September 27, 2007

The slut shot

Meghan O'Rourke has an article in Slate today about why the HPV vaccine doesn't cause promiscuity. It's a good essay, but overlooks a crucial piece of information about the abstinence zealots who oppose the vaccine, as does a recent American Council on Science and Health post, which notes that "There are many STDs that Gardasil offers no protection against—so to say that children will feel more inclined to have sex because they feel safer is simply not true." O'Rourke presents the flip side of that argument when she says that "there's already a vaccine out there designed to prevent a sexually transmitted disease [hepatitis B]—and it's not being protested by anyone on the grounds that it might encourage promiscuity."

But its precisely the difference between HPV and these other STDs that has led the abstinence movement to so vigorously oppose Gardasil. As I've written before, the opposition to the HPV vaccine stems very specifically from the claim that it is the one STD that is not blocked by condoms.

The abstinence movement needs HPV out there to help justify its war [on sex]. HPV, you see, isnít blocked by latex, which means that as long as itís around, chastity pushers can argue that condoms are essentially worthless. Abstinence education literature puts more emphasis on HPV than on just about any other STD — itís the bug that supposedly gives the lie to the safe-sex approach of comprehensive sex education. Itís not uncommon to hear claims — lies, that is — that HPV kills more people than HIV/AIDS.

Actually, I should have said the alleged difference between HPV and other STDs, because as it turns out, condoms do protect against HPV. Not that the abstinence movement will admit this. The HPV page of the Pure Love Club, for example, still calls HPV "the Achillesí heel of the 'safe sex' campaign."

What's perhaps even more important to make clear is that articles like O'Rourkes (and posts like this one) are essentially useless because they are predicated on the notion that the chastity/safe sex divide is one that can be bridged by rational argument. To dispell that misapprehension, it might be worth reading a recent blog entry from Leslie Unruh, the single-most influential voice of the abstinence movement.

The more we learn about comprehensive sex ed, the greater the appetite for what is learned. If there is no God, there is no moral standard to steer our lives. Weíre sending young people out on the stormiest sea of life with no fixed stars to steer by, no compasses, no rudders and no anchors. And we wonder why their lives end up shipwrecked on the sea shore of life. Weíve changed our moral code to match our behavior, rather than change our behavior to match a fixed moral code. Is something good because itís sanctioned or should it be sanctioned because itís good. Who is the source of moral authority? Is it the majority thinking at any given time based on political correctness? Or is it a higher power that was well recognized by our forefathers? ...To them liberty was more precious than life itself. And what did they want to do with their liberty? They wanted the freedom to recognize God as their source of moral authority. ...The comprehensive sex ed people and social planners have a philosophy that the solution to all our social problems is LATEX! If everyone just had enough latex and we had free love and free sex for everyone, any time, any place, for any reason, we would all live in utopia. That philosophy will destroy America faster than the Al Quada. [sic]

Posted by Daniel Radosh


Regrettably, this sort of insanity is untreatable. Nor could we force the sex-haters to accept treatment if it were available. They say the problem is that we don't give kids fixed stars to steer by. I say the problem is that we don't teach kids to find the stars themselves. Consider how easily they can see for themselves that the supposedly fixed stars of their parents are an illusion. How many claim piety, then behave differently? Are they really kind to their "neighbors"? Do they leave judgement to their god? What about the "holy men" who violate children, then cover up for each other? Children need to be taught to think, not to follow inflexible rules blindly.

Test, 1 do 3.

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