STIs are for men, too

Hey everyone- it’s Feminism Friday! Your choice as to whether that involves bright pink balloons and such- personally, I think pink is an interesting colour, but I know women will get offended if we throw it around all the time. Hence why the blog is mostly blue 😉

Today we cover those invisible little nasties, Sexually Transmitted Infections. (or Diseases, if you prefer) Following the news that one in four girls in the USA has an STI, naturally the feminist community was in a bit of an uproar. It’s worth explaining why.

This study is the first to focus on the entire range of STIs, and it includes relatively common ones that may or may not be benign. Much of the commentary has also implied that this is somehow girls’ fault- as if boys weren’t also involved in the transmission of STIs. Unless of course these same quarter of girls were all lesbians, which would be a remarkable coincidence.

The USA has a very unhealthy view of STIs- conservative politicians there like to paint them as punishment for extra-marital sex. The fact of the matter is that there is, for an example, an STI out there that is transmitted from mother to child, is relatively common, and potentially has serious health consequences for women- including cancer. I’m talking about HPV. The good news is that it has a vaccine. The bad news is that politicians are framing this as women being too promiscuous, and many states in the USA are not prepared to make the vaccine compulsory, or fund it for people who can’t afford it. The even worse news is that proper condom use doesn’t prevent the transmission of this one.

Fortunately in New Zealand, we actually believe in some small amount of sex education, (as lame, outdated, and unengaging as it might be, at least we have it) so the spread of STIs in general is likely to be a bit curtailed. But we’re still effected by the other problem that this issue raises- that HPV can’t be reliably detected in men, and that because almost all men aren’t symptomatic when they have the virus, it’s viewed as wasteful to vaccinate men and boys for it.

Which is total rubbish, even disregarding the crucial little factoid I mentioned above that proper condom use doesn’t prevent the spread of HPV. STIs are called sexually transmitted infections because they spread between sexual partners. Vaccinating men for STIs that usually only effect women will potentially protect their partners and children from said STIs- a man only needs one previous partner who was infected to potentially put all of his subsequent partners at risk. Given that you can be a complete virgin yet have inherited some of these conditions from your mother or grandmother or so on, it is ridiculous in the extreme not to protect yourself from the chance that the same has happened to any of your sex partners. Vaccines are good. Condoms are good. STI checks before sex, especially of the unprotected variety, are great.

At best, contracting an STI will make you uncomfortable and less attractive. At worst, it will put you or your partner at risk of serious health conditions. You have no real reason not to protect yourself from these consequences if you’re having sex.

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