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Deaths Due to Sexually Transmitted Disease:

An interesting article, S.H. Ebrahim, M.T. McKenna & J.S. Marks, Sexual Behaviour: Related Adverse Health Burden in the United States, Sexually Transmitted Infections, vol. 81, pp. 38-40 (2005), reports that sexually transmitted diseases were responsible for nearly 30,000 deaths in the U.S. in 1998. A third of the deaths were among women, and two thirds among men. By way of comparison, there were about 44,000 deaths caused by car accidents, a titch over 30,000 suicides, a little under 18,000 homicides, and a bit over 30,000 total firearms deaths (including suicides, homicides, and the few accidents). Three quarters of the deaths were from HIV, but nearly 5000 were from cervical cancer, which seems to be generally caused by some strains of human papilloma virus, and nearly 2000 were caused by sexually transmitted hepatitis and hepatitis-caused liver cancer. (The study purported to take into account the fact that not all hepatitis is sexually transmitted.) There were also over 100 deaths from syphilis and fewer than 10 from gonorrhoea (presumably from the very rare gonorrhoea-caused heart disease), but apparently modern antibiotics have done a great deal to limit death and serious illness caused in the U.S. by bacterial sexually transmitted diseases.

The study also reported that sexually transmitted disease causes some 600,000 cases of infertility per year (overwhelmingly among women); and of course hepatitis, cervical cancer, liver cancer, and HIV can be quite painful and disabling even when they don't cause death.

There are vaccines against hepatitis, and now a promising new one against human papilloma virus, but of course not everyone is vaccinated, or likely to be vaccinated soon. And while condoms can reduce the transmission of viruses, of course people often neglect to use them, or decide not to use them. However much you try to educate people about this, you're highly unlikely to get to anywhere near 100% condom use, even in relatively high-risk encounters.

I disagree on many things with many of the foes of the Sexual Revolution; I don't have moral objections to casual sex or to promiscuity; and I certainly don't support criminalization of consensual adult sexual behavior. Nonetheless, it seems to me that we need to acknowledge that sexually transmitted disease is a serious matter, and there are real medical costs (as well as real hedonic benefits, plus real hedonic costs) to the glamorization of relatively casual and promiscuous sex that seems present in our culture (though not in all of its subcultures).

anonymous22:
I agree entirely, and I expect this post won't arouse much controversy. If you were to note the fact that male homosexuals transmit STDs at much higher rates than other segments of the population (because males are more promiscuous than females, and two males are more promiscuous than a male and a female), then your post would be viciously excoriated and attacked, and your own motivations in writing it would be scrutinized.
10.24.2005 6:54pm
Justin Kee (mail):
"... to the glamorization of relatively casual and promiscuous sex that seems present in our culture (though not in all of its subcultures)."

Does the glamorization (I assume by the mass media) lead to the increased levels of casual and promiscuous sex or is it merely a reflection of the activites of the predominant culture?

That poses an interesting problem of causation. I would reason that the question parallels the glamorization of crime in certain aspects of the mass media, although I suspect that the causes and deterrents are vastly different. Is the media reflecting or precipitating the activity?
10.24.2005 7:08pm
Randy R. (mail):
Sexual revolution? What revolution? people never had sex before the 60s? Or that people didn't experiment before the 60s? Or that for the whole history of the world, people were good little monogamous people who never had sex outside of marriage, and always saved themselves until the marriage night?

Baloney. STDs are indeed a serious matter. We never address that often enough or honestly enough. By honestly, I mean giving good advice on how to avoid STDs. Most right-wingers and religious don't want an honest conversation, because they think it will lead to more promiscuous sex, or they scare people into thinking that everyone who has sex outside of marriage gets STDs, which is not true.

I agree, the media do not do enough to counter "free sex" message, but we can't have an honest dialogue with the religious right wingers around. Just look at AIDS -- you can't talk about AIDS without talking about gay people, but the religious right doesn't want to talk about gay people. So it doesn't get talked about at all. Or if it does, they just want to bash gays while talking about AIDS -- yeah, great way to reach gay men. Sheesh.
10.24.2005 7:24pm
Michael Benson (mail) (www):
Eugene Volokh:

Given that car accidents kill 44,000 people and STDs kill 30,000 people, do you think that we ought to hold the glamorization of cars, and a car usage lifestyle to the same criticism we ought hold to promiscuity? I do not mean this to be flippant, I really don't see a way to criticize one without criticizing the other (at least given the reasoning stated here). Cars provide us with convenience, and independence that we value greatly. We would still have deaths if we used more mass transit, but proprotionally there would be fewer transit accidents. Similarly the sexual revolution gives people pleasure, and independence that they value greatly. If more people had fewer partners, STDs would still be a problem, but fewer people would get them.

What is the difference (or do you criticize both)?
10.24.2005 7:28pm
alkali (mail) (www):
There are a couple of implied claims in this post: (1) that the rate of sexual activity has gone up since the sexual revolution, and (2) the STD death rate has also gone up.

I think (1) is probably true, although I wonder about the extent of the increase.

I don't know if (2) is true or not.
10.24.2005 7:31pm
Robert Lyman (mail):
you can't talk about AIDS without talking about gay people, but the religious right doesn't want to talk about gay people.

Well, I don't have actual data, but it seems to me that the first poster is right--the PC left is more of an obstacle than the right to talking about gay sex and AIDS. They take great offense if you suggest that gay men's promiscuity has anything to do with the prevalance of AIDS in the gay community.

I don't think the religious right minds at all if you make comments about gay men's propensity to engage in unsafe and promiscuous sex.
10.24.2005 7:33pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
So is the religious right okay with our teaching condom use to everybody?

[Crickets chirping.]
10.24.2005 7:42pm
Steven:
Since the deaths from STDs approximately equal the deaths from firearms, can we now state conclusively that STDs don't kill people--people kill people.
10.24.2005 7:54pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

So is the religious right okay with our teaching condom use to everybody?
Sure. Do you know anyone who objects to the use of condoms? I've met one person who objected to condoms. Ever.

There is a strong objection to teaching that condoms are a safe and reliable method of birth control or STD prevention. They are not. They are better than nothing at all, but even when used correctly (something that all the instruction in the world can't guarantee, especially with 14 year olds who aren't paying attention to any other class), they have substantial failure rates. Condoms break. They don't break often, but I've personally experienced condom failure. Being married, this was more in the "Gee, I wish quality control were a bit better" rather than "Ohmigosh, what now?" I know another couple whose marriage plans were moved up several months as a result of condom failure. (First time for both of them--and the condom couldn't take the strain!)

Even when condoms don't break, there are reasons to suspect that they don't stop transmission of HPV. That's why California requires a warning label now on condoms about that. Of course, once you know that they don't stop HPV, it isn't confidence inspiring that they stop other STD virii, is it?

Finally, the biggest concern that a lot of "religious right" sorts like myself have is that promoting the notion that condoms are completely safe simplifies the task of persuading girls to start sex too early. I am a bit of a weirdo, but I really don't think girls should be having sex at 12, 13, 14, 15, or even 16. Maybe at 17. Widespread distribution of condoms--and widespread encouragement of the idea that use a condom, and there's no problems--makes it easier for oversexed boys (and men) to manipulate girls into sex prematurely. It also may encourage girls who are sexually interested into taking chances--that they don't even realize are chances.
10.24.2005 7:58pm
AppSocREs (mail):
Randy R.:

What sexual revolution?

Look at the US time series from the end of WW II until now for incidence and prevalence of venereal diseases, illegitimacy rates, divorce rates, proportion of the population married by five year age groups. (Inside joke -- in the preceding I used two terms that were acceptable in technical discourse up through the late 1960s but are so no longer. If you cringed when reading them, then you've spontaneously acknowledged the sexual revolution.) Less reliable data are available from polls tracking self-reported sexual behavior and attitudes. By all available measures there was a dramatic change in sexual behavior in the US starting in the mid 1960s.

More personally, I graduated from high school in 1965. My class, in a middle class suburb of Boston numbered 400-500. In four years there was one pregnancy. Everyone immediately knew. The girl was sent away to have the baby and then went to a private school. The boy was socially ostracized. Social control is rough, but no one else got pregnant. STDs were rare if they existed at all. The only available contraception was condoms. But they weren't really needed, since petting was about as far as things went, even among "sexually active" persons like myself.

Four years later in my brother's class (about the same size as mine), sexual intercourse was no longer taboo and almost non-existent. There were a number of cases of syphillis and/or gonorhea that my brother heard about. There were at least several known pregnancies and probably more unknown. But the girls and boys involved were no longer ostracized. Perhaps if they had been, there would have been less sex, fewer pregnancies, and less sexual disease.

Today, at the same high school, teachers tell me the situation is much worse in terms of lives ruined by unplanned pregnancies, wide spread STDs, and psychological pressures on students by one another to have sexual experiences that they are woefully unequipped to deal with emotionally.

