A one-time school project gone terribly, terribly wrong.

12 March 2008

One Quarter Infected

More bad numbers on the sociological front in the US. Up to a quarter of the next generation's flower of womanhood carries a sexually transmitted infection. Among black girls the rate is damn near fifty percent (Thank you Mr. Thurmond and co.).

On behalf of the friends, families, partners and itchy ex-partners of those 3 million teenage girls, I would like to thank George Dubya Bush and his "abstinence-based" sexual ignorance programs. Or do I mean "faith-based"?

You try and teach kids to be honest to the core, then these clowns spend years lying to them about the most important issues of all.

Meanwhile, some good news, many of the girls turned out to be only a little bit pregnant.

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At 1:44 p.m., Blogger Slave to the dogs said...

The biggest infection that women in the US have a problem with is HPV. I have it myself and I contracted it well before Dubya had a glimmer of a hope of becoming president. People are just doing what they've always done - throwing caution to the wind when their loins take control.

At 3:05 p.m., Blogger Metro said...

Um, we're talking one in four teenage girls--that is, girls who fell under the wheels of "No Child Left to Mind" or whatever that was. Girls educated in a system driven by the fundamentalist impulses of a tradition that treats teen sex the way some people treat cancer: If you don't talk about it, it'll never happen.

And maybe, with an aggressive, full program of sex ed, some of these people will think before they let their loins take control.

Among other things, I favour instructional pornography and actual instruction in the arts of sex, as well as a moral and philosophical underpinning of respecting your partner.

But why would anyone want that in a high school sex ed class, eh?

At 3:06 p.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

There was a study (featured on BoingBoing, I think) that showed that rates of STDs among the self-proclaimed "celibate" and the sexually active were identical. I'd dig it out but I'm too hungover.

From TWO COCKTAILS! Sheesh, ou sont les stamina d'antan?

At 3:14 p.m., Blogger Metro said...

Dan Savage once suggested that the best way for a particular teen letter-writer to get sex from his religiously biased girlfriend was to get her to sign a virginity pledge. Apparently fifty or sixty percent of signers don't bring their hymen away from high school.

At 3:38 a.m., Blogger Vlad the Impala said...

I don't wish to understate the consequences of STDs, but I wonder if we stopped thinking about the ST part and just the D part, would our attitudes change?

I'm thinking, one in four teenage girls with a disease of their nethers, and probably nine in ten teenage girls with a disease of their respiratory system (nose, throat, lungs and surprisingly ears)... why is one shameful and the other just one of those things? You're a mammal, you're going to catch a bug.

At 8:13 a.m., Blogger Metro said...

Both are shameful if they're both preventible and endemic. Especially when aggressive education could bring the numbers down.

We give kids all the gory details about smoking, complete with graphic pictures of rotting lungs and tumour-ridden tracheae. Yet when it comes to sex the prevailing ethos seems to be to grudgingly give them as little information as possible, then pretend we've raised sensible, informaed adults.

And the ears are part of the respiratory system ... really? Learn something new every day.

At 8:39 a.m., Blogger Slave to the dogs said...

I think you rely too much on your media. Our schools still teach sex ed. Those who run our education system are still by and large liberal so I don't see that changing any time soon.

No Child Left Behind, while still a stupid program, is entirely unrelated.

Who can I blame for my problem then, Metro? I had sex ed as a teen. We learned about disease. I don't think it's fair to discount personal responsibility, even in teenagers. I was young and stupid, as I suspect is still the case today.

Obviously you've forgotten what it's like to be young and full of hormones. It hasn't changed over the last century. People used to get married way too young just so they could have sex. That caused a whole different slew of problems.

And don't forget that there is a vaccine now. I think it's a parent's responsibility (NOT Dubya's or any other authority figure) to get their teenage girls vaccinated. And I as a parent will make sure my kids know the facts. From me.

At 8:52 a.m., Blogger Slave to the dogs said...

Also note the last paragraph of that article:

"The agency noted that condoms seemed less effective against genital herpes and syphilis. Protection against human papillomavirus “is partial at best,” the report said.

Even your porn and orgies (which would never ever fly in American public schools with our Puritan roots - even I find "actual sex instruction" distasteful) would only do so much when that is the case.

At 10:17 a.m., Blogger Metro said...

It is certainly no secret that Dubya favours faith-based sex ed, i.e. none to speak of. In fact, he has spread this approach, and not a little social disease, worldwide by insisting that all charities receiving funding to do work in the third world take the abstinence-based approach. That means that many charities doing good work and chipping away at, for example, HIV prevalence, have lost the edge because they distribute condoms and therefore no longer qualify for funding.

