Friday, 7 September 2012

"Serial Monogamy" is Seriously Risky

Still sick, but conscious of my readership's reading habits so here I am.

I came across this article just now, and it made me sad and a little angry. The writer suggests in a light-hearted way that the perfect number of sexual partners is ten.

But there is nothing light-hearted about Human Papilloma Virus, sterility and cervical cancer, and as condoms are of limited use against HPV, and male carriers can't be tested for it, the most effective way to avoid it is lifelong virginity or to have just one sexual partner who has had no other sexual partner but you.

That's very bad news for women of my mother's generation and of my generation. My mother's generation was more or less told that they'd be okay if the men they were sleeping with looked clean. My generation was told we'd be okay if we used a condom every time. Your generation of women is (surprise!) now being inoculated with Gardasil at the age of 15, and only heaven as yet knows what the side effects of that will be.

My mother's generation and my generation were lied to about sex and sexual health. We really were. And when I was staying with a friend who was undergoing a horribly painful and damaging experimental treatment for cervical cancer, I felt very very angry at those who lied to us. Fifty years of sexual revolution have resulted in a need for mass inoculation of girls against social disease.

I am also angry at those who put the bad news about sex in small print, who told all sexually active women they had to have regular Pap smears but did not underscore why. We heard so much about AIDS in the 1980s and 1990s. We saw so many pictures of bald, emaciated men dying of it. Why do we not see pictures of bald, emaciated women dying of cervical cancer?

Heath officials used to talk about "social hygiene" and warn women against sleeping around. They didn't suggest condoms as a way to make it safer; they told women to say "No" and came up with schemes to help prostitutes take up another line of work. In short, they offered the best solution to eliminate the risk, not condoms to "reduce" the risk.

And that is my rant. My condolences if in your youth you believed the "safe sex" lie and have lived (or will live) to regret it. I used to roll my eyes around at the "scare them witless" school of chastity education. I still don't think it's in keeping with adult dignity. But what we all deserve are the facts, all the facts, about sexual health so that, Christian, agnostic or Other, our choices will be rooted in reality.

Fact: the fewer people you and your future spouse sleep with, the less likely you are to contract HPV.

Fact: HPV is widespread among sexually active people, be they married or Single.


not a minx, a moron, or a parasite said...

Been pondering all this lately. What do you suggest for women who have not engaged in sexual activity who are marrying reverts to the faith who had previous partners? Since HPV is a risk, do you think the vaccine is a wise move?

Anonymous said...

Actually, they are vaccinating girls at age 11, and contemplating vaccinating at age 1.

I wish I were kidding.

There are many, many other sexual lies that we are told: that men won't change if they have sexual access to many women before marriage; that we can sleep around in our twenties and then a nice husband will plop himself into our laps exactly when we are ready; that we can abort babies during our fertile years and magically get pregnant exactly when we want to, even if that is long past prime childbearing years.

We're also told that sex doesn't cause heartbreak, that we can have many partners without losing our ability to bond with the person we ultimately want to form lifelong union with.

We're told that marriage doesn't matter, that children don't need a father, that the government is an adequate replacement for two married parents.

Then no one can figure out why women are less happy now than they were before the sexual revolution.


J•ME said...

First off, thanks for continuing to write. We appreciate it! :)

Sometimes all of...this...makes me want to scream. How do we even begin undo all the lies? (I'm working on it, some days like a toothpick to tear down a brick wall...but God can use toothpicks, right?) I don't even have words...meh. It's like, even when people have it good, they want what the world tells them they want, not what they actually desire that is written on their hearts. (Does that make sense? It does in my head, sometimes my words and my brain don't connect, and I'm sick too...) HPV vaccines for toddlers, case in point.