There has been a sexual revolution and life was a lot better for most people before it happened.
10.24.2005 8:00pm
Shelby (mail):
Mr. Benson:

I think it's fair to say that as a society we invest much more effort in avoiding and mitigating car accidents than we do regarding STDs. (That's probably a good thing; otherwise the car death numbers would be much higher, as they used to be.)

However, Eugene seems to be more interested in pointing out the often-downplayed drawbacks of a type of behavior. People rarely downplay the hazards of autos, but few think seriously about STDs other than HIV/AIDS as a risk to life.
10.24.2005 8:04pm
Bob Van Burkleo (mail):
"They take great offense if you suggest that gay men's promiscuity has anything to do with the prevalance of AIDS in the gay community."

Actually they take offense at talking about any heterogeneous group of the population as if they all shared a common negative characteristic. Only a minority of gay men have HIV, and just how many varies from place to place. In this study only 2.2% of young gay men in Seattle were carriers of HIV. Who wouldn't take 'great offense' to have someone saying a quality like that had anything to do with the 97.8% who don't have HIV? What's remarkable is that a rate of a life long viral infection that was in the 40% range in the 80's has already reduced so far.

Yes about 20-30% men, gay or straight, are randy bastards. And yes, those that are gay are far more successful at scoring than their straight brethren. But if you only talk about the gay men and not all the straight men trying to get laid just as badly, you are stereotyping. That is what 'the left' (whatever that is) would probably complain about, I know I would.
10.24.2005 8:06pm
M (mail):
Let's not forget about the great folks who want to prevent the usage of the vaccine against HPV becuase it would "give a license" to kids to engage in sex. Better that they die, I guess.
10.24.2005 8:14pm
David Rose (mail):
Hmm. Many states have decide that a person's right to ride a motorcycle without a helmet is trumped by society's need to not spend money on uninsured health care that would be eliminated by the mandatory use of helmets.

Why not mandate condom use for anal sex, using the same rationale? Compliance could certainly be made feasible by assigning a 24/7/365 sex monitor to all gay men. If there is an objection to this sort of initiative as prejudicial, the monitoring could be broadened to include all males.

Sounds fair for all persons.
10.24.2005 8:16pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
How many people, do you suppose, died from syphilis 100 years ago, well before the sexual revolution?

My bet is that the number is pretty darned high.
10.24.2005 8:20pm
Morgan Johnson (TX):
Quoting Clayton E. Cramer "I am a bit of a weirdo, but I really don't think girls should be having sex at 12, 13, 14, 15, or even 16. Maybe at 17."

At what age should your "oversexed" boys not be having sex? Or is it completely the responsibility of the girls in this equation to fend of the advances of seemingly uncontrollable boys?

In the meantime you deprive young girls, who will most often bear the responsbility of an unplanned pregnancy without their previous male partner, of the information they could use to prevent this from occuring.
10.24.2005 8:22pm
ANM (mail):
The real problem with the conservative right is their opposition to anything that facilitates/makes safer pre-marital sex. If reducing the use of abortion is their prime concern, they would endorse all efforts to make every sort of contraceptive available. Of course, they don't. Then they will concoct reasons as to why they are against contraceptives, but will (usually) not say to fend off promiscuity. Instead they will say contraceptives kill babies or some such bullshit. But contraceptives are freely available enough that the onus is on those having sex.

Hopefully cars will be automated (while retaining the option for human controlled driving.) within the next couple decades to drastically reduce death and injury rates. I bet that some overzealous governments would ban human controlled driving for safety reasons though.
10.24.2005 8:48pm
Brent Michael Krupp (mail):
I wouldn't read very much into how STD deaths have changed over time. Antibiotics made a huge change in outcomes in the 1940s and the advent of Hepatitis C and HIV since the 1970s really skews the numbers. Even cervical cancer deaths won't tell you much because detection and treatment of cervical cancer has improved so much, quite aside from whether the virus that causes it is spreading more.

The sexual revolution definitely increased STD transmission, but it isn't so simple to work out what it may have done to STD death rates independent of the above changes.
10.24.2005 8:57pm
Columbienne:

Even when condoms don't break, there are reasons to suspect that they don't stop transmission of HPV. That's why California requires a warning label now on condoms about that. Of course, once you know that they don't stop HPV, it isn't confidence inspiring that they stop other STD virii, is it?


Important factual mistake here about condoms and HPV: the reason condoms don't fully prevent HPV transmission is not because HPV is a virus, but rather because HPV hangs out in areas of the skin not covered by the condom. So you really can't extrapolate anything about the ability of condoms to prevent other diseases from the way they work with HPV; HIV, for instance, is present only in bodily fluids, not on the skin, so the comparison to modes of HPV transmission is largely irrelevant.

As for STDs -- the answer is to be more like the Netherlands: treat teenagers like they're responsible human beings; treat sex like it's a normal, inevitable part of life; and give kids access to information and health care. Then they'll have sex later and more responsibly than they do in the sex-panic cultures like the US.
10.24.2005 9:00pm
anonymous22:
I just wanted to point out how many straw-men are being built by other posters ("why don't we mandate condom use for gays!") ("conservatives can't be trusted because they oppose birth control!").
10.24.2005 9:02pm
anonymous22:
By the way, Mr. Krupp's post above ("the advent of Hepatitis C and HIV since the 1970s really skews the numbers") may be some of the most blatant question-begging I've ever read.
10.24.2005 9:04pm
Columbienne:
Anon22 - Why? If those diseases only became sexually transmissable in the 70s, then their spread may be due in part to factors completely unrealated to sexual mores.
10.24.2005 9:14pm
Per Son:
VD was so prevelant among US soldiers stationed in the UK during WW II, and caused so many soldiers to be unable to fight, that the US started VD prevention and education for the first time. If anyone can find the rates, please post them.

VD epidemics are not new.
10.24.2005 9:20pm
Sandrine:
Clayton E. Cramer -

Sir, I suggest that you might want to take a gander at some biology and history. Human females are designed to begin reproduction in the early teen years. It is only our modern society that has created the rule about "waiting" to have sex until the late teens and beyond. At pretty much any time through history women have been married off and beginning reproduction shortly after menstuation. The average age has crept up over the years, but make no doubt about it; God designed humans to begin reproduction in the early to mid teens. *Keep in mind* I am not making an arguement in support (which I emphatically don't,) but merely pointing out reality. Human beings would not be fully sexually functional by age 13 or 14 for no reason.

To deny reality is to make yourself unable to find a solution. I don't have any solution, but your closed mind makes you unable to see one should it walk in front of you.
10.24.2005 9:30pm
ali m.:
"So is the religious right okay with our teaching condom use to everybody?

Sure. Do you know anyone who objects to the use of condoms? I've met one person who objected to condoms. Ever. "

Clayton,

But isn't the point of abstinence only education that you don't get taught about condoms at all? (I live in Australia, where sex-ed is pretty well accepted, so if I'm wrong, correct me).

I have no problem with education about failure rates of condoms in terms of pregnancies and stds, and their inability to protect against certain stds, when I was in high school in sydney, we were taught about all these sorts of things. there certainly wasn't an impression given that condoms were a magic cure-all.

We were taught that if you were a girl and wanted to become sexually active, that going on the pill (or other similar temporary contraceptives) was a very good idea, but that, because of the risk of it not working, and the risk of std transmission, that condoms were absolutely essential. Furthermore, that female 'condoms' were also a good idea, in conjunction with male condom use, especially if you were having sex with someone who had or you suspected had a promiscuous past. The last option wasn't so popular, but at least we were educated about it.

The idea was that the reality of teenagers having sex existed, and they were going to show us how to be as safe as possible if we were going to have sex. But, if anything, having this comprehensive sex ed made me more cautious of having sex than ever- I wasn't going to wait until marriage, but I wasn't going to jump on the first boat that came by, and I intended on limiting sex to serious relationships.

My point is that the benefits of comprehensive sex-ed in terms of improving safety in teens who are already going to have sex outweigh the likelihood of making sex among young people even more common- because if we're not going to ostracise teenage parents, and accept that sex is an accepted part of today's culture (which I think is pretty entrenched), then not educating teens about condoms and other protective methods, which seems to be what many conservatives want through abstinence-only programs, isn't going to help teens prevent the spread of std's.

if the rate of hiv transmission among gay men has gone down (one commenter suggested from 40%-2% although I don't know if those figures are accurate), then that would appear to be a benefit of education about the risks of unprotected sex. because we don't seem to think that gay men are less promiscuous than previously.

on a side note, even if the 24/7 gay condom monitoring were a practical and morally acceptable solution, the analogy with transport is flawed- while compulsory motorbike helmets do undoubtedly reduce deaths and serious injuries, in general, we don't regulate cars in the same way- making seatbelt use compulsory would probably have the effect of reducing the road toll by half- that's roughly what happened in Australia when it was made compulsory. From a libertarian viewpoint I can understand not wanting to force people to wear or not wear their seatbelts, but from a safety perspective it appalls me. it's not like it restricts anyone's ability to use a car, it just forces them to use it in a more safe manner, and I think saving 15,000 lives a year would be a good public policy reason for introducing such a law. but that's a bit off topic and for another debate.
10.24.2005 9:32pm
Master Shake:
Does anybody but me REALLY wish they hadn't just read about Clayton Cramer's personal experience with condom failure? I mean seriously.
10.24.2005 9:37pm
Alixtii O'Krul V (mail) (www):

males are more promiscuous than females, and two males are more promiscuous than a male and a female

And we all know that means nothing, until we can distinguish causation from mere correlation, right? Until then, the above is just sexist tripe. At best, it's the patriarchy;s fault for sexualizing men like that (but I doubt the problem is even that deep).
10.24.2005 9:49pm
TomFromMD (mail):
Sandrine: Of course, earlier marriage probably led to fewer sexual partners, which meant less risk of STDs.