As to the education system being run by liberals--it's funded by neo-cons, and those liberals would probably look pretty conservative. Puritan roots, as you point out.

Who can you blame for your problem? Well yourself of course. And presumably your partner. But who can say what your experience would have been had you had more aggressive and thorough sex ed?

You learned about disease. I heard a bit about syphillis, gonnorhea, and AIDS, and I used condoms religiously. I'd never even heard of HPV until 1994 or so, at which time it was endemic in the army town I lived in. Thank the FSM there's a vaccine for that now.

Many of the lads I was in the Forces with thought AIDS only affected "fags".

I'm not saying these kids get no information, I'm saying they get neither sufficient nor complete information. And given the stakes, anything less than complete, factual information is negligence.

Parents cannot be counted on to provide right information:

1) They can't bring the subject up without terminal embarrasment to both parties (fourteen years from now, will you be able to have an honest and open discussion about anal sex with your kid? How about rimming? Protocols for safe, sane, consensual BDSM? Most people can't manage it even with their sex partners). You admit yourself that you find the idea distasteful.

2) Many parents are themselves only partially informed. Can you explain chancroids? I had to look 'em up. But I've known chancre was an STI for decades.

3) A number of them suffer from the same faith-based delusions as Dubya. They won't talk to their kids about homosexuality or bisexuality. They limit sex ed to "save it for marriage", and their idea of birth control is faking a headache.

Look at the furour over the HPV vaccine. Parents are never the source of unbiased information, on this topic.

And in any case, no one teacher can possibly cover everything kids'll want to ask.

I'm not suggesting orgies. And what I mean by instructional pornography is probably a bit different from what you seem to think I mean.

Sex ed should be a multi-year, layered process covering all the ticklish, difficult material that parents simply don't want to talk about. It should take at least as long as home ec. or shop class, and happen oftner.

Yes, some number of people will still go out and take silly risks. Just as people who receive professional driving instruction still speed.

But we're talking one in four teen girls here.

One in four of any population is a ridiculous rate for ANY disease. It has implications going onward for generations.

I'd be interested to see (a-hem) penetration rates for STDs in school-age populations in countries where sex ed is free and open, rather than vaguely embarrassing for all concerned.

One wonders why there's no "War on STIs."

And no, by the way, I haven't forgotten what it's like to be young and entirely consumed by and dedicated to sex and to getting more of it. I fully intend to be the guy in the nursing home that none of the nurses ever wants to give a sponge bath. :-)

At 12:07 p.m., Blogger Slave to the dogs said...

Personally, I think the answer is lack of stigma for having sex when you're young. It's a natural thing. It's why (in addition to easier access to contraception) countries like Sweden have much lower rates of pregnancy and STDs than we do.

The rate of teen pregnancy has actually declined steadily since 1991, so we are headed in the right direction. The focus needs to be in the inner cities and rural poor areas where the rates remain the highest.

Well, you raise the point that there are a ton of unqualified parents out there. But yes, if I have a gay son I will explain to him that anal sex has an increased risk of HIV infection (primarily for the recipient). I really don't see what rimming or BDSM have to do with transmission of STDs. Sex education is in place to teach our kids how to be safe and how their bodies work, not how they like to fuck.

And I do want to clarify that what I find distasteful is "actual sex instruction". That's where the reference to orgies came from. Instructional pornography I can see only insofar as showing how to properly don a condom and remove it safely when finished. That's not my idea of porn.

And I do agree with your criticism of his charity policy. But A) That will be gone as soon as Bush is and B) the cool thing about charities is that they can accept private money too. Angelina Jolie and company can have just as big as an effect as US tax dollars.

Finally - the rates for HPV infection among adults are much higher than that of teens. My nurse friend quoted me a rate of 50% a couple of years ago. This article puts it significantly higher than that. So it seems that the teens in the NY Times study aren't really doing that bad. And we certainly can't blame Dubya for all those adults.

At 2:24 p.m., Blogger Metro said...

I like your answer re. stigma.

Unfortunately, the rate of teen motherhood has started to climb again.

Dubya is both a problem and a symptom. He was elected by people who think sex is wrong and bad and that you should therefore save it for someone you love. I believe that attitude is actively destructive.

As to education: The point of education in any subject is twofold: 1) to learn the jargon (and sex has a $#17load of jargon) and 2) to learn to do it right. Safety is in there too.

But why shouldn't people learn what's out there? What gets them off? Whether they need an understanding partner or good therapy?

For every gay boy who commits suicide because he's gay and can't figure out where he fits in, there are fifty kids thinking about something on the wondrous menu of delectations that is human sex and wondering "Am I normal?" So why not introduce students to those ideas in a safe, nurturing, educational environment?

