Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation
July 11, 2012
The sexual revolution that began in the 1960s ushered in an era of free love. Birth control pills irrevocably cut the cord between sex and reproduction for straight people. Gay liberation and the blossoming of gay life brought about the flowering of the gay male sexual subculture. The pleasure dome that came into being in our puritanical culture was an amazing thing to behold. Sexuality was now not just an uncontrollable urge, but an artistic expression.
We began to understand how the ties that bound us sexually also shackled our minds. We began to understand that sexuality didn’t need to be whispered about—it could be publicly acknowledged and enjoyed. Suddenly there were sex manuals galore; there was legal porn, bikinis, nude beaches and micro-mini skirts.
Sex outside of marriage was no longer taboo. Diversity in sexual expression as well as relationships became the norm, not the exception. There were unexpected consequences, good and bad. But one thing is fairly certain; we are not putting the genie back in the bottle. Adults expect to have satisfying sex lives, and with the help of magic ED pills, men can extend their enjoyment indefinitely.
The relatively conservative lifestyles that America practiced prior to the ‘60s kept the number of STDs at a much lower level than they are today. For the most part, 15-year-old kids were not having as much sex as they are having today. And most adults did not have as many sexual partners as they do now. Whatever the benefits of this sexual explosion, it has had consequences. Nineteen million STD infections in the United States every year is a staggering number.
The United States government spends only about 50 cents per person fighting STDs. That is pitiful. Sex education in schools is heavily censored; condoms are not advertised widely, are not readily available and cost too much. Friends don’t talk to each other about sexual health. Doctors don’t take sexual histories. Therefore, many STDs go undiagnosed and untreated. I am not even discussing the huge number of unwanted pregnancies and teen parents in our country.
Our society treats STDs as if they are the price we must pay for our sinful sexual behavior. Most of us feel guilty for our sexual desires and therefore think that when we get an STD, we are getting what we deserve. One of the AHF billboards that gets the biggest response is: “No Judgmental Bullshit.” Innately, people understand that judgment is deadly when it comes to fighting STDs. Only by bringing the subject out into the open is there any hope of curbing the STD epidemic.
The next sexual revolution has begun—it is the battle for sexual health. We have a right to a sexual life that is as free from disease as it can possibly be. We know that the more sexual partners we have, the more risk we are taking—that is a fact.
We know that STDs will never disappear. However, society should take the business of making sex safe as seriously as it does fighting the flu. A concerted effort to reduce STDs would definitely succeed. Public health practices are tried-and-true—if we use them.
A combination of condom promotion and distribution, quality sex education, excellent routine screening systems, education for medical providers and other measures would be relatively easy and cheap, and would bring excellent results. The only question that remains is: can we control the small, radical minority that is against healthy sexuality? We can if the lazy, apathetic majority speaks out and demands a change. It’s up to you.