I'd agree that the media all but encourages younger sexual experimentation, and sidesteps the failure rates of contraception, especially the condom.

Unlike Clayton, I've met a lot of people that object to condoms, but that may just be because I'm Catholic. And no, I don't agree with Church teaching on birth control.

Ideally, we need to focus education on the following points: 1) Sex creates the risk of acquiring STDs. 2) Your risk goes up the more partners you have. 3) You can *greatly* decrease your chances by using a condom. 4) You CANNOT ELIMINATE your chances by using a condom. And lastly, if you have a class of 30 students, tell them to look around: If they were all sexually active and used condoms,3-4 of them (or their partners) would likely become pregnant in a year.
10.24.2005 10:03pm
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
Just a slightly OT observation about Eugene's original post: if 2/3 of 30,000 deaths from STDs were of men, nearly 5,000 deaths were from cervical cancer, and 3/4 of deaths were from AIDS, it would seem that, despite at least a decade and a half of warnings about women "catching up to men" in the AIDS department, the vast majority of American AIDS deaths are still of men.
10.24.2005 10:24pm
Cornellian (mail):
So is the religious right okay with our teaching condom use to everybody?

Sure. Do you know anyone who objects to the use of condoms? I've met one person who objected to condoms. Ever.


Umm, the entire Catholic Church? And presumably at least some of their billion or so adherents. Note their objection extends to using condoms even for sexual relations between a married couple.
10.24.2005 10:25pm
bearing (mail) (www):
Hi there. I object to the use of condoms.

Now you know me, too.
10.24.2005 11:03pm
arthur (mail):
The numbers would be less horrific if you could subtract the non-sexually transmitted deaths from the sexually transmited diseases, since there are other ways to contract hepatitis, cancer, and AIDS.

In any event, "the Sexual Revolution" is not adeguately defined. People died of these diseases before the dates usually assigned to it, and I doubt the total number of deaths has increased. Some of the practices that are referred to as "the sexual revolution" undoubtedly decreased sexually transmitted disease, such as the wider acceptance of exclusive Lesbianism as an acceptable lifestyle, or the widespread distribution of condoms. Whether the widespread availability of porn increases or decreases prostitution is not obvious to me.

Finally, many of the deaths are the result of not seeing a doctor early on, or ot being able to afford available cures. They would not happen if the United States followed the rest of the wealthy world and provided health care to all Americans at taxpayer expense. Such a public poloicy would be much more plausible than getting Americans to stop having sex. When you talk about the deaths attributed to the "Absence of Governemnt Insurance Revolution," I'll get interested.
10.24.2005 11:04pm
Randy R. (mail):
The so-called "PC left" has no qualms about talking about STDs. I have a number of gay male friends who are HIV poz, and I know a few who have died from the disease, so I am no friend STDs or BS. In the gay community, there is no lack of information about all sorts of STDs -- you can find it on websites, in literature and virtually every large gathering of gay men, like the parades and such. We are constantly raising money for more AIDS research and education. You simply won't find more information about AIDS than from any number of gay oriented organizations.

Furthermore, we constantly examine ourselves. I often read in gay publications about sexual promiscuity (Larry Kramer in particular has written extensively about this). In fact, the slogan in the gay community about AIDS was always "Silence = Death." By keeping silent about the disease, how it transmits, how to avoid it, you actually spread the disease. No one has spoken louder about this scourge than the gay community.

All I ever hear from the religious right is "no sex outside of marriage." And in a society where gay marriage is a rather rare commodity, outside of Massachusetts, their slogan is useless to us.

And yes, the entire Catholic church forbids condom use in any form, further proscribing certain sexual positions, and even forbids masturbation, which is as natural and common as breakfast in the morning. The overall message from the religious community (with certain exceptions) is "don't have sex, and certainly don't enjoy it." Such a ridiculous message does nothing to reduce STDs.

And yes, STD's existed prior to the 60s. Ever hear of syphilis? Gonorrhea? They've been around for centuries. It's just that type of ignorance which kills people.

The Prof was right to simply state the facts and let us each make use of the facts for ourselves. We can see that some people here indeed prefer silence to education, celibacy to sexual conduct, and that may in fact be best for themselves. That is their right, naturally, but it simply isn't realistic for everyone, either in today's world, or the past.
10.24.2005 11:15pm
Michael Benson (mail) (www):
Shelby:

Do you have evidence to support your contention that most people don't worry about STDs other than AIDS? It contradicts my experience. And, should we be worried about a society that promotes driving? Should we argue that driving ought to be played up less in hollywood films and books?
10.24.2005 11:23pm
Randy R. (mail):
As for the sexual revolution, I was hoping someone would take the bait, and they did. Inevitably, people who talk about the sexual revolution compare teen pregnancy rates from the 50s and early 60s to today. And sure enough, there is a big rise.

What they fail to consider, however, are rates of teen pregnancy rates BEFORE the 50s. It now appears that there was a great dip in teenage sex during that time, but in the 1920s, there was a tremendous increase in the number of pregnancies, out of wedlock births and abortions. Pre-Code movies often dealt with this theme, something that ended in 1933 with enforcement of said Code. The rise of pregnancies and such was a direct result of a huge increase in the amount of sex people were having outside of marriage since the end of the First World War.

And prior to that? Well, there were more prostitutes in London in the 19th century than in the whole of England today, even with a much smaller population! in the 18th century, literature and historical records confirm that no one expected women to be virgins at marriage, and it was certainly not expected the higher up the social ladder you went. (The exception was the queen, who needed to be a virgin at marriage to insure proper bloodlines). Even today, in that most catholic of countries, few men would dream of being a virgin on their marriage day.

So again, which sexual revolution are you talking about? People have been having sex outside of marriage for as long as history is recorded. A temporary dip in the 50s in one particular country is not and should not be the standard by which we judge this complex topic.
10.24.2005 11:24pm
Redman:
I am amazed at the well educated, financially successful women who engage in unprotected sex.
10.24.2005 11:46pm
DJB:
Sexual revolution? What revolution? people never had sex before the 60s? Or that people didn't experiment before the 60s?

The relevant question isn't whether they "experimented", but how, when, and how often they did. It is called "the sexual revolution" because the average age of first sexual experience, the frequency of premarital and extramarital sex, and the average number of lifetime sexual partners all sharply increased.
10.24.2005 11:46pm
DJB:
All I ever hear from the religious right is "no sex outside of marriage." And in a society where gay marriage is a rather rare commodity, outside of Massachusetts, their slogan is useless to us.

Um, no. Lack of state recognition of your marriage isn't the same thing as a ban on marriage. I know married homosexuals who would be extremely offended if you said they weren't married. The state just doesn't give them benefits.

So homosexuals can most definitely adhere to a policy of "no sex outside of marriage" in any state in this country.
10.24.2005 11:55pm
Justin Kee (mail):
"Finally, the biggest concern that a lot of "religious right" sorts like myself have is that promoting the notion that condoms are completely safe simplifies the task of persuading girls to start sex too early. "

Who is promoting condoms as "completely safe"?

"It also may encourage girls who are sexually interested into taking chances--that they don't even realize are chances."

Perhaps because children are being denied an adequate sexual education, they don't realize the risks...
10.25.2005 12:00am
Richard Bellamy (mail) (www):
The New Scientist recently looked at the HPV virus from a world-wide perspective, but took time to focus on religious-right objections. It's perversely like some people see STDs as a "good thing":


In the US, for instance, religious groups are gearing up to oppose vaccination, despite a survey showing 80 per cent of parents favour vaccinating their daughters. "Abstinence is the best way to prevent HPV," says Bridget Maher of the Family Research Council, a leading Christian lobby group that has made much of the fact that, because it can spread by skin contact, condoms are not as effective against HPV as they are against other viruses such as HIV.

"Giving the HPV vaccine to young women could be potentially harmful, because they may see it as a licence to engage in premarital sex," Maher claims, though it is arguable how many young women have even heard of the virus.


I cannot imagine opposing the vaccinating my daughters against anything, even if the only way to catch the disease was sex with a rhinoceros!
10.25.2005 12:27am
Buck Turgidson (mail):
...it seems to me that we need to acknowledge that sexually transmitted disease is a serious matter, and there are real medical costs (as well as real hedonic benefits, plus real hedonic costs) to the glamorization of relatively casual and promiscuous sex that seems present in our culture (though not in all of its subcultures).

