The CBC has a story posted today addressing the question of why only half of the girls who are eligible for free HPV vaccination in Ontario have actually gotten the vaccine. The answer, of course, is that under the influence of Catholic school boards and the like, parents are choosing not to have their daughters vaccinated in order to avoid the horror of teen female sexuality.
I read the article early on, when there were few comments, and most of them were in support of the vaccine, but I found even those ones telling, because several commenters seemed to think that it was worth pointing out that these women should be vaccinated, because even if we made good and sure to keep them virginal, they may end up infected by their husbands following marriage. While this point is of course true, the uncritical attitude toward male sexuality and the underlying assumption of the value of female virginity was pretty heavily present (I’m always struck by this kind of thing from those who seriously believe that they’re making new, persuasive and revolutionary arguments through the use of these kinds of sound bytes, even though I know it’s a really uncharitable thought).
The ignorant comment of the day, however, comes from a Mom concerned about her three daughters becoming sexually active (which, in her mind, is of course inevitable, or at least more likely, following this vaccination), who says:
For my girls to engage in sexual activity before marriage would almost certainly increase their risk of death from STD’s and abusive partners
(emphasis obviously mine)
It would be tough to argue that those who remain abstinent until marriage don’t carry lower risks of death from STDs, so I’ll give her that one (how much their risk of such drastic consequences as death would be increased might be a conversation worth having, especially given the availability of health care following contraction of the disease in addtion to, oh, I don’t know, vaccines). But abusive partners? I’ve done some work with women’s shelters and sexual assault centres, and I’ve read quite a bit of research on intimate partner violence, and I’ve never seen a reference to any evidence that suggests that abstinence until marriage decreases the likelihood of a woman ending up in an abusive relationship or ultimately marrying an abusive husband. Google searching risk factors turned up no reference whatsoever to abstinence before marriage as a factor that has ever even been studied.
It’s possible there’s a correlation, but to say “almost certainly” and to throw your protective resources behind encouraging your daughters to stay abstinent instead of becoming educated and educating your daughters about the actual dynamics of abuse demonstrates an insane amount of ignorance. This assumes first that the daughters won’t end up married to (and presumably sleeping with) an abuser, and second, that somehow, not having sex makes all relationships non-abusive. And when I really start thinking about what that implies, I wonder how much it speaks to an attitude that “Yes, well, you can’t expect a man to respect your body (by not beating/raping/murdering you) if you don’t respect it yourself (by not having consensual sex outside of marriage).
When you’re telling your daughter that if she’ll just keep her legs crossed until the ring is on her finger like a good little girl should, then she’ll be better able to avoid being murdered by an abusive partner, not to mention suggesting that you would rather she didn’t get vaccinated against a potentially fatal illness in case she misinterprets this as a shiny new license to have all the sex she wants in Grade 8, then I have to think that the handle of “love2learnmom” was a really poor selection on your part.