As to safety, rimming should definitely be on the curriculum. Some practices could, I suppose, wait until the last year of high school, but since safewords are all about safety, why should people have to stumble around the internet to discover the concept? Why should a teenager who wants to be tied up have to put his/her life and well-being into someone else's hands without adequate preparation? And how is that any different from a girl who doesn't know that HPV can cause fatal cancers? Are we going to teach one and not the other?

Sex isn't for pussies. People die doing this $#17.

In any case, I believe there is no question that they need to learn more than they're getting. I also believe that that puritanical approach you described earlier is directly to blame, and has been embraced by the people who should be doing more to stop this.

Because a government's stance on an issue always influences things. 1) Private donors can rarely match the billions governments can cough up, and 2) Anyone who wants to "get on" with the current administration has a clear warning that their tax returns probably shouldn't include massive donations to, say, Planned Parenthood. That's chilling.

South Africa still has rampaging HIV rates partly because Thao Mbeki is an HIV-AIDS denier.

I've heard that 50% HPV figure too. One is left with a couple of possible conclusions: 1) The figures are wrong (I don't feel they are) or 2) Most of our partners either aren't aware of it, keep quiet about it, or lie about it. Our parents too.

So why not try the other approach? Full honesty, full detail, with full-colour illustrations. The Joy of Sex as a textbook, or something more modern. Why not? What do 26% of teen girls have to lose except a little "innocence" that'll be gone soon enough anyway? Oh--and an infection or two?

"Actual sex instruction" for my purposes, simply means a package that covers all the bases. I want my kids to learn not simply that the peepee goes in the hoo-ha, but that there's this thing called foreplay, for example, and here are some good ideas about how to go about it (handy for next time you're parked by the riverside watching the submarine races).

Most important of all, to my way of thinking is this: We live in a society where sex is used as a weapon, a sales tool, a political football. Kids are over-exposed to the "Tee-hee isn't it naughty?" aspect from their earliest encounters with media. It's time that $#17 was shot in the head and dumped in the river. Sex is supposed to be an expression of affection between two people. Or at least healthy exercise.

If kids have to contend with ads that try and use their hormones to sell them crap, they need to be able to identify the real thing, approach it with confidence, and come away feeling satisfied, leaving their partners the same.

Good sex isn't something you get from buying the right deoderant. It's not even something you get from finding Mr/Ms/Mrs/Other Right, or Right Now. Like any other skill it takes time and study.

This report proves they're willing to put in the time. We should help them with the study.

At 5:37 p.m., Blogger Vlad the Impala said...


The ears aren't specifically part of the respiratory system in the sense of being involved in breathing. But the ears are intimately connected to the nose and throat, which is why you'll come across doctors specialising in "Ears Nose and Throat" as opposed to (say) "Ears Eyes and Elbows".

At 5:52 p.m., Blogger Vlad the Impala said...

Before folks get too excited about the HPV vaccine, all is not quite as rosy as it seems. I wouldn't go so far as to oppose the vaccine, but I would be asking some really big questions as to why the unseemly haste to get it out of trials and into widespread use. See this blog of mine for more details.

I think, if I were a parent of a young girl, I'd be waiting for a few more countries approve the vaccine before getting her vaccinated. Countries without a so-called Free Trade Agreement with the USA.

At 5:23 a.m., Anonymous G Eagle Esq said...

Bonjour Monsieur Metro

Have you heard anything more ridiculous that Human EAR NOSE & THROAT specialists

This can only happen because these Humans are so strangely designed

You never hear of an Antelope Ear Nose & Throat specialist ...although there is an Antelope Throat specialist - she's called a Lion

Yr obedt servant etc

At 12:11 p.m., Blogger Metro said...

Odd you should mention ENT specialists--I blew out my throat singing over the weekend, and now I have an earache. I'm not sure whether it's due to connectedness or over-amplification, though ...

Regarding the HPV vaccine, I agree there was definitely a powered rush on to get it out ahead of the competition, but since it seems to have met the FDA protocols for human use, I feel that it should be in use.

Where I feel the great failure exists is the lack of honesty in how it was described. The vaccine blocks some HPV strains. It's not the magic bullet it was sold as. But neither was penecillin in the end.

Still, if we're going to tackle HPV infection rates, and FSM knows I think we should, then a vaccination approach combined with aggressive sex ed would help.

@M L'AigLE:
I believe the specialist you are referring to is in fact called a "Lioness." In the heirarchy that would put her below a Marchioness, but above a Jackal. And sometimes inside a water buffalo.


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