Thursday, June 22, 2006


Condoms 1 Right-Wing 0

Christo-Republicans have never met a sex organ they truly liked.1 In their view, genitals, including women's breasts, should never be gratuitously displayed. They should be trotted out, preferably in the dark, by heterosexuals who have submitted themselves to a Christian monogamous marriage, and only when there is a clear intent to breed. And people wishing to breed wouldn't wear a condom, would they? Therefore condoms are bad and should be outlawed.

Since the Christian Right haven't yet established a full-blown theocracy in the U.S. where contraception can actually be outlawed, they're having to settle for creating as many obstacles to condom use and safe sex as possible. Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma got his fellow Republicans to require the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to reexamine condom labeling. And Andrew von Eschenbach, acting head of the FDA, is doing what he can to help.

Condom wrappers currently advise that "If used properly, latex condoms will help to reduce the risk of transmission of HIV infection (AIDS) and many other sexually transmitted diseases." The FDA is mulling over the idea of requiring condom packets to tell you exactly how much the condom will reduce your risk of each and every sexually transmitted disease (STD).

Which brings me to today's topic—human papilloma virus, or HPV. HPV is the cause of genital warts and may cause cervical cancer. According to a story last night by National Public Radio (NPR), 80% of Americans will have contracted the virus by the age of 50.

NPR reported a study that found that condom use reduces HPV transmission by as much as 70%. It was a remarkable study inasmuch as the researchers managed to assemble a group of virgin college coeds and then follow their sex lives.

Until this study there had been only indirect evidence of condom effectiveness against HPV. For instance, the website of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says only this:

HPV infection can occur in both male and female genital areas that are covered or protected by a latex condom, as well as in areas that are not covered. While the effect of condoms in preventing HPV infection is unknown, condom use has been associated with a lower rate of cervical cancer, an HPV-associated disease.

What this study means to the Christo-Republicans and the FDA is that condom labels can now claim that condoms help to protect against HPV. This makes them unhappy.

NPR's Brenda Wilson, in a quest for "balance," ended her story with an interview with Linda Klepacki the "sexual health analyst" for Focus on the Family, an organization that promotes abstinence-only sex education.

KLEPACKI: What we want is consumers to know the amount of risk that they're taking. If they're using condoms as their sole means of risk reduction, they need to know how much these condoms are going to reduce the risk. And of course they have to use these condoms effectively and they have to use them every time they have sex.

WILSON: All that information on that little packet?

KLEPACKI: Yep. We need teenagers, we need young adults especially—because they have the highest risk for sexually transmitted infection—to know what risk factors they're taking by relying on condoms

WILSON: And Klepacki says if young people know that there are risks even with condoms they'll know that the only way to eliminate the risk is by not having sex until they are married. [a Simply Appalling transcription]

Wilson's story made clear that HPV may be spread by skin-to-skin contact, so sexual abstinence isn't quite the panacea Klepacki claims. But more important, Klepacki is implying that "young people" may try to eliminate risk altogether, once they learn that condoms don't offer 100% protection. This is so patently silly that you have to wonder why Brenda Wilson didn't follow up on it.

Wearing seat belts reduces the risk of injury and death in an automobile accident, but not completely. Do people stop riding in cars once they realize that fact? No one that I've met.

Likewise, wearing a condom very effectively reduces the risk of all sorts of sexually transmitted diseases, but not completely. And of course that fact is not going to stop anyone from having sex.

But if it's risk reduction you're after, you can just give up traveling by car. I don't know about you, but I'd rather have sex than ride in a car any day.

Related post
The Christian Right, STDs, monogamy and other wonders (5/30/05)



1Or so they say. Mary MacElveen has put together an excellent list of Republican sexual hypocrites. [back]

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