Tag Archives: legislation

STI Test Innovation: US vs. UK

In STI testing news over the weekend, the FDA halted over-the-counter sales of a testing service offered through Rite-Aid called Identigene and UK residents may soon be able to buy a cell-phone chip that, after spitting or peeing upon, can be plugged in and test for STIs.

First: how is the US lagging on this insanely cool nanotechnology? Consumers in the US only have access to urine-sample kits sent into a lab for processing. (I wrote about one such private service earlier this year.) The future of STI testing may be arriving soon, but not on this side of the pond.

Second: there is a big conceptual gap evidenced in these government agencies concerning STI testing.

Snip from the NYT Blog:

F.D.A. officials said they needed to first confirm the test was accurate.

There are “a lot of social implications if there is a false result, as you can imagine,’’ said Dr. Sally Hojvat, director of microbiology for the medical device division at the agency.

Another concern of the F.D.A. is whether people who test positive will have access to a doctor. Mr. Smith said Identigene has doctors on contract who will approve each test ordered and release the result. But he said the company could not ensure the doctors would talk to patients.

Snip from the Guardian:

Prof Noel Gill, head of HIV and STIs at the Health Protection Agency, the government agency that monitors infections and advises on containment strategies, said: “HPA surveillance has shown that the impact of STIs is greatest among young people and we hope that the application of new technology will help to reduce transmission of infection in this age group.

“This is an exciting research and development consortium which will develop new technologies that both improve and expand testing for STIs. As innovations become available, the HPA will co-ordinate large-scale evaluations within a network of collaborating STI clinics,” Gill added.

While there is no way to ensure with either technology that users will seek medical treatment, there is also no way to ensure a patient will take the antibiotics given to them. (Or follow any of a health professional’s advice. How many times has your dentist told you to floss?) The level of control exercised by the FDA on this matter seems mistrustful of consumers and favoring doctors. In contrast, the message from the UK agencies seem to simply be: “We’ll do whatever we can to get you tested.”

Personally, I don’t think the FDA should be restricting the public’s access to reliable STI tests. The most important thing is that the tests are accurate, accessible and results come with information on how to obtain treatment.

 

Screw Critical Thought. Blame Women, Feminism, or Men.

In Ur Societiez Feminizin Yer Menfolk

My friend Lydia W sent me an email with the subject heading: terrible article you could have a field day with.

I clicked on the link. I read the article “Are Women Feminizing Men?“. My response was simple:

“I almost started crying when I read this.”

Matthew Fitzgerald (author of Sex-ploytation: How Women Use Their Bodies to Extort Money From Men, an evidence-free rook, aka rant book) managed to spit out some of the worst sexist stereotypes in two tiny pages with nary a source to back up his claims.

Blanket statements about human nature applied to one gender? Check.

“typical female hypocrisy”

“women — shrewd and manipulating as they are”

“[Women] use [power] for sexual blackmail…”

Painting men as sex-centered simpletons? Check.

“Let’s face it: A man’s needs are pretty minimal. All he really asks for is regular sex and a cold one.”

“most guys will do just about anything to get laid.”

Power-Crazed Women

He seems to think that women are mad with power and that our uterii are staging a media takeover, saying “far more influential are movies like Mel Gibson’s cotton candy pander-fest What Women Want”.

Really? Let’s take a peek at the top grossing films of the last decade.

TOP TEN FILMS OF THE 2000s

(unadjusted domestic gross totals)

  1. Avatar (2009)
  2. The Dark Knight (2008)
  3. Shrek 2 (2004)
  4. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006)
  5. Spider-Man (2002)
  6. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)
  7. Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005)
  8. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
  9. Spider-Man 2 (2004)
  10. The Passion of the Christ (2004)

Every last one was a male-centric plot line. Nearly every last one is an action movie. All of them were directed by men, produced by men and starring men. Women are a minority behind and in front of the cameras. (For insight as to why, read this Salon’s roundtable with 10 powerful Hollywood women).