Oh, look! Eugene Volokh has discovered America!
No, really. Do you really believe that the "sexual revolution" was responsible for the spread of STDs? In some sense, yes, but only because we've got rid of the euphemism "venerial deseases". But it shouldn't matter whether we call them VDs or STDs, should it?

Widespread STDs predate the "sexual revolution". In fact, they predate the modern versions of Christianity. Of course, because the subject was a taboo, few people talked about the consequences. The number of deseases of all kinds, including many forms of cancer, heart attacks, and many deseases that were not even known before the 1960s has multiplied steadily as our diagnostic technique has improved and as the media became more liberal and accurate in discussing medicine.

Do we really know how many deaths would have been caused by STDs in 1968? 1954? 1903? Think about it, Eugene. Don't make the lunatic leap. Let's recall who are the loudest critics of the hedonistic lifestyle. Remember Jimmy Swaggart? It was not that long ago. How about Billy James Hargis? Going back a century, what do you think of Reverend Davidson? I am not even going to discuss the travails of Catholic clergy that is likely responsible for the spread of syphilis in Europe.

Let's give credit where credit is due--it's not the sexual revolution that's the problem, but the pretentious, fake puritanism that preceded it. Apparently, the new definition of "hedonist" is someone who is honest about his lifestyle.

It's a new low for VC.
10.25.2005 1:19am
Buck Turgidson (mail):
Having read a bunch more comments, I do want to come back to the clergy issue.

AppSocREs,
If you were in the Boston suburbs in the mid-60s, you might want to look back and ask, how many of your Catholic classmates committed or attempted suicide? Do you even know? Ever wonder why you don't hear about it? (and it's not just because people cover up and pretend it was another cause of death)

As for the "one girl", do you really know how many might have had abortions? Yes, abortions existed in the 1960s, even among teenagers. Of course, I doubt anyone would have ever informed you. As for the boy being "socially ostracized", that's a load. I'm sure that the rates of sexual activity among teenagers have increased over time somewhat, but certainly not from zero. Apparently, you peers failed to share their escapades with you. Perhaps you were the one "socially ostracized". How would you know? I wonder what else you might have been oblivious about...
10.25.2005 1:32am
Randy R. (mail):
djB: You are correct. Gays can marry anywhere there is a church to marry them. Gov't recognition of gay marriage exists only in Massachusetts (and then, only the state. There is no federal recognition anywhere in the US).

As a gay man, with many gay friends, however, I don't think any of us would be "deeply offended" by my remark. We all know that religious marriage, as important as it is, is only half a cup of justice until we get state and federal recognition.

That said, my original point was that religious groups say "no sex outside of marriage," and they mean state-sanctioned marriage. The oppose that, and also oppose any religious recognition as fake, often referring to it as marriage in quotes. The bottom line? The religious right thinks gay sex in ANY context is wrong, wrong, wrong.

And that attitude contributes to the spread of all sorts of STD, as men have gay sex without telling their female partners because of the shame and embarrassment the the religious and conservative groups like to foster. If we didn't have closets, we would have a healthier climate for everyone, and, I believe, less STDs.
10.25.2005 1:45am
Humble Law Student:
Buck,

Your argument against AppSocREs is rather laughable. His point wasn't that sexual activity was zero before the "Sexual Revolutiot", but that it was likely at a much lower level today because of the social ostracization associated with certain aspects of premaritial sex. Granted, this ostracization hasn't occured at all times in all societies, but the point is that maybe, just maybe, if there is a general social understanding that such behavior is wrong or at a minimum not encouraged openly then such social mores tend to discourage such behavior.

I can definitely see his point from my understanding of today's culture. I finished my undergrad this past spring at a large state university. I was heavily involved in a Greek fraternity among other organizations. If anything, such Greek fraternities provide a positive inducement to do all sorts of sexually stupid things, resulting in enormous costs! This is concurrent with his point.

Social mores against sexual promiscuity tend to decrease the negative effects (without of course eliminating them), social acceptance and especially approval of sexual promiscuity only increases the negative effects. I mean, prima facia, it is self-evident, is it not?
10.25.2005 1:58am
Shelby (mail):
Mr. Benson:
Do you have evidence to support your contention that most people don't worry about STDs other than AIDS? It contradicts my experience.

I said "few think seriously about STDs other than HIV/AIDS as a risk to life", not that they don't worry about them in general. (Though a majority seem not to worry enough in general, either.)

And, should we be worried about a society that promotes driving? Should we argue that driving ought to be played up less in hollywood films and books?

Not particularly, in my view.
10.25.2005 2:38am
Shelby (mail):
Regarding historical marriage ages and the sexual development of girls, in the pre-modern era (i.e. before the industrial revolution) most girls developed later than they do now. Good nutrition is essential to such development, at least at an early age. It used to be common for menarche to occur at age 16-18. It also used to be common to marry a younger girl but not consummate that marriage until several years had passed. It is not possible to physically compare girls at puberty across that time frame, any more than it is possible to socially compare them.
10.25.2005 2:43am
Buck Turgidson (mail):
Humble,
An opinion is neither prima facia nor self-evident. And you've offered nothing but opinion, except one statement:

If anything, such Greek fraternities provide a positive inducement to do all sorts of sexually stupid things, resulting in enormous costs! This is concurrent with his point.

First, you should re-read the post I was replying to. Your observation has absolutely nothing with AppSocREs's point.

But there is a bigger problem here. AppSocREs is at a point in life where the Myth of the Golden Age begins to dominate the perception of history. You, on the other hand, suffer from a different malady--lack of perspective. You seem to be suggesting that the Greek system today is more raunchy and more engaged in sexual gratification than it was in the 60s. If you were talking about the non-fraternity college population, I would concede that there is no real evidence to suggest either that the activity has increased or stayed the same. Most surveys are based on self-reporting, which made them notoriously unreliable in the past precisely because of the social stigma attached to this issue. But when comparing fraternities of the past with fraternities today, the suggestion that they've somehow sank to lower depths of debauchery is patently absurd. The precise nature and the openness of the conduct might have evolved, but not the relative degree of it. Your problem is that you have absolutely basis for comparison, so you have to rely on skewed observations by stodgy farts to get a perspective on what life used to be like.

By the way, it is rather clear that promiscuity was just as widespread, if not more, in the 1920s and 1890s. The difference was the depth of the divide between those who essentially condoned the behavior and the prudes. You are looking at the Victorian perversion of social conduct as the norm. That's ridiculous. One could easily make an argument that it was, in fact, the Victorian attitudes that lead to the increase of STDs and other problems. The problem is that problems will not go away just because you refuse to talk about them on whatever grounds.
10.25.2005 3:32am
anonymous22:
And people wonder why liberalism is so unpopular as an ideology when all it can do is put its hands over its ears and deny that the sexual revolution took place. It is too much for the left to accept the consequences of its own social policies-- best simply to deny that any change occurred at all. As with so many other issues, liberals try to contradict historical fact (divorce rates? STD rates? The liberal, with breathtaking arrogance, brushes these aside.) For example, crime rates and welfare dependency skyrocketed during the '60s as well, and the left simply cannot acknowledge this either. So for the benefit of our leftist readers: We take it all back, sexual mores have not changed significantly over the past 50 years, any confusion on this issue is attributable to the religious right. Our apologies: we can now return to enacting gay marriage laws, because these will have no negative consequences either.
My point about question-begging involving Hep C and AIDS is that the "introduction" of these diseases was caused largely by promiscuous sexual practices.
10.25.2005 7:37am
Beerslurpy (www):
I suspect that the purpose of this post was to see how people would feel towards subjecting unenumerated 9th amendment rights to privacy and sexual freedom to rational basis scrutiny instead of the strict scrutiny they currently enjoy.

If the answer is strict scrutiny, how do you justify applying rational basis scrutiny to the 2nd amendment?

-jim from FL
10.25.2005 9:19am
Aultimer:
David Rose -

Several states have a quasi-libertarian approach to MC helmets that could be applied to STDs - "protection" is required unless you have private health insurance.

With STDs, enforcement would have to be done by denying public-funded healthcare. Personally, I'd prefer that enforcement mechanism with MC helmets too.
10.25.2005 9:49am
AppSocRes (mail):
Randy R. You utterly ignored my point. Starting in the 1960s STD incidence and prevalence rates began increasing, as did rates of births outside marriage, as did divorce rates. Slightly later the proportion of those ever-married began declining within certain age groups. Such macro trends correlated extremely well with changes in self-reported sexual behavior as recorded in social surveys. These things have been demonstrated with as much certainty as has the connection between the HIV virus and AIDS. The phenomenon has commonly been referred to as the sexual revolution. References to prostitution in Victorian England (based purely on anecdotal sources, mostly religious reformers with an axe to grind) are not apropos.

Buck Turgidson: I guess I'm senile and others who disagree with you are immature. However, contrary to your insult, I was pretty well connected socially in my high school. Ebnough so to be aware of and participate in the dating and sexual behavior that were socially accepted at the time. Parenthetically, I might suggest that a Freudian take on your boorishness and use of this slur suggest that you might not have been.

