Unfortunate headline, frightening news

A week ago, I happened upon an article on the BBC about a survey of 16-24 year olds and their sexual habits. It’s quite eye-opening. The unfortunate headline: “It’s not just a case of getting a cream”. The frightening news? A growing number of young people are not using condoms or other barrier methods of protection. The survey base was rather large–30,000 people were queried online in the pursuit of knowledge in the study, which was sponsored by MTV and Durex. If the results can be generalized to the rest of the population, I’m disturbed.

There’s been a growing trend in the last few years among young gay men to disdain protection, and apparently this is spreading to the straights as well. Apparently it’s oh so trendy now to disdain STD prevention. What is the deal here? Are people unaware that STDs still exist, and that there are some that still aren’t curable? Complacency kills: or at least gets you herpes.

According to the article, most of the respondents (34%) were most concerned about pregnancy, which is, granted, a rather devastating STD, and also one of the most easily prevented. A large number of young women utilize hormonal birth control, and almost fifty percent of those surveyed said that they didn’t use condoms because they (or a partner) were on the pill. It’s touching to see such faith in the pill, which doesn’t have a high failure rate–but it has been known to fail. And, of course, the pill only protects you from one hazard of sexuality.

A large number of respondents cited drunkeness as an excuse, which distresses me greatly.

A fair number also used excuses which sound like they’re out of a sex-ed class. They were “too embarassed,” it might “spoil the moment,” the “partner refused,” they “couldn’t get it on,” or they didn’t have any. Perhaps I’m part of the “AIDS generation” the article mentions, but I really can’t imagine taking any of these excuses seriously. Maybe I’ve been too well indoctrinated by the condom lobby. Do any of my readers remember those little click wheels they used to pass out in sex ed, where you could dial an excuse and a response, like “Condoms spoil the mood,” and you’re supposed to say “oh baby, let me show you how good it can be,” or some such? And then you all trooped out to the rec room to practice putting condoms on bananas? I would hope that they still do that, although I suppose the Bush administration is pushing abstinence only pretty hard. According to the article, sources of information about sexual health are indeed narrowing, or being rejected by youth–it’s time to retool or sexual education programs, if people aren’t taking the threat of STDs seriously. To me, condom usage is part of being a responsible adult–I’m doing my part, so to speak, to help prevent the spread of STDs. It’s like smogging your car–it’s for the better good of mankind, man.

I’m a little disturbed that this has to be made clear, but apparently a large number of youth are not aware that hormonal methods of birth control do not protect against STDs. One should be especially conscious about STD protection with new partners, in my opinion, unless you know them very, very well. Perhaps I’m simply distrustful by nature–but I am disinclined to let someone else muck about with my sexual health. Certainly, some STDs are treatable with some embarassment. Others, however, are not curable, or may have long lasting effects on fertility (if you care about that sort of thing) or other aspects of your health. Why put yourself at risk? Sex, unfortunately, is a dangerous thing sometimes. An awesome thing, to be sure, but sadly not wholly innocent.

And if you’re concerned about pregnancy, two methods are better than one. So why not be certain that you are preventing pregnancy while also protecting yourself from a nasty present? Let’s face it–many people are not open about what they may or may not be carrying, and being an unwitting victim is a tragedy. Perhaps this is all a new terrorist scheme to bring us down–with our well publicized abstinence-only sexual education, maybe brave men and women are “taking one for the team” and spreading itchy loins across America.

STDs are on the rise, thanks to more sexual activity, decreased use of STD protection, and lack of information. This is something we should all be concerned about, because it might at some point come back to haunt many of us. Educate and participate to make the sheets a safer place for us all. Ban terrorists from the bedclothes!