Power-Hungry Women?

So what’s the real dirt on women and power in this country? Gender equality isn’t as equal as this guy is shouting about. Yes, women are making gains in education but at a time when educational systems are crumbling. Yes, women make up 52% of the workforce but in low paying positions. In the Forbes top ten richest there are two women from the Walton Family (Wal-Mart) but their wealth was inherited.

Really, the U.S. ain’t doing so hot with gender equality. According to the World Economic Forum, the U.S. ranks #31 out of 115 for equality. Read the WEF report here, relevant snip below:

The Global Gender Gap Report measures the size of the gender inequality gap in four critical areas:

  1. Economic participation and opportunity – outcomes on salaries, participation levels and access to high-skilled employment
  2. Educational attainment – outcomes on access to basic and higher level education
  3. Political empowerment – outcomes on representation in decision-making structures
  4. Health and survival – outcomes on life expectancy and sex ratio

The Index’s scores can be interpreted as the percentage of the gap that has been closed between women and men.

This was out of 115 countries. When I read about women’s lives in other parts of the world, I really want to cry. Rape, honor killings, systematic abuses, minimal autonomy. Horrifying. We so often forget that in our own country, women have only really been making gains over the last century. Women around the globe need a leg up after centuries of unequal treatment. Please read this article in the New York Times about women’s rights around the world.

So to the haters out there: women’s rights are still an issue. We’re making progress, but not enough. I struggle to understand why people (usually men) direct such vitriol at women trying to succeed in life.

What boggles my mind even further is that Matthew Fitzgerald’s writings center around women as shrewd manipulators using sex as bait. I read his book’s Amazon reviews to get a feel for his audience and what I saw…well, it’s disturbing to think he’s right about any people in the world. But what he says resonates with some. In half of the reviews people exclaim “OMG! Women are totally like that!” but the only women I’ve seen use their bodies for financial gain were sex workers. So, women of the world using sex for manipulation: stop lying. Go ahead and be a sex worker. It’s OK. Just be upfront and tell the guy you’re fucknig him for rent money or a new purse.

And to the guys complaining/writing about those women: stop dating them. There are plenty of women that enjoy their financial freedom. There are also women that enjoy sex for its own sake.

At the heart of his writing, and much of the anti-feminist parading as anti-misandrist writing, is a very true frustration.

Are Equality Policies Rooted in Sexist Thought?

“The modern man walks around on eggshells, afraid of saying the “wrong thing,” scared of showing his natural sexual interest to a woman, scared of being scorned, humiliated, or even fired — scared of his own true self.”

Exaggeration (and heteronormative) but a phenomenon I see with some men of my generation. They’re…. Peter Pans? No. Hesitant is a better word. Prone to inertia. And I think the writer is on to something when he points out the role of politically correct speech and sexual harassment charges.

Before you get all riled up: sexual harassment is serious. Anyone in a position of power manipulating an underling sexually deserves punishment. But the way we lay out the law sometimes hinders equality and political correctness can be an ineffective solution.

I am thankful to have laws that prevent my higher-ups from sexually harassing or coercing me. But I resent a law on the books stopping someone from calling me “babe” or “chick”. I’m a grown woman and I should be able to easily say “Stop it”. If I have to, take the matter to a higher-up and keep pursuing it. There is something creepily paternalistic about some of the sexual harassment guidelines, particularly when schools use suspension as a behavioral intervention for inappropriate touching. I am also frustrated with a world that lumps flirting with sexual harassment, that pegs any sexual move from a guy as predatory and aggressive. Sexism underlies these policies. We assume men to be sexually aggressive and women always dislike sexual attention and need outside intervention. The regulations are necessary but we need to look at ineffective and harmful aspects of these policies, lest our solutions create more problems than answers.

