What has happened to the 1950s tradition of courting? The concept of the romantic dinner and a movie has been ditched and replaced by a cheaper and easier way of getting laid: sex with strangers. At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, it has become socially acceptable to meet someone at the bar and sleep with them; no strings attached, except the embarrassing walk of shame/stride of pride (however you want to look at it). Although enjoyable for some, hooking up randomly can be dangerous; too often we ignore the serious health consequences of multiple sex partners. What is the real price of promiscuity?
On a campus with a student population of nearly 42,000, it is easy for a somewhat attractive person to find a new mate each weekend. But where were they the night before? From anecdotal evidence, it seems that people who have one-night stands are repeat offenders, drunken nomads who roam bars for sex. To coerce people into bed, expert “sluts” and “pimps” frequently employ clever tactics, such as lying about their sexual history to justify their licentious behavior. These people, the ones who routinely have sex with strangers, are often the messengers of sexually transmitted diseases.
Sexually transmitted infections can be transmitted by anybody who engages in unprotected vaginal intercourse, anal sex or oral sex with an infected partner. Dr. David Spear, Director of Clinical Services at University Health Services, estimates that only 50 percent of students at UW-Madison use a condom during sexual intercourse. This means that about half the time students engage in sex, they place themselves at a high risk for a plethora of common STIs: chlamydia, gonorrhea, hepatitis B, herpes B, HIV/AIDS, human papalloma virus (HPV) & genital warts and syphilis.
You do the math: If an average student sleeps with X number of other students during his four or five years at UW and uses a condom half the time, think about how many diseases he or she could potentially accumulate before graduation.
By the time we turn 25, nearly half of us will become infected with an STI, according to a new report released by the Center for Disease Control.
“Adolescences and young adults between the ages of 14 and 24 have the highest rates of STDs in the U.S.,” said Craig Roberts, an epidemiologist at UHS. “Just being in this age group and being sexually active with multiple partners would put someone at risk.” He added, “The biggest risk factor for getting an STI is having unprotected intercourse with a new partner.”
And this is exactly the problem. Because monogamous relationships have faded in popularity, single college students often engage in random sexual activity with multiple partners. Today, an increasing number of young men and women alike are choosing independence over a steady companion. We fear commitment; it prohibits our sexual freedom to do whatever we want when we want. While liberating in the sense that college students in open relationships have the opportunity to pursue other interests, the trend in sleeping with strangers has turned college campuses into a breeding ground for STIs.
Many students assume that if one’s genitals appear “clean,” they are disease-free. However, according to Planned Parenthood, a majority of STIs are asymptomatic, meaning that symptoms are not visible to the naked eye. Therefore, everybody who engages in unprotected sex places himself or herself at risk for STIs. In many cases, the person with the STI is unaware of it. The Center for Disease Control reports that as many as one in four Americans have genital herpes, yet at least 80 percent of those with herpes are unaware they have it.
Despite human nature and our physical desire for sexual pleasure, we must make using a latex condom a habit, even in the heat of the moment. And if we are too intoxicated to find one, we should not be having sex.
Dr. Spear emphasizes that if a condom is put on after pre-ejaculatory fluids have already been released, it is ineffective as a barrier to STIs.
Sexually active students should be concerned about their sexual health. We must take it upon ourselves to consistently use a latex condom for protection.
To schedule a free screening for STIs, contact the Blue Bus Clinic at University Health Services at 608-265-5600.
Rachel Alkon ([email protected]) is a junior majoring in English/creative writing.