Thursday, August 23, 2012

Reasons To Change Sexual Partners Less Often Than Cell Phones

Instapundit points to this rather serious problem that we have run out of drugs that will cure some antibiotic-resistant strains of gonorrhea: "The 21st Century isn’t turning out like I expected. . . ." 

This is completely expected to me.  One of the great delusions of progressivism is the idea that everything old is automatically wrong.  (The great delusion of conservativism is that everything new is automatically suspect.)  The article points out:
The bacteria that causes gonorrhea, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, is notoriously good at adapting to avoid our attempts to kill it, said Dr. Robert Bonomo, professor of medicine, pharmacology, molecular biology and microbiology at Case Western Reserve University.
"Superstrains" of gonorrhea resistant to penicillin and tetracycline cropped up in the 1970s and '80s and to a class of drugs called fluoroquinolones, such as Cipro, in 2007.
And why, oh why, do you think that these superstrains showed up in the 1970s and 1980s?  Might it have been related to the replacement of traditional notions of sexual morality (backed up by not only social pressure but laws as well) with "If it feels good, do it"?  The rate of STD infection of a population increases with the square of the number of sexual partners per time.  Double the number of sexual partners per month and you quadruple the number of people infected; quadruple the number of partners per month, and you increase the infection rate by 16.

I don't have any illusions that in 1950s America, people stayed virgins until marriage, and never strayed.  But the social pressure, fear of pregnancy, and a notion that some things were morally wrong at least kept the situation a bit in check.


  1. "professor of medicine, pharmacology, molecular biology and microbiology": some people just can't make up their minds.

  2. There are also reports of a significant increase of SDT's amongst seniors. I guess they are doing more than shuffleboard and bingo at the senior centers. Perhaps over prescribing of those blood flow drugs is the cause.

    I wonder if this is mostly with those that came of age in the 60's and early 70's as they are now 60+ so are considered seniors and are now revisiting the free love of their youth.

  3. I was told that in those days they did it but didn't talk about it, and women tended to choose men they figured on marrying, so if there was an "accident", her first child would merely have a birthdate embarassingly close to the parents' wedding date. This also kept down the number of partners, which kept down the number of vd cases.
    Now of course, women are liberated and are free to choose the sexy guy, who is sexy because other women want him and have had him. Resistant strains of VD and amazingly high proportions of unwed births are only some of the deplorable results.

  4. That's a compellingly simple answer, although one I'm not sure is terribly well-supported by the evidence. While media profiles generate an increasingly prolific culture of sexual hedonism, the actual statistics suggest that, unsurprisingly, Sex in the City doesn't reflect reality terribly well -- the average person is still racking up a pretty low number of sexual partners over their lifetime, there's still a pretty big stigma about unprotected/underprotected sex even in very sexually open communities, and the extremes weren't exactly buttoned up back in the '60s (or even as early as the 20s), either. The underlying factors -- that you're using an antibiotic to treat a rapidly mutating bacterial infection that's often asymptomatic and readily transmitted during treatment by those with low restraint -- don't exactly require an additional complicating cause, especially with how many other antibacterial-resistant microbes are out there and how few useful antibacterial drugs have been recently invented. Hospital-acquired MRSA is not exactly unheard of, despite a huge effort focusing on decontamination and isolation.

    That said, I'll admit that the studies I've seen are not exactly compelling, especially due to self-reporting biases. There's also a matter of whether high-sexual-partner individuals have larger cohorts to infect, between increased population, increased mobility, and cultures becoming increasingly interconnected. If you've got eight sexual partners, and 1% of the cohort population is infected, it rather matters if all your sexual partners know and screw each other or if they've each got seven other folk on the side you don't know. (Although the latter is pretty rare even in the open relationship or poly community.)

    On the gripping hand, let's assume that the solution is correct: increasing the social pressure, fear of pregnancy, and notion of moral wrongs reduce the rate STIs develop resistance to medication. What actions are you willing to take or have the government take to cause that change to occur, and do you believe such things could become politically feasible and/or justify the level of intrusion necessary to enforce them?

  5. There's some history in my family tree.

    The kind of history where the marriage happened one summer, and the first son was born six months later. ("The first baby can come early, but the rest of them take 9 months to arrive...", said the family genealogy expert.)

    That was the 1950s, in rural Ohio.

    I don't doubt that such marriages were commonplace, and from a tradition that began before the 20th Century.

    I also know that the American government and military had to deal with syphilis during and after WWI. I think those programs lasted until the 1930s.

    These pieces of evidence convince me that society had methods for dealing with sexual misbehavior, before the advent of the contraceptive pill and the Sexual Revolution.

    Those methods were different. However, they did figure out methods to keep most STD's from spreading as broadly as they are spread now.

    (But how much of that was transportation, and how much was sexual ethics? I'm not sure...the generation that came of age in the 1960s had much more ability to travel than the generation that came of age in the 1930s.)