Which leads me to an uncomfortable question, still unresolved in my own mind: when we create policies to spur equality through encouraging preferential treatment for disadvantaged groups, should those policies only be short term? By carving them in stone will we, over time and gains in equality, have laws with unequal treatment? And are we sending the message that women need this protection permanently? We certainly need to give a leg up to historically oppressed and disadvantaged people but at what point can we resume an even playing field? Do permanent laws of preferential treatment hurt in the long-term and uphold racist and sexist ideals?

The Blame Game

Whatever the answers to the above questions, one thing is certain: we cannot sit and point fingers at other groups or nebulous ideologies. Yes, it’s comforting name our monsters but ultimately misleading. Men are not at fault for all the world’s problems. Women are not at fault for the current masculinity crisis and anxieties. Feminism (whatever you think that is) has not ruined gender relations. Agitated, yes, but that needed to happen. The old gender order wasn’t working.

But when we agitate a cultural bedrock like gender roles we need to think critically about how to reconstruct gender relations in society. Some would say eradicate gender, but I disagree. You will find cultures with two, three, four, five or six genders but you will not find gender-less socieites. So while I feel so sad when I see inflammatory, gender-stereotyped, sexist analysis that plays the blame game, I know it’s a mistake to write it off wholesale. Just because someone else won’t engage in critical thought (or provide any evidence to back their claims) doesn’t mean the frustration isn’t valid.

The problem is not feminism or women withholding sex. It’s that we need a new construction of masculinities, alongside femininities, that deal with harmful aspects of male gender while encouraging men to shine and succeed in life. We need to deal with the sexist man-bashers of every gender. We need to deal with restrictive gender roles in general because the times, they’re a-changin’.

Proposed Sexting Laws Solve Nothing

"So that's how Sally's breasts landed Quinn in jail..."

New technology brings new moral panics. Zippers on pants in the early 20th century scandalized older generations. (Easy genital access!) Cars created a moral panic among mid-20th century parents. (Our kids can have sex in those things and we can’t stop them!)

Cell phones and computers draw the same type of ire. The youth will use it for sexy stuff! They will be defiled! Panic!

So if new technology brings moral panics, what do moral panics bring? Stupid, stupid laws and court cases. First, prosecutors charged teens with child pornography for taking and sending naked photos of…themselves. As you can imagine, this didn’t go over too well.

Knowing that we can’t charge a “child” (is 16 really a child?) with pornographing themselves, several state legislatures created teen-targeted sexting bills. So, instead of a felony charge for the cock-pic, you may only get a misdemeanor in Ohio or Arizona if the sexting bills pass. A New york lawyer is seeking federal legislation on teen sexting. Vermont is the only state considering decriminalizing consensual sexting between teens ages 13-18.

Conservative Christian groups like the United Methodist Church are not happy about Vermont Senate Bill 125. Pat Trueman, legal counsel of the Alliance Defense Fund, says “It’s the only state in the union ever to consider legalizing the production of child pornography.”

[Point of order: a teenager is not a child. We make a distinction between children, adolescents and adults in our culture. Don't conflate the terms for your own political gain. That's just tacky. Not to mention dishonest and misleading.]

Everyone needs to take a collective deep breath and think about the right approach to a serious issue. We want to protect teens from making life-destroying decisions. High school is a tumultuous time and the mortification of nude pics passed around the school is very real and damaging. Recent sexting legislation debates in Ohio came about after 18 year-old Jesse Logan committed suicide after the colliding stress of a friend’s suicide and nude photos of herself circulating among other students at her high school.

But simply downgrading charges from felony to misdemeanor is not the answer. We are still telling teens that their sexuality is dangerous. This message we instill does not magically disappear when a teen steps into legal adulthood at 18. If we all agree that adults are allowed to sext each other even though it’s usually a stupid idea, legislative action against teens is the wrong move, especially considering how few teens do it in the first place. Teenagers are not the drunk, sexting, hormone-saturated maniacs the media portrays.

