexuals, bisexuals, and all those straight men … who have sex with other men. Since homosexual and bisexual men are about 4 to 4.5 percent of the adult male population of the U.S., that means that 63 percent of syphilis cases are in a group that constitutes no more than 2 percent of the U.S. population.

Pretty obviously, the reporter’s claim is wrong. It isn’t “squeamishness about talking about sex.” It could be squeamishness about talking about STDs. But the real issue isn’t an unwillingness to talk about STDs. It’s an unwillingness to take steps that would substantially reduce the risk of getting an STD. As the expert interviewed for the article points out:

Douglas said children and teens need to know about condom use, and should limit their number of sex partners and avoid sex with people who do have many other sex partners.

Since Douglas’s use of “children and teens” implies that those under 13 are children, would it perhaps make sense to suggest that those under 13 shouldn’t be having sex? Or is that just too prudish and narrow-minded?

And you would be hard-pressed to find anyone in America, anyone at all, who doesn’t know about condom use yet — though tragically, condoms aren’t the panacea that some people think. Condoms sometimes fail, and even condoms that don’t fail may not be preventing the spread of some STDs. A 2002 study concluded:

Available data are too inconsistent to provide precise estimates. However, they suggest that while condoms may not prevent HPV infection, they may protect against genital warts, CIN II or III, and ICC.

The second part of Douglas’s advice is extraordinarily important (especially in light of the deficiencies of condoms): Limit your number of sexual partners and avoid sex with people who won’t do so. It turns out that the speed with which an STD spreads through a population is the square of the increase in the number of sexual partners. (Here’s an application of permutations and combinations that you didn’t even consider in calculus class, I’m sure.)

I hear an awful lot of screeching from the Democrats in Congress about “bending the curve of health care costs.” This news article tells us that there were 1.2 million cases of chlamydia reported in 2008, almost 337,000 cases of gonorrhea, and 13,500 cases of syphilis. If each such case costs someone $100 (which is no more than one doctor’s visit and antibiotics), that’s at least $155 million.

Somehow, I can’t imagine the Democrats deciding to “bend the health care cost curve” by promoting self-restraint about sex. Can you?

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Clayton E. Cramer teaches history at the College of Western Idaho. His most recent book is My Brother Ron: A Personal and Social History of the Deinstitutionalization of the Mentally Ill (2012). He is raising capital for a feature film about the Oberlin Rescue of 1858.
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