Or this facebook status from an (...almost...) acquaintance of mine. It makes her husband, to me, sound awesome, and she blows it off as, "what the heck? Lemme wear what I want." Or at least that's the vibe that I get ("Me" below is said acquaintance, Bob obviously is the husband.):

"Me: what about this dress?
Bob: it's nice.
Me : I sense a but coming on.
Bob:'s really form fitting.
Me: What? You don't think I'd look nice in it?
Bob: no, you'd definitely look nice in it.
Me: then what's the problem?
Bob: well, certain parts of you would be emphasized and would look very...attractive, and...
Me: you don't want me to wear it out in public where I can be guys.
Bob: that's about right, yeah.
Me: you don't want me being looked at like a piece of meat.
Bob: my wife is not a piece of meat.

Ahhhhh. Marriage, hahahaha."

Honey, that's not funny. That's beautiful. Let the man protect you...

Anyway. Ramblings/rant over. :)

Nzie said...

There's very little sense of discretion, modesty, or privacy these days about these things. Also, someone who has acted wrongly and reformed their life, or someone who has been the victim of an assault - well, it's never proper to expect someone to disclose sexual history over dinner (or anywhere else), but especially in those cases... I also found it crass how casually we discuss experience or inexperience, as if intimacy between two persons was somehow akin to hiking a trail or a trip somewhere.

A couple things about HPV (with the caveat that a reader who is a scientist/doctor probably knows more):

They're inoculating boys for it, too. This is good for both male and female health, as they won't transmit it and also, HPV can cause anal cancer and also throat cancer.

Also, HPV is not exclusively an STD; it often is, but can also be present in the throat, and in warts.

I didn't look into HPV a lot this summer, but I did read several articles on STIs and it seemed very clear to me that any one indicates an increased risk of the others, whether by heightening susceptibility or because the conditions that allowed one infection are favorable to others. (And no, condoms are not protection.)

The best protection is doing the right thing, but I'm thinking of getting the vaccine because I'd rather it just not be an issue of "oh, now I have to get vaccinated" if I marry someone who has repented of sexual sins.


Jackie said...

Oof, this is a tough one to read. How people hurt each other. How they hurt themselves. :(

And it taps on one of my laying-awake-in-the-middle-of-the-night fears: Marrying a man with a past and acquiring a potentially destructive disease, despite waiting until marriage.

Oof, again. I think I better take a break from the internet to spend time with the Rosary.

Much peace to all of us.

Seraphic said...

Now, I am not a doctor, as I forgot to mention. (Bloggers are supposed to say this whenever we write about health stuff.) So you should discuss anything about your sexual health with your family doctor. Perhaps you should do some online research first, so as to ask the right questions and get some solid answers.

You can also find pamphlets on HPV and cervical cancer where public health information is handed out.

The decision whether or not to be inoculated is a very personal and private one. I do not know why health authorities wish to inoculate children unless it is to make it as ordinary to the average parent as a mumps or measles shot. Perhaps it is to make sure children are inoculated before they are sexually active. But I do not know.

I do not see why an adult should not be inoculated against HPV is it is considered safe for 15 year olds. There has been some debate on this blog as to whether it is or not, but this is something to discuss with a trusted family doctor.

In Scotland non-virgin women are advised to have themselves checked for cervical cancer every two years. I'm due for my next one next spring. The standard procedure is not very comfortable, but it is worth it for my peace of mind.

Katerina said...

Thank you for making the effort to keep posting, Auntie Seraphic :) I love getting to sit down and read your writing every day.

This post really hit home for me because of a conversation I found myself in the middle of a couple of days ago. It was a meet up of girl friends/acquaintances, most of whom I hadn't seen since we finished secondary school last year. It was really good to see them all and catch up, but predictably the subject of boyfriends came up, and suddenly they were talking about how they had all had sex. Actually, it went something like this:

A: Has anyone not had sex now?
B: M. [who left earlier in the evening] hasn't. She's never even... [etc]

At this point I became very preoccupied with finishing my drink and not saying anything. But I was very uncomfortable. Not only because I didn't think it was an appropriate topic for us to be discussing, but because they were all treating it as such a matter of fact. Their attitude just seemed to be: of course we're all having sex! Everyone is having sex! This is what normal people are doing! We can talk about this without awkwardness because it is a fact of life and we're all grown up!

