Well, I am not buying it. I have reviewed my finances, weighed the options, and I am certain I cannot make the purchase. On May 7, 2018, the Los Angeles Times published a story titled, STDs in L.A. County are skyrocketing. Officials think racism and stigma may be to blame, and in the piece, Soumya Karlamangla expresses a great deal of concern for a serious issue afflicting an alarmingly high number of marginalized and underrepresented citizens. However, in the process of this noble pursuit, Karlamangla and the various sources she cites make a frustratingly immense amount of preposterous statements that either obstruct potential solutions or avoid the issue.
The facts presented in the piece appear reputable. There is no reason to doubt Karlamangla when she reports that, “Nationwide, STD rates have been climbing for the past five years. More people were diagnosed with syphilis, chlamydia or gonorrhea in 2016 than ever before.” Her findings regarding the pervasiveness of STDs within minority communities are also alarming. She explains, “Gay and bisexual men make up the vast majority of new syphilis cases. In L.A. County, syphilis rates among African American women are six times higher than white women and three times higher than Latina women.”
These realities immediately strike both sympathy and concern in the average individual, and rightfully so. The entire piece is saturated with depressing and harsh truths but when the focus turns towards analysis and speculation, the trouble begins. Karlamangla goes off the rails and dive-bombs into some territory that appears to be governed by the polar opposites of logic and reason.
The piece begins with an anecdote about teenagers learning about condoms in a sex education program in order to combat ‘stigma’ associated with sex. Karlamangla goes on to explain how STDs are rising among young people, stating specifically that, “In L.A. County, half of chlamydia cases and a third of gonorrhea cases diagnosed each year are among people between the ages of 15 and 24.” According to Karlamangla, sex is too stigmatized and demonized in the eyes of the youth, so naturally they respond by engaging in high risk sex at unprecedented rates. Well, this contention seems fairly self-contradicting.
Her first mistake is overemphasizing the importance of sex education, a topic that unfailingly provokes laughter from virtually anyone who has endured such a course. In the eyes of many well-meaning individuals, sex education. is essential to the health and well being of our younger generations. In reality, sex education classes are primarily fodder for subsequent jokes to be told by diminutive adolescent buffoons. In the interest of thoroughly dispelling the mythically divine importance of this invaluable curriculum, let us proceed in fully unsealing the rancid jar of mayonnaise that is sex education.
Sex education is a pitiful collection of half hour lectures delivered by an awkward physical education teacher who desperately attempts to appear smooth by shrugging or leaning on things. They clumsily explain the danger of AIDS, extolling the benefits of masturbation, and reminding their students about the importance of safe sex and condom use. As you might expect, the average veteran of such programs has little new information, few altered opinions, and a handful crass jokes at their disposal.
The piece attempts to prop up this curriculum as life changing and miraculous by quoting a number of rambunctious youth. They talk about the taboo nature of sex in their household and that they had no idea one could contract an STD through anal sex. While it is not impossible for these statements to be true, it seems unlikely they are well subscribed views, considering the availability of online pornography, the prevalence of sexually explicit lyrics and themes in popular music, and the availability of basic facts regarding sex and other basic biological concerns.
Karlamangla further bolsters this point by explaining how hookup apps may be encouraging people to have sex with more partners. So which is the true face of the problem? Are our youth chaste, timid, sexually repressed amish folk or are they sex obsessed lotharios and succubi prowling for a good time? They can’t be both.
The piece dredges up a few related topics that may be contributing to the rise of STDs, such as pollution and systemic racism. Well, it’s safe to say the malevelovent ghosts of Jefferson Davis, Christopher Columbus, and Hernán Cortés are not covertly contaminating the genitals of minority youth with stds. The unholy, spectral three amigos of racism are not behind this particular issue. Nor is some vile, toxic fiend from the depths of the landfill to blame for the dramatic rise of STDs in the country and Los Angeles specifically.
Nevertheless, pollution and systemic racism are factors that no doubt negatively affect the quality of life for people living in low income neighborhoods, which bear the brunt of these social ills. The piece describes how “poorer americans” are more likely to engage in risky sexual behavior. This is no surprise. If someone lives in an area where they are constantly reminded of their mortality and have few if any educational and employment opportunities, than they will likely become apathetic to danger and drawn to hedonist behavior that distracts them from their harsh realities.
However, personal responsibility still exists even under such circumstances and in fact exists under any circumstances. Yet this concept is totally absent from the piece. Suffering does not make every kind of behavior permissible. There is ample evidence that constant, unprotected sex, drug abuse and other coping or numbing activities are not the means to any positive end. If you know people whose lives have been adversely affected by STDs, unplanned pregnancies, and drug abuse, then why would you emulate their actions? It’s one thing to ignore reason and destroy yourself, but doing so and then complaining about society and pushing blame outwards is a painfully obvious evasion of personal responsibility.
The piece also asserts that people are simply too embarrassed to go to clinics and be tested for STDs because they are so stigmatized. This cannot be a respectable contention. Fist of all, anytime you compromise your health in some fashion, it will be embarrassing to admit it and approach a medical professional later for help. However, that embarrassment is rarely ever viewed as legitimate justification for ignoring a health problem, especially one that has the potential to harm others. Doctors should take STDs seriously because they are serious ailments. This serious attitude professionals have for health concerns should not be misinterpreted as stigma. It can’t be employed as some kind of excuse for procrastinating getting medical treatment or avoiding it completely.
This excuse of embarrassment is truly petty and vulgar. Consider that Richard Pryor, one of the greatest stand-up comedians of all time once ingested an immense amount of free base cocaine and lit himself on fire, causing severe burns across his body. In the wake of this, Pryor not only sought and received medical treatment but he joked about the incident publicly. In his classic stand-up special, “Richard Pryor: Live at the Sunset Strip,” he remarks that his favorite joke he had heard about the incident was when someone lit a match, moved it as if it was hopping, and joked that it was “Richard Pryor running down the street.” If an 80s era comedian can admit to and joke about snorting a ton of columbian marching powder and self immolating, than any young adult should be capable of mustering the courage to tell a doctor that they have had casual sex and may have contracted an STD.
Chastity is not the solution this piece was moving towards, in case you were under that impression. Celibacy is for the weak, promiscuity for the freaks and all the decent people can reside comfortably in a place that understands the meaning of the words moderation and caution.