Contraceptives and Fear

I’m a numbers guy, so I love seeing statistics used to prove a point. Percentages and figures allow me to understand the extent of the results, but it seems that the results from “Condom Use with a Casual Partner” and “Communicating with New Sex Partners” contradict each other.  Both discuss the use of contraceptives based off different variables such as age of first sexual experience, onset of puberty, sexual self- esteem, etc. I was irked that both authors attempt to scare the reader (aimed at young adults) into using contraceptives- either in fear of pregnancy or for transmission of a disease. I am absolutely in favor of contraceptives, but I dislike deception.

I understand trying to educate people about the common occurrence of these life-changing events, but scare tactics are ridiculous. I’m sure you’ve heard 80% of car accidents occur within a 10-mile radius of your house, and that’s why you should wear a seatbelt- even on short drives. This is an example of alarming people into seatbelt safety. Regardless of accuracy, it’s an obtuse statistic because the majority of your driving is also done within that 10-mile radius. It seems obvious that there would be a correlation with the location of your accidents and the area in which you spend the most time driving.

Similarly, we saw that there was a high risk of STDs among college student. This source also mentioned that binge drinking occurs more frequently at college. The other article off handedly mentioned that there is a higher risk of sexual behavior among college students and these rates are actually dependent on drinking. I read this as “college kids drink more, drinking increases sexual activity, and increased sexual activity leads to increased transmission of diseases”. The authors phrased it to make us believe college kids are at high risk for STIs when I believe it should be aimed at anyone who drinks heavily (and therefore their sexual inhibitions are decreased). In reality, these rates of transmission are lower than we’ve been made to believe. Transmission of the HIV infection during intercourse is 1/300 for women and 1/1000 for men in heterosexual relationships. Until I heard that statistic, I was made to believe that HIV would be passed on in an instant.

Maybe the last example was a stretch, but let me point out another incident. The purposes of the articles were to inform us of the consequences of sex- mainly unwanted pregnancy or passing of STIs. In order to scare us about pregnancy, it was made clear that single parent pregnancies have been occurring at a higher rate in the past 40 years. Is it because the frequency of sex has increased or use of contraceptives decreased? My take is that marriage is happening later and later (26 is the average age of marriage instead of 21 from 1960). I think that sex is occurring at the same rate; it’s just that by brute numbers, there is an extra 5 years in between for an unwanted pregnancy to occur.

Just making it clear that I support the ideas the authors had, but I don’t agree with the sneaky way of scaring impressionable minds. I was always told “correlation is not causation”, and I am just skeptical this is what the authors were doing. I think there are better ways to educate people, but in the meantime there are more effective ways of prevention amongst college students. The biggest in my opinion is making sure situations such as the one suggested in the Emory Wheel from 1995 are avoided. It said that freshmen girls are allowed to frat houses while freshmen boys are barred from that area. It seems like a good prevention method to stop girls who are supposedly ignorant of proper safety from boys who have an agenda in mind (don’t mean to stereotype, but all frat guys were put into a negative light in this article).

2 thoughts on “Contraceptives and Fear

  1. Sumo: I really appreciate your close engagement with the texts. A few comments: 1) your argument would be strengthened if you used evidence in the form of direct quotes. Make sure that they are cited with author and page number. 2) you inclusion of the article from the archives feels like an after thought. If you are going to reference your findings, make sure you do so in a deep enough fashion that your reader can make connections or understand why you included it. 3) I think you are rit about scare the scare tactics used to some degree but at the same time I don’t think the authors are necessarily talking about HIV/AIDS whe they say STIs. I think they are talking more about HPV, which, according to http://www.cdc.gov/std/hpv/stdfact-hpv.htm at least 50% of all men and women contract. I think the percentage is closer to 80% for college students. Now, to be fair, HPV doesn’t really kill you, but gone untreated on women, it can (and often does) cause cervical cancer. Something worth considering. Well done, and great comment on humint’s post earlier.

  2. 1) & 2) Thanks for the feedback, I’ll work on both.

    3) Regarding HIV/AIDS and HPV/Cervical cancer:
    I agree that AIDS isn’t suggested, but I used it as a more extreme example. Obviously once you contract HIV, there is not much you can do to prevent AIDS. Therefore I pictured it as the worst consequence of not using contraceptives. Even as an incurable disease, the transmission rates are much lower than most people would assume(just using this as an example, I don’t doubt that HIV is a major issue). So I feel like HIV is the meat and bones behind scare tactics. This is in opposition to HPV which most people won’t even realize they’ve contracted anything and won’t show symptoms-although transmission rates are high.You can potentially have a 100% prevention rate from HPV causing cervical cancer with proper screening.

    Regardless of the specific STI, I think some of them are blown out of proportion. Emphasis is important in prevention, but I think honesty would be refreshing too. I don’t know if you’ll necessarily agree with any of that- I might have an unfairly different view being a guy.

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