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"These are the days when the Christian is expected to praise every creed except his own." G.K.Chesterton

"You cannot grow a beard in a moment of passion." G.K.Chesterton

"As you perhaps know, I haven't always been a Christian. I didn't go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that."C. S. Lewis

"I blog, therefore I am." Anon

Monday, July 28, 2003

Play now, pay... sooner than you think

Amy White writes in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch about another hidden cost of the sexual revolution... but is anyone listening?

Sex is increasingly more hazardous to our health

...there is very little privacy in our sexually saturated culture. From cybersex in chat rooms to discussion of sexual positions on HBO's "Sex and the City," there is little mystique left.

There is one aspect of sexuality in America, however, that remains shut in our collective closet, clothed in secrecy and embarrassment: disease. The truth is, we are facing a significant health crisis, and I'm amazed that we're not talking about it...

In the land of the free, 15 million Americans will contract an STD this year. Half of the women experiencing their first sexual encounter get a disease to remember it by. More than 8,000 teenagers a day get infected. Nearly one in four people over the age of 12 already has a variety of genital herpes, and experts anticipate that 50 percent of white American men will be infected in the future.

These numbers, by the way, do not originate with groups pushing abstinence and decrying moral decay. They come from studies and reviews conducted by or for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health and published in periodicals such as the New England Journal of Medicine. And since many of those infected are asymptotic and undiagnosed, the statistics are inadequate.

These are not your mom's and dad's STDs, either, curable with a shot of penicillin. Forty years ago, gonorrhea and syphilis were the only commonly known STDs; now there are more than 50. Many are incurable. Some can kill you. One - AIDS - will kill you.

A 2002 British study concluded that a substantial majority of sexually active women now have one of the 100 strains of human papilloma virus, or HPV. There are now nearly 16,000 new cases of cervical cancers a year and 5,000 deaths, with HPV a principal risk factor. Other HPV strains can cause penile and anal cancers, so men are not safe, either.

The most critical information, however, is that the concept of safe sex through condom use has now been seriously qualified. The National Institutes of Health convened a panel of experts to review the medical evidence of condoms' protection against disease. They do reduce the risk of contracting HIV and gonorrhea. But the reviewed studies weren't designed well enough to produce definitive conclusions about condoms' protective abilities against the other 48 diseases. In any case, many STDs are transmitted skin to skin, which dodges condoms anyway. And oral sex, a favorite of teenagers who regard it as safe, can transmit them all.

Dr. Meg Meeker, whose 20-year pediatric practice focused on teenagers, wrote a book last year titled, "Epidemic: How Teen Sex Is Killing Our Kids." She was accused of sensationalism because of the title, which actually had been lifted from a CDC report. No one faulted her statistics, but a Publishers Weeklyreview called the book overheated. Translation: It couldn't be this bad. The same reviewer, however, noted that Meeker's unsparing and alarming descriptions of the ravages of venereal disease may do teens some good. Yet most Americans seem comfortable - even titillated - by images of gaping mouths and the arched backs of sexual ecstasy in our popular media.

In the past 40 years, Americans have accepted sexual liberation, and many freed themselves of conventions that sex should be monogamous and marital. But this sexual revolution is not complete without an honest accounting of the physical price that has been paid. The sex act may be private, but it has very public repercussions.

America may be willing to accept this avalanche of bacteria and viruses, scar tissue and infertility, warts and blisters as a fair price for sleeping with whom we choose. Perhaps we will mourn the deaths from AIDS, cervical cancer, and abdominal abscess without bothering to hold anyone accountable. Or maybe we will be sickened enough to admit we've made a serious mistake. Sexual liberation came with a price which may well be too high to pay.

"pushing abstinence and decrying moral decay". I confess, I tertius am guilty of such reactionary kill-joy notions... and I fully understand I will be arrested by the thought police and punished in the court of PC for my failure to adopt the values of the brave new world... but here I stand, I can do no other.

2:33:00 pm