Thursday, December 2, 2010
HPV: Not just for sluts
This is a video more people need to see -- HPV infects 80% of the U.S. adult population, and usually those infected don't even know they have it. Yet for those who become infected, it can bring on all the shame and stigma assosciated with STDs in our culture - but it shouldn't! The woman in this video gets it right: "It's not something that's dirty, it's not something that's any different if you would get if you had strep or you had the common cold; it just has to do with your sexual organs and therefore has a stigma associated with it."
What a fascinating point! Because our culture represses and fetishizes sexuality, anything associated with sex becomes infinitely dirtier. And it's true beyond STDs -- think of mono. That's the "kissing disease," the thing that suffices for middle and high school gossip, yet it can also be contracted from sharing drinks (but it's thought of as dirty, because of the kissing). The flu can be caught from sharing drinks or kissing, but no one's giggling about that. A wart on your hand is one strain of the HPV virus, a wart on your genitals is another -- but only one carries the stigma.
You'd think in this day and age we'd be beyond this, but abstinence-only educational programs continue to use STDs as a scare tactic to keep kids away from sex, which in turn promotes the concept of STDs as one of the very worst things out there. Following that logic, along with a healthy dose of "it's wrong to have more than one sexual partner" brainwashing, it's not too much of a leap to thinking people who have STDs are defective, somehow deserving of their infection (probably because they're sexually promiscuous - because only sluts get STDs, right?).
I'm not saying STDs aren't something to try to avoid -- do you try to catch a cold? -- but the culture of shame that surrounds them needs to go. More people speaking up, coming out about their experience with STDs and breaking the cultural taboo, is what will make this happen, and I applaud the woman on this video for being willing to take that step.
If you want more information on HPV and other STDs, Planned Parenthood's website is a great resource for factual information in an easy-to-read format. If you or someone you know has HPV and is looking for a safe community in which they can discuss it and learn more about living with HPV, click here. Finally, if you want to learn more about Gardasil, the vaccine she mentions in the video, click here.