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4 Right-Wing Sex Panics Debunked by Reality

Conservatives and the media are obsessed with the idea that everything will lead to more sex. They're wrong.

A pediatrician gives an HPV vaccination to a 13-year-old girl in 2011 in Miami, Florida. US health authorities urged all boys age 11-12 to get a routine vaccination against the most common sexually transmitted disease, human papillomavirus, or HPV.


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 aide 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.)

Read their findings here (pdf):

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.

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