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The Slippery Condom Cover-Up

Nicholas Kristof has come out against those legions of radical right-wingahs who seek to rip the condoms from the erect penises of sexually active men everywhere. Okay, I'm exaggerating. Kristof supports the good works of Christians throughout the world in battling AIDS, but, he says:

But young people have been busily fornicating ever since sex was invented, in 1963 (as the poet Philip Larkin calculated), and disparaging condoms is far more likely to discourage their use than to discourage sex.

Well, there's nothing like arguing against the extreme. Nuances in approach? No such thing. Promote or disparage. Here's a difference between online writers and the old-fashioned Big Media folks: no sources are deemed necessary for the latter. Says Kristof:

"The only absolutely guaranteed, permanent contraception is castration," one Catholic site suggests helpfully. Hmmmm. You first.

We've no need to see the Web site; we can trust Kristof that it's from a mainstream Catholic group and that there is no relevant context. Here's a moderate statement that Kristof supports from the other side:

"The Bush administration position basically condemns [get it?] people to death by H.I.V./AIDS," said Adrienne Germain, president of the International Women's Health Coalition. "And we're talking about tens of millions of people."

What is one strategy for this mass murder? According to Kristof:

Yet the U.S. is now donating only 300 million condoms annually, down from about 800 million at the end of the first President Bush's term. Consider Botswana, which has the highest rate of H.I.V. infection in the world — 39 percent of adults. According to figures in a report on condoms by Population Action International, the average man in Botswana gets less than one condom per year from international donors.

After taking a moment to remember that there have been two presidents since the first President Bush left the White House, let's assume that the ratios behave simply and that U.S. donations correlate to those of other nations. Ratchet that 300 million back up 2.67 times to 800 million. That would give the average Botswanan swinger a resource of fewer than 2.67 condoms per year. Kristof doesn't suggest how many condoms would be necessary to protect a fella who isn't intimidated by the fact that 39% of his countrymen (and women) are HIV infected.

The Bush administration further took the ghastly step of modifying the Centers for Disease Control fact sheet on condoms. Here's the old version; here's the new one. You can decide for yourself which reads like a fact sheet and which reads like subjective advocacy.

Myself, I'm beginning to wonder about assertions that promotion of condom use doesn't lead to increased sexual activity. The old fact sheet spends a section arguing that it does not. Could there be a generation gap, here? As I've blogged before, I certainly felt like a loser for having no use for the free condoms to which I had access in the early nineties.

Instapundit Glenn Reynolds, via whom I found the Kristof article and who links to a more-thorough response from Medpundit, conveys an email comment from SKBubba that draws from Donohue — renowned for providing a forum for intelligent, measured, and moderate voices — to suggest that the abstinence movement will result in teen pregnancy and STDs. I'll respond to this and Kristof's "can't stop the mojo" declaration by recycling another condom-related one-liner from this site: Kids are going to do it anyway, so we might as well provide them with the means, location, inappropriate clothing, and pop-culture stimulus to facilitate this surety of nature.

Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:12 AM EST

1 Comment

Speaking of birth control that isn't 100% reliable, when I went in for a vasectomy, the receptionist gave me a form that said: "The proceedure you are about to have MAY cause sterility." I looked at her and said "MAY cause sterility? If we aren't 100% sure this is going to work, I'm not going to have it done." Like any good medical receptionist, she didn't react in anyway except to point and say "sign here sir" which I did and so far, so good.

Kevin Murphy @ 01/13/2003 02:17 PM EST