There’s some sobering information in a story in today’s local paper about the rise of sexually transmitted diseases in the state. The incidence of syphilis and gonorrhea, two diseases that are both perfectly treatable and preventable, are increasing, especially among the young. Seems like, statistically, people are getting stupider. I know this is the 21st century, but one would think that we would be better at this by now, given the advanced state of our knowledge primarily in the areas of science and medicine. The appearance of AIDS and HIV in our medical experience seemed to have had an early dampening effect on the population, but that’s wearing off. The apparent answer to this, for some Christians, is to stop having sex outside of marriage.
Coincidentally, a recent comment on another blog I was participating in seems right on point:
So then we need to ask does sex outside of marriage cause harm to other people?
Let’s count the ways:
1. Increase in STDs
2. Unwanted babies leading to increased abortions destroying lives
3. Children who don’t have fathers taking an interest in them are more likely to be detrimental to society – stealing and maiming instead of constructively benefiting society
4. The emotional pain of giving yourself to another sexually only to be rejected later
7. And there are others that would simply be avoided if everyone just stuck to their own spouses.
My first, and final, reaction to this was – sex out side of marriage doesn’t cause any of these things. STD’s can happen in or outside of marriage, so the lie there is obvious. The same can be said for unwanted babies, fatherless children, rejection, selfishness, cheating and whatever the fuck # 7 means.
The Christian argument for monogamous marriage as a panacea for all these things goes something like this: Follow God’s law by marrying and staying in a monogamous relationship, and the incidence of STDs would be greatly diminished, if not eradicated. Presumably the married couple would have no STDs before marriage, and therefore would be unable to transmit them to anyone else, in effect maintaining a closed cycle of sexual relations. The fact that the rise in STDs is predominately in the 15 to 24 year old age group, where the incidence of multiple partnerships is higher, is a fact that militates in favor of a policy like this.
But creating an arbitrary social system based on a fiction, indeed a number of fictions, does not seem to be the best way to minimize STDs. In fact, it seems counter-productive, and history and experience have shown that it doesn’t work. If it did, there would be no STDs, yet there are.
The fictions at work here are multiple.
- There is a god
- God is actively concerned about our sex lives
- God demands monogamy.
- Failure to maintain a monogamous marriage is a sin.
- Sin exists
- Monogamy is a natural human characteristic
Admittedly, there is something comforting to some people about assuming the truth of these fictions and basing one’s life around them. It’s all quite simple, and easy, to assume that someone else is watching out for our well being, and that by simply following some well chosen rules, all will be right in the world. If we all just assume god wants us to screw our spouses, and only our spouses, STDs (not to mention unwanted pregnancies, abortion, single parent families, crime, misery and poverty) would be eradicated.
But for this to work one has to delude oneself into believing something that’s not true, or at best, cannot be substantiated by anything approaching evidence. None of the fictions I listed are remotely verifiable, existing in the minds of believers, substantiated through faith, and only faith.
Doesn’t it make more sense to admit facts, not fiction, and base human nature on them? Facts such as:
- STDs are well known diseases that will be passed on to sexual partners regardless of their religious beliefs.
- There are accepted therapies to both prevent and counter the diseases.
- Sexual activity is not always something that can be voluntarily controlled, given the evolutionary prerogative of the sex drive.
- Marriage is an artificial social construct imposed on our biology, easily and often circumvented.
When you boil down the religiously based incentive program set forth above to its essentials you get: “Don’t have sex with multiple partners. Stick with one sex partner for life.” Marriage and monogamy were the artificial institutions set up by a knowledge-deprived society to accomplish this objective. But we no longer live in a knowledge-deprived society, so we don’t need such incentives. We just need the knowledge, and we have that.
Knowledge is power. Belief – faith – makes us dependent on something outside our control, which can be quite problematic when that something most likely doesn’t exist. To use the knowledge we’ve gained from history, sociology, biology and medicine to control a disease makes us far less delusional in dealing with STDs than the belief we have in monogamous marriage. Penicillin and condoms, coupled with education, will have a far more reaching impact on eradicating STDs than will faith and prayer. Burying our heads in the sand and pretending that sex is only for procreation, will just continue to add to the problem.
For emphasis, the original article indicates that,
African-Americans and Latinos have much higher rates of STDs than the population as a whole, the CDC said.
and African Americans and Latinos as a population, tend to be more religious than the population as a whole. Coincidence? Correlation? You tell me. If the most religious people in the country have the highest incidence of STDs, what does that say about their commitment to marriage and monogamy? Personally, I’ll go with tried and true reality-based solutions to any problem, any day, rather than those concocted by the religiously delusional.
I’m not advocating the end of marriage, nor am I suggesting that those who find marriage to be a comfortable institution to help check their biological impulses should abandon it. I’m merely suggesting that the idea of monogamy and marriage to control sex and its side effects, including pregnancy and abortion, is misplaced, outdated, and stupid.
Religion has had thousands of years to eradicate STDs. I’d say it has failed.