How about, you know, talking to teens? If you have not seen the LG teen texting safety campaign with James Lipton, go check out their “Give It A Ponder” website. (Or check out their collection of videos here.) This is a perfect example of non-punitive measures to deal with one aspect of this issue.

Beyond these PSAs, a good start would be open discussions with teenagers about sexuality, something that is confusing territory enough for adults. I spoke with a couple of high school students today about the sexting laws and one girl brought up an excellent point: “Say, like, a girl does it because she doesn’t want to have sex but she doesn’t want to be a prude. That’s not really fair that she’ll still get punished.”

That statement sums up the tightrope walk experienced by many teens. Do it, don’t do it, try to find an alternative that allows some degree of social acceptance, get in trouble all the same.

Thanks to @josephpred for alerting me to AZ Senate Bill 1266.

Research: The Abstinence Study is on Repeat

via photographyandmash.com/blog
This seems familiar...

I’ve already written an analysis on the “abstinence” study conducted by Jemmott et al. but when I did so, I had no idea that this was older news than most people realized.

Jemmott et al. already did this study. In 1998.

Violet Blue sent me a link to a findings summary from 1999 on Japan Aids Prevention Awareness Network . (Who is on top of her shit? Violet Blue, that’s who.) One of the articles, written by Mike Mitka, presented recent research on teens private sexual behaviors.

One of those studies was from none other than Jemmott and his Princeton team titled Abstinence and Safer Sex HIV Risk-Reduction Interventions
for African American Adolescents
.

All three investigators in the 1998 study (John B. Jemmott III, PhD; Loretta S. Jemmott, PhD, RN; Geoffrey T. Fong, PhD) conducted the recent Efficacy of a Theory-Based Abstinence-Only Intervention Over 24 Months.

Same academics. Same objectives. Same design. Same setting. Same population. The difference? Continue reading Research: The Abstinence Study is on Repeat

Research: Abstinence One of Several Effective Messages for Teens

The net is aflutter today with claims that abstinence-only sex education delays sexual debut among teens. Conservative publications say “We told you so!” and more liberal publications say, “Not so fast!.” What do the headlines about Jemmott et al’s Efficacy of a Theory-Based Abstinence Only Intervention over 24 Months even mean?

Let’s break it down.

Teens: African American 6th and 7th graders, 11-15 years at the start of the 2 year study (Mean age=12)

Delay Sex: No penis in the vagina within the 2 year follow-up period.

Abstinence Only: Abstain from sex (oral, vaginal, anal) until YOU feel ready. Understand links between sex and HIV, STIs and pregnancy. Give accurate info on condom efficacy.

Anything seem odd about that last one? Maybe because abstinence is not the only thing mentioned. So, abstinence-ONLY is a slight overstatement. (Dr. Charlie Glickman of Good Vibrations gives a succinct breakdown of why abstinence-only is a misnomer in this study.)

I teach my high school students that there are only two ways to absolutely prevent pregnancy and STIs. Abstinence and Masturbation. I tell them repeatedly not to have sex unless they want to take that step. We talk about the emotional complications and physical dangers of sex. We also talk about the immense potential physical pleasure and connection.

The media doesn’t care about the complicated conversations going on inside of classrooms. They want to prop the combative debates with their headlines even if they misrepresent the data. Dr. Petra breaks down the evidence behind the media circus. Joerg Dreweke at The Guttmacher Institute also reviewed the research.

What is the data, then? Continue reading Research: Abstinence One of Several Effective Messages for Teens

Teens Delay Sex. So What?

Grab Ass: The Newest Alarming Teen Sex Trend.

A recent study found that abstinence programs may delay the onset of sexual intercourse. I imagine we’ll see a big hoopla and debate surrounding these results because they contradict other assessments of sex education programs.

Abstinence supporters will see this as proof that AOUM (abstinence-only until marriage) programs work, opponents will point to other studies to prove AOUM programs don’t work. Who is right? It all depends on the definition of “work.”

Continue reading Teens Delay Sex. So What?