Unprotected: students exposed to disease and heartache

It is a continuing mystery how advanced Western societies can, with a straight face, declare that trans fats should be banned (as in New York City) but at the same time, ignore the health risks associated with non-monogamous sexual activity. Finally, someone with authority dares to speak out. Her name is Dr Miriam Grossman but she called herself Dr Anonymous when she wrote Unprotected: A Campus Psychiatrist Reveals How Political Correctness in her Profession Endangers Every Student. As a psychiatrist at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), she has treated thousands of college students over the past ten years. If you have a loved one in college, you owe it to them to read Unprotected to find out what is really going on.
Adults think they are teaching the young to be non-judgmental, but this translates into the young having no basis for making judgements about what is good for them. Although there is plenty of evidence that sex without commitment is emotionally and physically harmful, this evidence is carefully concealed from the young. So even while they are told to make their own decisions, the adults around them systematically understate the harms of non-marital sex. The author is especially effective because she dramatizes general points with the stories of particular individual students who typify a problem.

She tells of Brian, a gay student who came to her because he wanted medication to help him stop smoking. During the course of the session it transpired that he and his boyfriend often pick up other men. “It’s hard to be monogamous,” he explained. Neither Brian nor his boyfriend use condoms for protection. Neither has ever been tested for HIV. 

The author reviews her responsibilities toward patients suspected of having tuberculosis. The law expects the doctor to test students at-risk of TB. If the skin test is positive, she is required to give him a chest X-ray. If the combination of skin test and chest X-ray point to TB, the doctor is required to report him to the Department of Health within a day. Yet for students at-risk for HIV, she can only recommend testing and discourage unsafe activities. A man from Mars would conclude that we are more concerned about the health of TB patients than of HIV patients.

A student named Heather is referred for unexplained depression. After discarding numerous possible explanations, including academic pressure, poor health, death of a pet, the doctor asks Heather whether she has had any changes in her relationships. Heather thinks it over, “Well, I can think of one thing: since Thanksgiving, I’ve had a ‘friend with benefits.’ And actually I’m kind of confused about that... I want to spend more time with him, and do stuff like go shopping or see a movie. That would make it a friendship for me. But he says no, because if we do those things, then in his opinion we’d have a relationship– and that’s more than he wants. And I’m confused because it seems like I don’t get the ‘friend’ part, but he still gets the ‘benefits'.”
The author recounts the evidence that sexually active teenage girls are about three times more likely to be depressed and to have attempted suicide than girls who were not sexually active. She also recounts the evidence that women’s physiology creates this vulnerability. Women secrete a hormone called oxytocin during sexual activity, and while nursing a baby. Oxytocin promotes bonding, trust and relaxation. Mother Nature evidently is trying to get us to connect with our babies, and with our sex partners, who after all, might become the father to our children.
Oxytocin recently made an appearance in American politics. George Bush’s appointment to the Office of Population Affairs actually believes in abstinence. The Life-Style Left discovered that Dr Eric Keroack had once given a lecture in which he informed people about the bonding power of oxytocin. They went apoplectic, rather than confront the evidence on its own terms.
This refusal to face inconvenient facts cries out for explanation. One of the author's patients asked her, “Why, Doctor, do they tell you how to protect your body from herpes and pregnancy, but they don’t tell you what it does to your heart?”

I have my own theory about this, which is completely complementary with the author's experience. Far from being sexually neutral, tolerant and non-judgmental, the Life-Style Left subscribes to a covert ideology. I call it Condomism. Its chief tenets are that sex is a private recreational activity with no moral or social significance. Unlimited sexual activity is an entitlement. There are no harms associated with sex that cannot be controlled by condoms or other forms of contraception.
And if anyone complains about anything that can’t be controlled by condoms, well, those complaints are not worth taking seriously. Getting attached to inappropriate sex partners? Never happens. Women’s depression associated with uncommitted sex? Must be bad data. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder associated with abortion? A mere blip in the data, even though the author's back-of-the-envelope calculations show that if a mere 1 per cent of post-abortive women develop PTSD symptoms, that amounts to 420,000 traumatized women. That’s a lot of women to dismiss.
Unprotected is a bold and important book. Buy it. Read it. Pass it around. You may just save someone you love a lot of heartache.

Jennifer Roback Morse, PhD, is a Senior Research Fellow in Economics at the Acton Institute, and the author of Smart Sex: Finding Life-long Love in a Hook-up World.


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