At any rate, as to suicides: The idea that hidden in the US mortality data of the 1950s and 1960s there are a large of number of sexually-frustrated Catholic adolescents who committed suicide is absurd. Take my word for it, as a demographer: Adolescent death rates are higher now than they were then. You need to think a bit and calm yourself before writing such drivel: It might lend more credence to your more reasoned assertions. There was only one death in my high school class during the time I was there. It was the result of a car crash.

Abortion was a possibility. Contrary to liberal myth, it was fairly easy to obtain an abortion for medical reasons in Massachusetts pre-Roe v. Wade. A relative had an ectopic pregnancy aborted in a Catholic Hospital during that period (Catholic teaching on the Aristotolean ethical principle of double effect applying in this situation. Liberals also know very little about Catholic doctrine on this subject.) However, gossip in my high school was pervasive and I had many close girl friends. I suspect I would have gotten word of one or two, if there had been more than a few abortions in my class
10.25.2005 10:00am
markm (mail):
Syphilis was probably a huge but somewhat hidden problem in the late Victorian era. (Remember that there were no good treatments until penicillin was developed in the 1940's, so syphilis was usually a slow-motion death sentence.) However, I don't think trustworthy statistics are available, because it would have been grossly underreported. Doctors treating the middle and upper classes would have been reluctant to expose their patients to the stigma, and many of the lower classes would have never seen a proper doctor at all. (They hardly had the money to spend on an office visit for an honest doctor to tell them it was incurable and to stop having sex.) The best indication of prevalence might be the number of prominent victorians who eventually developed the mental abberations and other symptoms of tertiary syphilis - but it's not often that sufficient detail would have been recorded to distinguish this from other illnesses.
10.25.2005 10:37am
Nick (www):
If the left's response to gun deaths and drunk driving deaths (banning guns, and MADD's new prohibition) are any clue... I fear what would happen if the right decided to take STD deaths just as seriously.
10.25.2005 10:46am
Geoffrey Murry (mail):
I'm sorry, Professor Volokh. I respect you and your viewpoint, but it is simply silly to admonish the US population, especially the sexually active US population, ESPECIALLY the sexually active, gay male US population to "acknowledge that sexually transmitted disease is a serious problem . . ." Just because you are only now waking up to the potential for death, illness and discomfort inherent in unprotected and imprudent sexual activity does not mean that the rest of us were napping, too.
10.25.2005 10:52am
bearing (mail) (www):
All politics aside for the moment ---

What percentage of the general population, and what percentage of American teenagers, do you suppose have a reasonably close quantitative understanding of the failure rate of condoms, both against breakage/misuse (relevant to pregnancy and most STDs) and against HPV?

I worry that most people think they are more foolproof than they really are. The news lately about teenage pregnancy has been good: the rates are dropping. But I do not think this is the best metric --- I'll be happier when I see convincing evidence that both pregnancies and STDs among young people are decreasing sharply.

Re: Clayton Cramer's comment about young girls having sex. I think his point is well taken if you read it not so much as "they shouldn't (morally) have sex at age 12, 13, 14, etc.)" --- in which case he really should have been fair and included boys --- but as "it's not good for them." Girls and young woment are far more at-risk than boys and young men, when it comes to consequences of early sexual behavior. STDs, pregnancies, abortion complications, and too-early emotional entanglements all fall much harder on us. I find it hard to believe that anyone would dispute that a non-sexually-active thirteen-year-old girl is, all other things being equal, physically safer than one who is having sex, and that the danger to a young girl's health and future increases with the number of sexual partners she has.

What this implies for public health and education policy and what parents should teach their daughters --- reasonable people can disagree on these things. But it's hard to imagine anyone reasonably disagreeing that a young girl would do better for herself to put off sexual activity until adulthood. And it's true that it's the same for boys too --- but it's more urgent for girls, because the stakes are higher.
10.25.2005 10:58am
Anderson (mail) (www):
Jeez, people, do you sleep? ;)

Clayton was being silly about "gosh, who could possibly be opposed to teaching about condom use?" but his anecdote about condom failure was not inappropriate. It's certainly the kind of thing that should be mentioned in teaching condom use.

I've had a couple of condoms break (LifeStyles brand --- haven't bought THOSE any more), plus the unfortunate occasion when one slipped off and, um, vanished, at least until retrieved by hand. You've heard about "ruining the mood"? Big time, baby, big time.

So by all means, don't teach that condoms are a panacea. (Pet peeve is people saying that---is ANYTHING a panacea?) Seat belts aren't 100%, either. But you're better off wearing one than not, unless of course you abstain from car-riding at all. Ditto condoms.
10.25.2005 10:58am
Shawn (mail):
The Prof said:
There are vaccines against hepatitis

This is true for Hep A and Hep B, but not Hep C. There is no vaccine for Hepatitis C. There are anti-viral medications you can take in a coctail that remove the virus in 50-80% of patients (depending on genotype.) 55-85% of patients end up with a chronic illness that requires constant medication, much like HIV. Hep C is not considered a low risk for sexual transmission. The CDC Factsheet tells more.

Hepatitis B has a vaccine and it is the worst of the lot. It is considered an STD. Like Hep C, Hep B can be treated with anti-virals. The CDC sheet doesn't mention a "cure" rate and describes the infection as "chronic."


I wonder how advanced our anti-viral science would be were it not for HIV and the strong political movement that pushed first for recognition of it and now funding for research into it?
10.25.2005 10:58am
Shawn (mail):
Correction:

"Hep C _is_ considered a low risk for sexual transmission."

Apologies.
10.25.2005 11:02am
dk35 (mail):
anonymous 22,

I'm a proud liberal, and I'll take your bait. I agree that the spread of Hep C and HIV, in this country at least, came about in great measure due to promiscuous sex. Particularly in the case of HIV, promiscuous male gay sex.

Well, then, wouldn't a great way to fight this be that we legalize gay marriages? After all, according to Gallagher's argument last week, marriage has served a remarkable service in the past by preventing unwanted pregnancies by keeping men from having multiple sex partners. So, by extension, if gays could marry, that would incentivize them not to have multiple sex partners too.
10.25.2005 11:07am
Michael Benson (mail) (www):
Shelby:

You are being inconsistent then. On the one hand you agree with criticizing our cultural portrayal of sex because sex is dangerous, but ath the same time don't mind our glorification of cars even though cars kill more people. Think of all the car adds we have, and all the movies that portray cool hip people as having cool hip cars.

As to the STDs besides AIDS matter, I still say that your contention contradicts my experience, and since you have no empirical data to back it up I tend to not believe it. Most people I know are concerned about the health risks (including death) of STDs periods. AIDs is generally considered more frightening (which is rational given the statistics).
10.25.2005 11:18am
rayabacus:
As someone has already pointed out, sexually mature young people naturally have the desire for sex. It is unnatural, that is, against nature for them to abstain. The ideal solution for all sexual consequences (pregnancy, STD's, etc.) is abstention. Yet to expect that to happen is naive. We need to arm these young people with the education necessary for them to make informed decisions regarding their sexual experiences. We should provide them with factual information regarding STD's, give them access to methods of birth control, with proper instruction and trust them to make informed decisions.

If we are trusting in abstention only, we should bring back the chasity belt.
10.25.2005 11:35am
Christopher (mail):
The statement that abstinence is the only 100% effective method is not actually correct. All other forms of birth control are rated not by their theoretical pregnancy rates given ideal usage, but by the actual rate given real, often imperfect usage. When you teach kids that condoms or orthocyclen or whatever is only ninety whatever percent effective you should also warn them about the real life failure rate of abstinence. This could be measured by looking at the pregnancy rate among abstinence pledge teenagers, athough that would give a low estimate since some abstinence pledge teens probably use condoms.
10.25.2005 11:54am
Randy R. (mail):
Sheesh, Anonymous22. I guess we can't have a civil debate without yelling us liberals for being idiots!

I never argued that there hasn't been an increase in divorce rates or sexual promiscuity since the 50s. What I am saying is what about the those rates PRIOR to the 50s? Social conservatives always hold up the 50s as some sort of ideal, and make the assumption that life was just like the 50s for all of history. That simply isn't true. What I said, and others have said, is that divorce and sexual promiscuity and rates of infection for STDs increased dramatically in the 1920s and 30s, leveled off, then fell dramatically in the 50s. So if you want to talk about a "sexual revolution" why not talk about the one in the 20s?

WE can go back further in history, but ther further we go, the murkier the data gets, but there is plenty of inidication that there were times prior to the 20th century when whole classes of people were sexually promiscuious, and lots of STDs were being traded around.

And just what caused the sexual revolution of the 1920s? Any ideas? Can't blame the liberals on that one, can you? And what caused the sexual revolution of the 1960s? Oh, I guess it was ALL the liberals fault. I mean, really, most historians credit the women's lib movement as liberating women from the burden of staying in bad marriages, and recognizating themselves as sexual beings who have desires and wants, just like men. Turning back to the sexually repressed 50s isn't the answer. Rather we must look forward to a better solution for all. I'm willing to do that, but it doens't help us find answers when people like you just throw out insults.

