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Rubber souls

Not only can pushing the use of condoms increase the risk of AIDS; condoms are depressing too. Turns out there is evidence that so-called “safe sex” is bad for mental health.

Well gee whiz, that just can’t be right, can it?

Sure it can. After all, as “organic living” fanatics never tire of telling us, living in harmony with nature is the key to happiness. And there ain’t nothin’ more natural than “unprotected sex” – and the large families that result from it. No? (Cf. The Last Superstition, pp. 132-53)

To be sure, the “organic” crowd somehow never seems to draw this conclusion. Live organically! Go green! Go vegan! Be at peace with all living things! Oh, and chemically neutering yourself, wrapping your private parts in plastic before intercourse, and murdering your unborn offspring are all consistent with this.

Right. Got it.

Phony baloney indeed. Or as Someone once put it, “they strain out a gnat and swallow a camel.”

Comments (18)

One thing I find hillarious is that avowed darwinists often have small families (dawkins 1, hitchings has 3, Harris and Pinker to my knowledge has none and dennet only has 2), compared to my Great-Grandfather who had 9 children, a couple I know from Church who have 5 and two thirds (both are are in their mid-thirties)and Mohammed bin Laden who is reported to have fathered 53 children (including Osama)

methinks that St Charles of Gallopicos and his band of devotees didn't get the frack all day and all night because you're genes tell to part quite right :)

I'm not entirely surprised by this, even scientifically. I seem to recall a study some years ago that found semen has an antidepressant effect on women (as compared to sexually active women using condoms—frequency of intercourse and frequency of orgasm were ruled out as causal factors).

On the flip side, I will confess to being somewhat suspicious of the Freudian categories that appear to underlie this result. "Immature psychological defense mechanisms" sounds like a pretty value-laden description to me, and I have serious reservations about Freud's sources of value.

Peace,
--Peter

Yes, pushing the use of condoms can (under certain circumstances!) increase the risk of AIDS - in just the same way as pushing the use of sun lotion can increase the risk of sunburn, namely by a psychological process called 'risk compensation': You may be inclined to feel safer and therefore to take more risks.

But does this mean that we should abandon sun lotion? Or that condoms are worthless as prophylaxis against AIDS and other diseases? Of course not. And the author (Edward Green) of the study Feser cited above, certainly didn't say so!

Here is a crucial part of the linked interview:

William Crawley: You accept that condoms do work in other parts of the world, like the Western World, for example?

Edward Green: I do. And they should have a back-up role even in the generalised epidemics of Africa. I believe condoms should be made available to everyone. It should be, and as you say, the ABC strategy: Abstain, Be faithful, use a Condom. Condoms may well have contributed to the prevalence decline in Uganda.

William Crawley: That's a serious ideological difference between yourself and the Pope. He doesn't think that condoms should be used, even in the case of married Catholic couples where one of the partners is HIV-positive.

Edward Green: Yes, well, I don't agree with that. And, I have said that I am not a Catholic, and I am not talking about condoms in any sort of moral-ethical sense. I am talking about what has been found to work and not work. So, yes, the article I mentioned by Hearst and Chen is very clear that condoms work in certain types of situations and certain sub-populations and condoms have had a positive national impact in certain concentrated epidemics. So, yes, I don't agree with the Pope across the board.

You wouldn't have guessed that, after reading Feser's block in isolation, would you?

Yes, awfully duplicitous of Prof. Feser to offer that quote without linking to the source! Oh, wait. He did.

Watch out for that monolithic "them". My parents, and my own family for that matter, are huge fans of being "organic". My Mom has a farm, and my wife buys our food at the farmer's market, and we all like Wendell Berry. We're also conservative Christians, as pro-life as you'll meet. I'm from a family of 4, and have 3 sons of my own. So am I'm in the "organic" crowd and I do draw this conclusion.

Grobi, you are missing the point. Catholics do not rely solely on practical arguments against condom use. After all, contraception is intrinsically contrary to natural law. The point is that advocates of condom use as a means of solving problems are not free of ideological agenda, meaning that they do not simply have the interests of others as their goal. They have a specific agenda that requires either the underemphasis of certain factual data or else its complete suppression by the media.

I would say as a practical matter that the sex education given to young people in a secular context also encourages the spread of STD's and teen pregnancy because a) it encourages earlier sexual activity by removing moral objections and conveying to young people that premarital teen sex is normal and b) relatedly, it gives young people, esp. young women, less of a feeling of adult back-up in resisting sexual overtures by the opposite sex. It is perfectly easy to see that young people may get the (a)moral message while rejecting or only inconsistently following the "protection" message, and of course some forms of "protection" (e.g., oral contraceptives) do not even make any pretense to protecting from STD's. It is by no means a foregone conclusion that the uptick in overall sexual activity will be even off-set, much less over-balanced, by an up-swing in the use of "protection," even if that "protection" always works perfectly, as of course it does not.

These, of course, are practical points aside from the moral questions. But they are practical points which "safe sex" advocates consistently refuse to admit.

Wait a minute. I was under the impression that condoms, effective as they may be when used properly and all that for preventing pregnancy, have no established effect for preventing the transmission of aids because the condom material is too porous to prevent the passage of a 5 micron AIDs virus through. This articles suggests that there is an effect, when used properly. Does anyone have an answer?

Tony,
You are thinking of lambskin condoms, which are too porous to prevent the passage of HIV. Latex condoms are able to prevent passage of HIV.

Tony
I asked my sister (RN) the same question about a year ago, because I clearly remember being taught that all condoms, not just lambskin, were ineffective at stopping the virus. She looked puzzled, then remembered my age, and told me with a chuckle that I grew up in the dark ages of HIV/AIDS awareness and education.

