A new study shows that the HPV vaccine (which gives teenage girls immunization against the sexually transmitted disease that can cause cervical and other cancers) does not increase the likelihood of sexual activity. If this seems like common sense, it is–to most people who are not conservatives ready to be whipped into a panicky frenzy about the kids and the sex and in particular, the “promiscuous girls.”
The sex scolds’ aiders and abetters in the media know that sex panic sells, too. Putting aside the reality that healthy teen sexuality isn’t a social problem and its increase is far from some sort of doomsday scenario, the science of these sex panic episodes is plain wrong.
The boring fact is, the HPV vaccine helps protect girls down the line. It is a useful public health tool and nothing more. The findings from the study debunk the idea that the vaccine changes sexual behavior repeatedly in terms about as blunt as a scientific study gets.
In the cross-sectional survey, the group of girls who had been offered the HPV vaccine were no more likely to be sexually active than the group of girls who had not been offered the HPV vaccine. In the longitudinal survey, the vaccinated group were no more likely to have changed their condom use or increased their total number of sexual partners than the unvaccinated group.
Neither being offered the HPV vaccine nor receiving it affected sexual behaviour.
Not clear on what all this means? Let’s look again:
Being offered the HPV vaccine was not linked with higher rates of sexual activity.* Receiving the HPV vaccination was not associated with increased sexual risk-taking.* HPV vaccination is unlikely to affect girls’ sexual behaviour
If you think this clearly-stated evidence-based science will deter conservatives from hand-wringing and fuming about “sex-crazed coeds,” you’re wrong of course.
But it’s worth noting that good, well-grounded science has debunked several other conservative-and-media led sex panics about young people. Here are three other things that don’t in any way cause teens to morph into orgiastic sexbots:.
Comprehensive sex-ed doesn’t increase teen sexual activity. It often delays it.
Advocates for Youth, an awesome program, crunches the science and determines the opposite in fact. Comprehensive sex ed frequently helps kids DELAY the onset of sexual activity (which abstinence-only does not.)
Evaluations of comprehensive sex education programs show that these programs can help youth delay onset of sexual activity, reduce the frequency of sexual activity, reduce number of sexual partners, and increase condom and contraceptive use. Importantly, the evidence shows youth who receive comprehensive sex education are NOT more likely to become sexually active, increase sexual activity, or experience negative sexual health outcomes.
Handing out condoms doesn’t increase teen sexuality either. It makes it safer.
The Community Action Kit of Siecus (The Sexuality Information and Education Council) debunks a number of myths about condoms, including crazy ideas about them being “riddled with holes” and other mega-myths. Here are the facts:
A study comparing New York City public high schools that had a condom availability program to similar public high schools in Chicago that did not have such a program found that condom availability does not increase rates of sexual activity but does have a positive impact on condom use.
So not handing out condoms doesn’t decrease sex–it just decreases unsafe sex.
Most important, the source notes, is to teach kids proper and effective condom use in addition to distribution.
“Sexting” is normal for young people, not a harbinger of the end of our collective innocence.
Yet another study looks and looks–and finds only a media tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. From Futurity.org:
University of Michigan researchers looked at the sexting behavior of 3,447 men and women ages 18-24 and found that while sexting—sending explicit messages or images by phone—is very common, it isn’t associated with sexually risky behaviors or with psychological problems.
The findings contradict the public perception of sexting, which is often portrayed in the media and elsewhere as unsavory, deviant, or even criminal behavior, says Jose Bauermeister, an assistant professor at the School of Public Health and co-principal investigator of the study, which will appear in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health.
And there you have it, ladies and gentlemen. The kids are alright, provided we give them love, support, and science-based practical information about sexuality. Teenagers, and indeed all of us, are much more likely to be influenced by families and peers–namely, those pesky interpersonal relationships–when making these decisions than by anything else.
What schools and health facilities and clinics should do is arm them with tools to have healthy bodies and relationships, not be in the business of instilling fear, taboos and myths.
This article was originally published by AlterNet on Oct. 12, 2012.