If you want an intelligent discussion of this, you have to look at the whole set of facts, not just the ones that are convenient to you. If you don't like these facts, feel free to ignore them, but then don't call us names.
10.25.2005 12:03pm
Houston Lawyer:
I would like to know why spreading VD is not a crime or at least a tort in this country. One of the reasons that VD is so rampant is that the perpetrator is never punished. Is there some societal value in allowing those with incurable and often deadly diseases having the unfettered right to have sex with uninformed partners?
10.25.2005 12:07pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
One big problem in our society today is what has been alluded to above. Girls are reaching menarche at 12-13 or so. Some even a bit younger. Not only does better diet have some role here, but (female) hormones in milk may also have some effect (i.e., "natural" milk may delay things by a a year or so, maybe). But on the other hand, the age of marriage, esp. of those looking at graduate school is going up just as quickly. So, we have a situation where girls can physically get preganent at say 12 or 13, but shouldn't until twice that age.

Compare this to a couple of hundred years ago. Back then, menarche was later, and marriage, much, much younger. So, as noted above, it wasn't that uncommon for a girl to marry even before puberty, and then wait for consumation of the marriage until she got older.

The problem is that it is just not good for girls to be that sexually active before marriage. And the younger they start, the worse it is for them. Girls having sex in high school are far, far, less likely to go to college, even controlling for intelligence and economic status. They are also more likely to have kids out of wedlock, be in abusive relationships, get divorced, and end up as single mothers. And this doesn't even get into the emotional toll.

And that is why I favor delaying kids of both sexes being sexually active as long as we can prevent them, but also realize that at some point, hopefully in college, they will start having sex. And that is where education comes in.
10.25.2005 12:11pm
Shelby (mail):
Mr. Benson:
You are being inconsistent then. On the one hand you agree with criticizing our cultural portrayal of sex because sex is dangerous, but ath the same time don't mind our glorification of cars even though cars kill more people.

I don't recall agreeing with criticisms of cultural portrayals of sex. Such portrayals are less silly than glorifying cars, certainly. I did say that we rightly place more emphasis on reducing car deaths; if we didn't, the rate of car deaths would be much higher than it now is.
10.25.2005 12:55pm
Bezuhov (mail):
The sexual revolution was a counter-revolution.

BTW, there's nothing "right-wing" about the increased social mobility found in monogamous cultures in comparison to that found in polygamous. As ours has slid toward the latter, in fact if not in law, so too has social mobility been more impeded in those segments of the population who have slid the most...
10.25.2005 1:42pm
Hans Bader (mail):
Houston Lawyer asks the good question why spreading VD or STD's is not a tort. Spreading STD's ought to be recognized as tortious, and it generally now is.

Historically, many state judiciaries took the position that unmarried people could not take advantage of the tort to seek compensation for those who inflicted STDs on them, because they acquired the disease in the course of a crime (fornication). See Martin v. Ziherl (Va. 2005).

Barring the tort on these grounds strikes me as perverse, since it actually immunizes serial spreaders of STD's from any liability.

After Lawrence v. Texas (2003), the Virginia Supreme Court reversed its prior rejection of unmarried people's ability to rely on the tort in Martin v. Ziherl (2005).

The Virginia Supreme Court reasoned that fornication can no longer be criminalized under the logic of the Lawrence decision, which invalidated Texas's sodomy law, and therefore, tort plaintiffs seeking recover for STD's were not barred from recovery for any participation in a "crime."
10.25.2005 1:42pm
Randy R. (mail):
Houston Lawyer:

There has been discussion in the past suggesting just that, making it a crime or at least a tort when transmitting an STD. Some have argued that if you pass one along, you should be responsible for the treatment.

There are a number of problems with that, however. First, a crime needs an intent to knowingly infect another person. It's easy to get around that one -- just don't get tested for any STDs! Then, if you pass it along, you can rightly claim you had no idea. (This would work for those STDs whose symptoms don't arise immediately.) This would discourage people from getting tested, which is against public policy, the policy being that if YOU are infected, you should know about it asap to receive treatment, and so that you inform your sex partner before you have sex. I know, it doesn't always work out that way, but that's the policy.

Another problem is what if you have had multiple partners? How do you identify the person who infected you? I know this isn't an insurmountable problem, but it is an issue that needs to be addressed.

I think the real reason it fails is that this is a public health issue, and we don't want to criminilizing health issues.

But I agree to a certain extent -- I think that we should have some way of making those resonsible who knowingly pass things along. It's just that so many of the ways proposed seem awkward and unworkable.
10.25.2005 2:12pm
bearing (mail) (www):
Christopher:

By that logic, if I usually use condoms but one night I decide to have sex without them, and I get pregnant, I should count that as a "condom failure." I suppose you could define it that way, but you'd be quite the statistical innovator. To my knowledge no researcher has ever used such a definition to establish rates of failure.

By definition, a person who has sex on any given day is not using abstinence as their method of birth control on that day, so pregnancy resulting from sex on that day is not a failure of abstinence in the same sense that any other birth control failure is ever measured.

I think what you are trying to say is that many people find abstinence difficult and eventually "switch to some other kind of birth control" (i.e., begin having sex). IMO the length of time that people persist with a method of birth control is an important comparative measure of satisfaction. Maybe you'd do better to concentrate on this in order to make your point?
10.25.2005 2:42pm
Buck Turgidson (mail):
AppSocRes,
Nice ostrich imitation there, burying your head in the sand. I did not mean that Catholics were killing themselves out of sexual frustration--in fact, I would expect Catholics be rather sexually active. No, I was talking about all the men in their late teens, twenties and thirties who ended up killing themselves after supposedly celibate priests took some liberties with altar boys. Don't forget that the current scandal only deals with the latest wave of this problem.

Anonymous22,

Oh, where to begin!

And people wonder why liberalism is so unpopular as an ideology when all it can do is put its hands over its ears and deny that the sexual revolution took place.


Liberalism is unpopular as an ideology because liberalism per se is not ideology. When it rises to the level of ideology, it usually goes by another name. Not that you'd be able to tell the difference.

It is too much for the left to accept the consequences of its own social policies-- best simply to deny that any change occurred at all.

No, of course! Eating crow is a purely illiberal practice.

As with so many other issues, liberals try to contradict historical fact (divorce rates? STD rates? The liberal, with breathtaking arrogance, brushes these aside.) For example, crime rates and welfare dependency skyrocketed during the '60s as well, and the left simply cannot acknowledge this either.

Such depth of argument! There is only one problem--facts. Well, there is another problem--now matter how much statistical data you have, even if it is all accurate, no numerical information will ever show you cause and effect, which is why the Right always insist on superficial band-aid measures that do not deal with the causes of problems (and often cause more problems), while the Left is too busy discussing the underlying causes to spend any effort to actually do something about them. If you think the Left has a patent on denying historical fact, you have not been following the conservatives of the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s.

So for the benefit of our leftist readers: We take it all back, sexual mores have not changed significantly over the past 50 years, any confusion on this issue is attributable to the religious right.

If you look at the argumentation that preceeded your tirade, you will notice that no one argued that "sexual mores have not changed significantly". It is usually the prerogative of the Right to claim that mores should not change because they are absolute. Quite to the contrary, it is quite obvious that the attitude toward sex--and the morality that accompanies it--has changed. Because of evolving social norms, the exact nature of the acts also might have changed--kind of like the difference between lights on and lights off. What likely has not changed is the frequency. However, as a result of the social change, we are now more aware of the consequences of the actions than we might have been earlier.

Our apologies: we can now return to enacting gay marriage laws, because these will have no negative consequences either.

It is quite obvious that this is exactly what happened in Massachusetts. The chicken littles have been all over the state Supreme Court decision, inducing quite a number of legislators to vote for a constitutional amendment. What actually happened was that the world did not end, the popular support for the amendment waned and the legislature voted its conscience. What the opponents of SSM are afraid of is not that SSM will change the world as we know it. Quite the opposite--they are afraid that nothing will change and the baselessness of their dogmatism will be exposed.

My point about question-begging involving Hep C and AIDS is that the "introduction" of these diseases was caused largely by promiscuous sexual practices.

Yes, sure, and the "introduction" of cancer was caused largely by people knowing about it. This is an idiotic argument. The spread of STD is caused by promiscuity, but they exist quite independently of it. For that matter, consider not just the wars in the XXth century, but also the Civil War. The rate of STDs during the Civil War on both sides was so profound that the casualties from STD might have exceeded the casualties from battles.

Advocating the return to the Good Old Days means advocating the return to ignorance. Ignorance is as much a cause of the spread of STDs, if not more so, as is promiscuity.
10.25.2005 2:57pm
Randy R. (mail):
Oh, another reason why we don't make transmittal of STDs a crime or a tort -- it takes two to tango!
In the gay community, we are constantly reminded that you should ASSUME that every person you have sex with has an STD, so protect yourself accordingly, and engage only in safe sex, or at least until you are sure your partner is neg for all STDs. if you fail to take responsibility to protect yourself, you can hardly blame the other person for infecting you.