The Vatican's official position on condom use for AIDS prevention continues to be that it's prudentially unjustifiable as a general matter. See this 2003 paper from the head of the Pontifical Council on the Family. But there's a significant school of Catholic thought according to which even prophylactic condom use is intrinsically illicit, not merely a bad idea for the most part. Zippy Catholic, among others, holds that position, which I have debated with him and others before.

The argument runs roughly like this:

(1) In order to be morally licit, a given act of sexual intercourse must count as a "conjugal act."

(2) In order to count as a conjugal act, a given act of sexual intercourse must be intended by the couple to culminate in the deposition of semen in the vagina.

(3) Condom use, even when intended purely to prevent disease transmission, is intended to prevent depositing semen in the vagina.

(4) Ergo, condomistic intercourse does not count as a conjugal act. (2,3)

(5) Ergo, condomistic intercourse is morally illicit irrespective of its purpose. (1,4)

The key premise is of course (2). Its defenders cite a ruling of the Holy Office issued in the 1940s, which I have read but cannot find at the moment. But it's interesting that the Vatican itself has not cited that ruling since the AIDS-condom controversy got underway.

"My Mom has a farm, and my wife buys our food at the farmer's market, and we all like Wendell Berry. We're also conservative Christians, as pro-life as you'll meet."

I was going to mention Berry too, WFO. He's one "organic type" who has drawn this conclusion regarding food and sex. Allan Carlson's another. Dr. Feser does have a point when it comes to the lefty organic types, but not all organic types are lefties.

What's funny is how the left-leaning organic types who just love ol' Wendell tend to ignore him when he writes about sex.

Wait a minute. I was under the impression that condoms, effective as they may be when used properly and all that for preventing pregnancy, have no established effect for preventing the transmission of aids because the condom material is too porous to prevent the passage of a 5 micron AIDs virus through. This articles suggests that there is an effect, when used properly. Does anyone have an answer?

Yes. The virus is carried by the semen. The virus doesn't say, "Hey! This condom is full of giant holes! Let's ditch this semen and leap for freedom!" To wit: If the semen doesn't get through, the virus doesn't get through. Those of us opposed to condom use (myself included) need to drop the porous objection. Rather, it is better to argue on failure rate. Another commentor put it:

And the condomaniacs get away with it because John Q Public doesn’t understand that probability is multiplicative, not additive; the odds (of preventing infection) go down as he continues his risk-taking.

NIH advertises an 86% effective rate for condoms in preventing pregnancy. Lets put that in terms we can understand:

Would you jump out of a plane with 99 others skydivers, knowing that 14 parachutes wouldn’t open? then get in and do it again and again and… the probability of surviving 10 jumps is only 22%, 20 jumps and its down to 4%, and there is only 1% chance of surviving 30 jumps.

The probability of surviving 100 jumps is .0000282%.

Now, no one will tell you the probability of a condom’s effectiveness preventing HIV infection (because to run a test would be highly immoral and even considered unethical by the secularists), so the only thing we can go on is the high failure rate of condoms in preventing pregnancy.



Italics starting at "And the condomaniacs..." should have continued to end.

NIH advertises an 86% effective rate for condoms in preventing pregnancy. Lets put that in terms we can understand:

Would you jump out of a plane with 99 others skydivers, knowing that 14 parachutes wouldn’t open? then get in and do it again and again and… the probability of surviving 10 jumps is only 22%, 20 jumps and its down to 4%, and there is only 1% chance of surviving 30 jumps.

Scott, that's not what the statistic represents. 86% success does not mean that 14 % of the time you use a condom, pregnancy results. It means that for 100 couples using condoms for a year, there will be 14 pregnancies during the year. Since there are a lot more than 100 acts of intercourse during the year, the per/act rate of pregnancy is a lot lower than 14%. It probably works out to something like 14 out of 5,000 or 10,000 acts of intercourse.

However, since a woman can only achieve a pregnancy during a few days each month, these 14 pregnancies probably occur as a result of some 800 to 1,000 acts of intercourse during the days where pregnancy could have occurred had no condom been used. So the actual per act pregnancy rate is probably more in line with 14 / 1000, or to be conservative and express it as an estimate, between 1 and 3 percent.

However, not every act of intercourse that happens at the right time and is open to conception results in a conception, so the fact that 14 / 1000 is the rate of per act pregnancies does not tell us the per act rate of condom failure. I don't know what the actual statistic is for per act conception rate is when not obstructed and in the right place at the right time (this is a pretty hard statistic to construct), but if it is 20%, then this would imply the per act failure rate is 5 times as much as the 14 pregnancies per 1000 acts that were in the right place at the right time, or about 70 / 1000, or 7%. That is, the per act failure rate would be 7% (based on a pure guess of 20% of the rate of conception when in the right place at the right time, and an estimate of roughly 1/5 or 1/6 of the total acts of sex occurring during the woman's fertile days.)

However, since you can be infected with AIDS any time you have sex, not just the few days per month of fertility, a 7 % failure rate per act means an exposure to AIDs of 7% of the time. Which is just a modified form of Russian Roulette.

Most of the people who scoff at "Vatican Roulette" for birth control have no qualms about "Rubber Roulette" when it comes to HIV prevention. Does that mean they think pregnancy is a disease worse than AIDS?

If we're encouraging condom use as a solution to AIDS in Africa with the intent that those infected with HIV will use a condom when they have sex, then we're setting the bar pretty low. In my humble opinion, if you have HIV or AIDS, then forget the condoms; you need to take a vow of chastity. I suppose one might not know they are infected, but if you are in a country where 25% of the population is infected, maybe having sex with anyone isn't the best course of action to take.

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