Blaaah. And I just kept thinking, we're all young, and all this will have repercussions. Do you think you can all go on like this and not suffer any repercussions? And that's the thing: they do. They're all under the impression that their lives are safe, healthy, and perfectly fine. And I didn't say anything, but what can you do? It just makes me very sad.

Seraphic said...

The question as how to make a decision about marrying a man who has already been sexually active (inside or outside of marriage--one of the risk factors I have read about is marrying a widower whose wife died of cervical cancer) is also a personal and private question that you might consult a doctor about.

Cervical cancer is not an epidemic, and the sooner precancerous cells are found, the sooner it can be fought. Again, I am not a doctor, but it seems to be sensible that any woman who marries a man who has been previously sexually active should indeed be eventually tested for HPV and have regular Pap smears.

HPV can be harmless, but it is not always harmless. One of the reasons I write about this from time to time is because I have NCG readers who "made a mistake" and then feel it less serious if they make subsequent mistakes with guys they're "probably going to marry anyway."

(Yes, sometimes NCGs think this way, and they are still nice and they are still Catholic. We are a church of sinners, as we all know.)

And, of course, it doesn't hurt to remind eavesdroppers that their sexual choices now may (not for sure, but there is a chance) hurt their wives later on. This is not to say that the repentant must despair, but that there are even earthly reasons why they should continue to follow the straight and narrow path.

Seraphic said...

Katerina, how very uncomfortable you must have been! Oh dear, I wish women today weren't so willing to engage in locker room talk. If I ever write a manners guide for NCG, I will include an absolute prohibition on talking about stuff only you and your husband (and maybe your doctor) should know.

However, since women do talk about this stuff, now that you are out of high school, once you feel comfortable enough to do so, you may want to help your friends by speaking out about HPV and how sex really is a big deal.

Don't be drawn into "Have you done it?" conversations, which frankly sound like a regression to Girl Scout camp. ("Aaaaaashleyyyyy! How FAR have YOU gonnnnne????") What adult women do is lower their heads and voices dramatically and hiss across the table, "I hear condoms don't protect against everything. That's why everyone's supposed to have Pap smears."

Lynne said...

The vaccine only 'protects' against 2 types of HPV and 2 types of warts. AND you still need pap smears every year and no one knows for how long this vaccine protects someone. It's Big Pharma wanting to protect you. It's gotten a lot of guinea pigs. My daughter wasn't one of them.

Britt said...

We are vindicated! (Sort of)....I just read about this study out of Cornell University in the States that jumping into bed at the beginning of a relationship is detrimental to relationships...especially for women.

inara said...

no, no, NOT get this "vaccine"!!
Please read this first:

Anonymous said...

Also, HPV is not exclusively an STD; it often is, but can also be present in the throat

I hate having to be the one to point this out, but HPV in the throat is frequently a result of sexual activity of a type that is frequently sold as "harmless" or "fun" or a "safe alternative to intercourse."

The rise in throat cancers can in fact be linked to this phenomenon.


Miss Doyle said...

I would be cautious about getting where to get your information about anything to do with health.

The website given above also supports the removal of fluoride in water supplies.

Don't get on bandwagons for the sake of getting on a bandwagon!

I took the advice of my doctor after I informed her of my history and that I was not at risk of contracting any STD's (she almost fell off her chair at that point), but considering that I wanted to protect myself from a cancer with rapidly changing pathology and little to no symptoms until advanced stages, I got the vaccine. I had never had any adverse reactions to any other vaccines or drugs before.

Without the vaccine, I might be protected because of my choices up until now, but I can't guarantee that (God forbid) that is forcibly taken away from me, or that I might marry someone with a different but reformed past.

Elizabeth said...

This is a good rant Seraphic! Sometimes what the world tries to push on us makes me super mad too!
I’m a new reader Seraphic and I love your wit, wisdom and writing style!
An Australian/Polish NGC.

Elizabeth said...

This is a good rant Seraphic! Sometimes what the world tries to push on us makes me super mad too!
I’m a new reader Seraphic and I love your wit, wisdom and writing style!
An Australian/Polish NGC.