And this is where education is so critical. People have sex when they are in their early teens -- it's NOT too early to teach them how to protect themselves.
10.25.2005 2:59pm
Sebastianguy99 (mail):
What an intresting topic thread. Much as been discussed so I would just like to add a couple of issues that have not been mentioned.

First, the condom failure rate. What I do not see included, or discussed, is what percentage of the claimed failure rate is due to human error and not to structural reasons? It seems to me that it is just assumed that those who claimed "the condom broke" were victims of poor manufacturing.

Using a condom is not as simple as some would like to believe. There are issues such as proper storage(carrying them in the wallet and car glove compartment aren't really optimum), correct condom size(don't use the XXL's for ego reasons), lubrication(freshness of the condom(they do have expiration dates for a reason), putting the condom on before ANY insertion takes place(the potency of preejaculate is still a mystery to some), type of condom used(the ramifications of using non latex condoms for instances), and putting the damn thing on correctly(leaving some slack for instance) as well as other issues.

Condom failure also seems to be a fairly recent phenomenon brought to the forefront of policy debate by those who have a certain political disposition. I came of age in the early 80's, right as AIDS came on to the scene. I lived in a suburb of a large metropolitan area. I can honestly say that my friends and I never encountered condom failure. I never heard about such a thing from our peers.I asked around while reading this thread and none of my friends have experienced or heard of anyone having condom failure save one couple who claimed to have thrre times and all resulting in children.

Second, in regards to STD's in earlier times, let's not forget the prominent role syphillis(along with smallpox) played in the conquest of native people in North and South America.The numbers are staggering and would suggest that "waiting until marriage" was not a wholesale practice.
10.25.2005 3:57pm
DJB:
That said, my original point was that religious groups say "no sex outside of marriage," and they mean state-sanctioned marriage.

They most certainly do not. The mean God-sanctioned marriage. The Catholic church, for example, considers two people married by a judge to be having sex outside of marriage.
10.25.2005 3:59pm
DJB:
our glorification of cars even though cars kill more people

Only because people spend a lot more time driving or riding in cars than they do having sex. On an hourly basis, sex kills at a much higher rate.

You're also comparing the risk inherent in a necessity (transportation) to the risk inherent in a luxury (sex).
10.25.2005 4:11pm
spectator:
DJB wrote:

The Catholic church, for example, considers two people married by a judge to be having sex outside of marriage.

Only if one of them is a Catholic.
10.25.2005 4:23pm
bearing (mail) (www):
Spectator's right. Only Catholics are required to abide by Catholic form to obtain a valid marriage. All (first) marriages between two non-Catholics are presumed valid until declared otherwise.
10.25.2005 4:35pm
cmn (mail) (www):
I think the tort idea is interesting. How exactly is the cause of action framed? Is it simply that if you knowingly and falsely misrepresent to someone that you have no STDs you can be sued for fraud, or is there an affirmative duty of care to sexual partners to disclose known STDs? The former strikes me as pretty unobjectionable. The latter may be a good idea, but is somewhat more problematic as it attempts to impose legal duties in the area of intimate communications. If the rule is, "Don't ask, don't get told," who will ask? Not someone trying to get laid, that's for sure. If the rule is "you must tell, or bear the risk that your partner will get whatever you've got," it would have an awkward but probably salutary effect on the way people interact.

While I can see the possible policy argument about discouraging medical exams, I think the overriding interest most people have in their own health would outweigh any impulse toward wilful blindness. There will of course be exceptions, but I imagine that few people will ignore their own health simply to preserve the ability to pass on STDs with legal impunity. The exception might be someone whose livelihood depends on sex work, but since that is still illegal, presumably the bar that used to exist for fornication still functions there anyway. Moreover, presumably one should presume that someone who does that for a living is more likely than not to be infected anyway. I note that, far from providing a privilege for patient-doctor communications (which one would expect if there were thought to be a need to encourage people to seek medical help), the evidence code says things that you tell your doctor seeking medical treatment are actually admissible as an exception to the hearsay rule.
10.25.2005 4:37pm
DJB:
Only if one of them is a Catholic

Yes, sorry if I was unclear on that.

I'm really not sure where Randy got the idea that religious conservatives are talking about state-sanctioned marriage when they say "no sex outside of marriage". Sure nobody seriously believes that any religion would consider one of its marriages invalid, and the people who it had married to be "living in sin", just because the government refused to recognize the marriage?

There are governments in the world that don't recognize Christian marriages, for example. Is anyone seriously claiming that Christians would consider all Christian married couples in those nations to be unmarried?
10.25.2005 4:46pm
Randy R. (mail):
DJB: Re: state sanctioned marriages --

Actually, I was not correct when I stated that religious conservatives are talking about state-sanctioned marriages when they say no sex outside of marriage. They DO consider religious marriage when they say that. Thank yo for pointing out my sloppy argument.

However, when it comes to gay marriage, they simply don't believe it exists, despite the fact that many religions currently have same-sex marriage ceremonies. Before Massachusetts allowed gay marriage, I had conversations with many of these conservatives, and they said "no sex outside of marriage, you gays can't get married, so no sex at all for you." Perhaps at the time, I should have clarified the issue as two separate issues: religious vs. state marriage.

At the time, though, it was clear that they meant (to me, at least) that because there is no "real" gay marriage, I can't have sex without violating the Bible. This argument particularly chaffed me, because it was so circular.

Whatever. The bottom line is that there is a group of people out there who will say and do anything to try to stop me from having sex with a guy, and their arguments shift with the sands. And the bottom line is that gay people will continue to have sex because we are all sexual beings. The two sides will remain adversaries so long as they fail adhere to their respective positions.
10.25.2005 5:54pm
Robert Lyman (mail):
the evidence code says things that you tell your doctor seeking medical treatment are actually admissible as an exception to the hearsay rule.

If you're referring to the Federal Rules of Evidence, that's true as far as it goes: Fed. R. Evid. 803(4) (PDF: scroll to page 32).

But the FRE provides NO privileges at all, punting the issue to the common law. Fed. R. Evid 501 (pg. 24 of the PDF linked above). So if you're right, there's no attorney-client privilege, either. But that's nonsense; there are both attorney-client and doctor-patient privileges in state law statutes and common law. A defendant in a civil or criminal proceeding wouldn't have his conversations with his doctor come into evidence unless he did something to waive the privilege.
10.25.2005 6:16pm
TomFromMD (mail):
"When you teach kids that condoms or orthocyclen or whatever is only ninety whatever percent effective you should also warn them about the real life failure rate of abstinence. This could be measured by looking at the pregnancy rate among abstinence pledge teenagers, athough that would give a low estimate since some abstinence pledge teens probably use condoms."

If a kid pledges to use a condom, but then doesn't, do you count that in the effictiveness of the condom?
10.25.2005 6:49pm
DJB:
Before Massachusetts allowed gay marriage, I had conversations with many of these conservatives, and they said "no sex outside of marriage, you gays can't get married, so no sex at all for you."

Well, their unwillingness to consider your religious marriage legitimate is their problem, not yours, I would say. Their advice to abstain from sex outside of marriage is still good advice, even if they're too close-minded about who counts as "married". In other words, just because they're wrong about whether or not a given couple counts as "married" doesn't mean they're wrong about extramarital sex.
10.25.2005 7:08pm
Mr L (mail):

If you look at the argumentation that preceeded your tirade, you will notice that no one argued that "sexual mores have not changed significantly".
Did they? I notice that, very often, when someone mentions observes that certain promiscuous and risky behaviors become more and more acceptable as time goes on, some libertine is always quick to jump in and claim that we were 'always' soliciting gang-bangs by age 14 (or whatever; no evidence other than hysterical and possibly false freak occurrences cited) and as such we shouldn't be concerned.
10.25.2005 9:18pm
DJB:
you will notice that no one argued that "sexual mores have not changed significantly

"Sexual revolution? What sexual revolution" doesn't count as a claim that sexual mores haven't changed significantly?
10.25.2005 10:27pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Quoting Clayton E. Cramer "I am a bit of a weirdo, but I really don't think girls should be having sex at 12, 13, 14, 15, or even 16. Maybe at 17."

At what age should your "oversexed" boys not be having sex? Or is it completely the responsibility of the girls in this equation to fend of the advances of seemingly uncontrollable boys?

In the meantime you deprive young girls, who will most often bear the responsbility of an unplanned pregnancy without their previous male partner, of the information they could use to prevent this from occuring.
What exactly causes you to read into my statement that it is okay for the boys to be having sex but the girls not? Do you think I am suggesting that they be homosexual?

The girls have a lot more to lose than the boys do, especially because our society no longer punishes boys who get girls pregnant--and increasingly, no longer wants to punish even adult men who get girls that age pregnant.

