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Friday, February 1, 2002

Not Their Finest Hour
A recent edition of the Dot.Commentary reported on the results of a survey of British young people, which found that a majority of British young people age 17-25 consider it “normal” for a person to have at least 10 sexual partners before marriage. The organization that conducted the survey turns out to be the same organization that runs the Brook Advisory Centres, dedicated to dispensing contraceptives and contraceptive advice to youngsters in the UK. The survey report noted that, “The overall picture is of young people enjoying sex with a larger number of partners but still failing to find or receive adequate information about contraception and protection.” Given the harmful physical, emotional and psychological consequences associated with such a lifestyle, we at BLI doubt seriously that these young people are actually “enjoying” sex with multiple partners. In fact, multiple sexual partners is one of the greatest risk factors for contracting a sexually transmitted disease (STD) or having an unintended pregnancy, neither of which is especially enjoyable. Now, a recent report in the venerable London Times by Carol Midgley (“The Price of Casual Sex,” Jan. 29, 2002) offers further evidence that multiple sex partners are causing very serious problems for young people in Britain.

Midgley reports that sexually transmitted diseases (STD’s) have reached epidemic levels in Great Britain. According to the latest statistics on sexual health in Britain, reports Ms. Midgley, “[d]iagnoses of almost every STD have risen dramatically during the past five years, especially among young people, and in some cases to an astonishing degree.” The reporter emphasizes that some of the statistical increase may be due to greater willingness by young people to get checked for STD’s. Nevertheless she allows that promiscuity plays a part as well, although the London clinic profiled in her story is at some pains to avoid using such a “subjective” (i.e., not morally neutral) term.

Story after story of the patients visiting the clinic confirms that the temporary slowdown in the sexual revolution-or so-called “safer sex” practices, at least-prompted by the appearance of AIDS in the 1980’s has given way to a new era of promiscuity today. This is despite rising levels of deadly diseases like AIDS, hepatitis B and cervical cancer, the last of which has been linked strongly to human papyloma virus (HPV), an increasingly common STD. The report also points to the rise of chlamydia, an increasingly common STD that is notoriously difficult to detect until it results, all too often, in female sterility. Yet Nicola Smith, the clinic doctor interviewed for the story, remains determined not to “moralise,” lest she discourage patients from seeking treatment. “We never judge,” she is quoted as saying, “but we do encourage people to have safer sex. If a woman wants to have 15 one-night stands, that’s fine with me, but I’m worried if it affects her sexual health and that of others.”

Midgley concludes the article by holding up the high monetary cost in Great Britain (approximately $150 million per year) of treating STD’s and their consequences as “the strongest possible motive for the Government to halt the advance of disease among the young.” Yet she is doubtful about the possibility of this in an era when sexual promiscuity is a staple of modern popular culture.

We would argue that the ultimate human cost, especially the heartbreak and spiritual emptiness that is the likely result of such a lifestyle, is a better “strongest possible motive” for such a campaign than the monetary cost. Nevertheless, it is a strong indication of the necessity for it. We also maintain that the most effective way to halt the spread of STD’s is not by promoting “safer sex” but by promoting sexual abstinence outside of marriage. The Times article never mentions abstinence, but the concluding quote from Doctor Smith, perhaps inadvertently, supports what abstinence advocates have been recommending for years: “Basically we have to make it uncool to sleep around.”

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