Gender, race, and sexual orientation inequalities run around naked all day for everyone to observe, all over the world (though many turn a blind, scandalized eye). But one rather juicy piece of exposed, bigoted flesh should get some extra ogling today, after a recent CDC report. It elucidates the inequality of gender-, race-, and orientation-based health tests/studies. Invariably, these tests are not only biased, they are blatantly so; in turn, the media reports and methods of prevention and reform are also skewed towards unequal and unfair consideration.
The latest report, which came out this week, details the CDC's finding that among US teenage women, 1 in 4 have some sort of STD. Those reported STDs ranged from chlamydia, to HPV, to HIV/AIDS. HPV, as many media outlets have been clear about reporting in the past year or so, is the virus that can lead to cervical cancer --obviously a disease that only effects those of us with cervices. But men are at least "carriers" of all the diseases listed (though with most STDs, men suffer the same symptoms as women).
The way the CDC, and those reporting this supposedly news worthy story, is the first issue. It's not "roughly 25% of teenage women," it's not "One-fourth of the female teenage population," or anything of that nature. They make this study personal: One in Four Teenage Girls. (and this is how practically every media outlet is phrasing it) Let's break this down. "One in Four": this implies proximity. Not one-fourth, which suggests a fraction, which by definition means only a part. By saying "one in four" the reader (and especially the white male reader) is implored to consider the obvious: "think of four women--you know quite a few. Well, one might have the clap." Next, consider "teenage girls". The term "girls" suggests that these sexually active women can't possibly take care of their own sexual health. This is the best type of fear mongering we've seen in a while: it not only admonishes young women, it scares parents, potential sexual partners, and women themselves. The article practically screams: "Why, don't you see: these young "girls" shouldn't be trusted to make their own decisions about their sexual lives. They've gone and mucked up all the boys' fun."
But the problem with this saddening study (because 25% of teens with STDs IS saddening) is that it completely disregards the male aspect of this report. Doing a quick search on the CDC website, and special section on STD prevention, you can find reports on women, and the general population as a whole, and minorities, and studies broken out based on sexual orientation. What you cannot find is a good study on the rates of STDs among your average, straight, white males. Hmmm. Why is it that we place the research blame on women and minorities and gays? In the study, it also highlights how black women have an even higher risk of STDs. What about white and black men? Why is it solely the responsibility of the woman to get tested for STDs, as the CDC heartily recommends? Oh, and telling your partner about any STDs you might have--that's a woman's job too. Because men, well, they're only having sex with one woman, always. And that's verily true, it is--we got this little tidbit from Elliot Spitzer, so you know it's legit. And women should be the ones with whom the responsibility to get treated lies. Men don't need the HPV vaccine, because they wouldn't ever get cancer. But, ahem, they can still transmit it. If you found the cure for HIV, would you exclude giving it to any population that was only a carrier and didn't themselves contract full blown AIDS? I think not. In order to best serve the women, it would be a valid argument to vaccine both sexes. For more, read here why men should be similarly vaccinated.
And this just in:
Here's another orientation, gender, and race skewed report by the CDC, that hopes to incite fear and reinforce bias. It talks about how gay men are reportedly more likely to contract syphilis. The study does say that men are six times more likely to contract this disease, but they quickly include that the primary transmitters are gay, and that the researchers "also called rises [in syphilis] among women and blacks troubling." The article also points out that the increase stems from "high-risk behaviors" (whatever that means) and "multiple partners." This language is even more insidious than that of the teenage girl article, because it suggests, very overtly, that gay males are in some way more apt to commit risky or irresponsible behaviors. Well, sorry, but high-risk behavior (like unprotected sex, and other, non-vaginal forms of sex) as well as having multiple partners, happens with ALL sexual people--regardless of orientation or sex. And the rather tactless implication of this article is that only gay men practice certain behaviors. The fact of the matters (sexual and otherwise) is that white, straight, rich men have a better ability, and the need and want to cover up their sexual activities. What's more is that often what is reported by certain groups varies--is a middle aged married man willing to admit to his sexual escapades, especially if they're Spitzer-style risky? What is reported, and what is happening in the collective sex life of all Americans is much more than meets the eye, and you can bet the CDC.