I don't want to withhold information; I object to the way that the entertainment media (a wholly owned subsidiary of liberalism) hypersexualize children, and encourage them to think that sex almost never leads to pregnancy or STDs. I also object to encouraging kids to think that condoms are just about 100% perfect solutions.
10.26.2005 12:46pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

First, the condom failure rate. What I do not see included, or discussed, is what percentage of the claimed failure rate is due to human error and not to structural reasons? It seems to me that it is just assumed that those who claimed "the condom broke" were victims of poor manufacturing.
I do not doubt that poor storage and application practices are often the cause of "condom failure." My one and only experience with such was a structural failure, and not caused by improper storage or application! I will agree that the vast majority of condoms do not break. My own experience would suggest that the failure rate is perhaps .05% or less. This is very good; but failures do happen, and as I mentioned, I know a couple whose very first use led to pregnancy because of condom bursting.


Second, in regards to STD's in earlier times, let's not forget the prominent role syphillis(along with smallpox) played in the conquest of native people in North and South America.The numbers are staggering and would suggest that "waiting until marriage" was not a wholesale practice.
You've got this backward with respect to syphillis. There was a time when historians thought that syphillis was the Indian's gift to Europe (in exchange for smallpox). Lewis &Clark were charged with making inquiries about syphillis throughout their journey; even in places where the Indians have never seen a white man, syphillis had been there as long as anyone could remember. (Members of the Lewis &Clark expedition brought back biologically active samples because of their time at Fort Clatsop.)

We now believe that syphillis was present in Europe before Columbus sailed the ocean blue, but that the American variant was considerably more virulent.
10.26.2005 12:56pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Let's not forget about the great folks who want to prevent the usage of the vaccine against HPV becuase it would "give a license" to kids to engage in sex. Better that they die, I guess.
While I think the vaccine would be a good thing, the concern about the effects that this might have in encouraging promiscuity, and other unexpected consequences, is legitimate. The birth control pill plays a bit part in the spread of STDs in the 1960s--because condoms had been the traditional contraceptive before then.

The development of antibiotics took what had been a lethal disease with terrifying consequences--syphillis--and made it rather like a very bad cold. I've had gay men tell me that before AIDS, getting an STD was no big deal--you just went to the public health clinic to get antibiotics, and it was a great place to pick up other men for sex. That rather careless attitude is part of why AIDS spread so rapidly through the gay community, along with the 1975 repeal of California's law against oral and anal sex.
10.26.2005 1:01pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
dk35 asks:

I'm a proud liberal, and I'll take your bait. I agree that the spread of Hep C and HIV, in this country at least, came about in great measure due to promiscuous sex. Particularly in the case of HIV, promiscuous male gay sex.

Well, then, wouldn't a great way to fight this be that we legalize gay marriages? After all, according to Gallagher's argument last week, marriage has served a remarkable service in the past by preventing unwanted pregnancies by keeping men from having multiple sex partners. So, by extension, if gays could marry, that would incentivize them not to have multiple sex partners too.
What has kept married men faithful (to the extent that they have stayed faithful, which is better than most people guess, but worse than it should be) isn't state recognition of marriage, but the prospect that the wife will leave them for infidelity. The same thing is true for unmarried heterosexual couples that are living together. There's nothing magical about marriage for promoting fidelity.

In any case, gay men who get married often have a rather different purpose than heterosexual couples. One of the first gay couples to marry in Massachusetts was quite open about having an "open marriage." I've frequently seen gay men in the Internet newsgroup soc.motss use the term "wife" or "husband" to refer to the guy that they live with--and then discuss their latest sexual conquest. For a lot of gay men, "spouse" means "who I go home to after random sex out on the town."
10.26.2005 1:10pm
Shelby (mail):
DJB:
You're also comparing the risk inherent in a necessity (transportation) to the risk inherent in a luxury (sex).

I'm guessing biology isn't your strong suit...
10.26.2005 1:31pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

DJB:
You're also comparing the risk inherent in a necessity (transportation) to the risk inherent in a luxury (sex).

I'm guessing biology isn't your strong suit...
Sex, at least for reproduction, is a species necessity, but certainly not an individual necessity. The vast majority of sex is not a "necessity" in the same sense as food, water, and air--although I'm not sure that I would call it a luxury. Casual or promiscuous sex is a luxury, however--and like many luxuries, pretty hazardous to a person's character. Even transportation doesn't really fit that category.
10.26.2005 1:50pm
Shelby (mail):
Clayton:

Much food and transportation is also a "luxury". Cruise ships? Fancy restaurants? Individuals need to eat and move around; societies need individuals to have sex. We're wired to enjoy fulfilling these needs. We've collectively found luxurious ways to indulge them beyond the level of basic necessity. I'm not sure there's a fundamental difference; even by Catholic doctrine lust and gluttony are equally sins.
10.26.2005 4:12pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Much food and transportation is also a "luxury".
I'm not disputing that. I used to get razzed a lot about not buying a Ferrari, but that seemed like a needless luxury. Until I moved to Idaho, I couldn't even talk myself into buying a Corvette--it seemed a bit overindulgent. At least Corvettes are cheap in Idaho--I didn't feel even a little guilty!

The problem with casual sex is that it is a very destructive luxury, because especially for women, and to a lesser extent, for men, sex has significant emotional baggage. Few people that I have met who claimed it was purely recreational seemed to operate as though they believed it.
10.26.2005 6:46pm
Captain Holly (mail) (www):
Sex for pleasure is indeed a luxury, one that has been made possible by antibiotics and reliable birth control.

Up until about 50 years ago monogamy and abstinence were considered to be the best choices because the consequences of unprotected promiscuous sex were so dire. If a young girl got pregnant in the first half of the 1900's, or if a young boy got the clap before penicillin, their options were quite limited and not very pleasant.

Today, the consequences have been blunted somewhat by modern technology. But they haven't disappeared. We know that HIV was infecting humans as early as the 1950's. But it wasn't until there was a perfect storm of worldwide travel, promiscuous sex, and societal permissiveness that it turned into a pandemic.
10.26.2005 8:20pm
OKAY (mail):
My experience was similar to AppSecRes. I graduated from a suburban Boston high school in 1966. The parents and the town had weekend parties (designed to keep us occupied) that everybody went to and looked forward to. I know of only one pregnancy. Steady dating was not encouraged by parents and a "reputation" was something that no girl wanted to have.

When I read about the sexual activities of kids today, I am so profoundly grateful that I was a kid in the sixties. I say that knowing that I had a "reputation." But at that time all you had to do to get a reputation was to "make out." That meant to kiss. Nothing more.

The sexual revolution of the seventies was not about sex. It was about pregnancy. The push to make contraceptives more effective and more available didn't come from the kids who were the leading edge of the baby boomers at the end of the sixties, The push to make abortion legal came from the parents of the boomers.

They did it because their WW2 GI Bill marriages were wearing thin and they wanted more options and no more kids. Unfortunately that sent their children's maturation into a tailspin.

Because the mechanisms that they demanded to free themselves from worrying about another pregnancy deprived their daughters (and sons) of the fear of pregnancy as a way to put limits on sexual behavior.

I read the statistics about oral sex by high school girls and I feel so
sad for them. How can this horrible degrading exercise result in either good women or good men?

The change in birth cotnrol and abortion divorced the act from the consequence. Now if you try to make that connection you're villified.
10.26.2005 9:33pm
M. Simon (mail) (www):
The real deal on promiscuity is that its level depends on Male/Female ratios in the marrying age population.

How M/F ratios affect black culture

How it affects marriage in general

BTW the Sexual Revolution was precipitated by a 1.5 female to 1 male in the marrying age population. About what we see on some college campuses these days.

To fix the promiscuity "problem" we are going to have to do something about the shortage of men.
10.27.2005 7:46am
M. Simon (mail) (www):
Oral sex degrading? I suppose it is if you don't enjoy it.

As with all matters involving taste: don't like it? Don't do it.
10.27.2005 7:51am
M. Simon (mail) (www):
Interesting that in this thread among some of the brightest people in America the most important determinant of cultural sexual behavior was mentioned only by me.

We are having these arguments and most folks don't know what they are talking about, and worse don't know they don't know.

The closest peoople came was the post WW1 bit. Guess what? Demographics explains it.

Wars that kill a lot of men or take them out of circulation increase promiscuity. Yet generally (these days)the right favors war as a solution to some problems (there may be no other) and the left likes sex.

To the right: wars bring promiscuity.

To the left: the fewer men the more sex.

So can we endorse each other's position on the basis of rational interest?

BTW some one above said it was not public policy to punish people for public health problems. It sure is. Why do you think we have a drug war?
10.27.2005 8:31am
Virginia:
Here's a question from a genuinely confused old fogey: why do people these days wait so long to get married?

I married at 23 and have always wished I had done so earlier.

I understand that people tend to stay in school longer than they used to, but marriage is no impediment to that. I was married in grad school and it actually made school easier; my spouse worked so we had extra money that other students didn't.

Kids definitely complicate life, but these days one doesn't have to have kids nine months after one marries.

I suppose some might argue that it's nice to hold onto your "freedom," but for 80-80% of us the freedom of not being married is just the freedom to be lonely, desperate, or worried about getting dumped all the time.
10.27.2005 12:03pm