Germs of Promiscuity

Sexually Transmitted Infections

"Prior to 1960, there were only two significant sexually transmitted diseases: syphilis and gonorrhea. Both were easily treatable with antibiotics."1

Sexually transmitted diseases are among the most common infectious diseases in the world, with more than twenty different types.

What happened to unleash such an epidemic within a few decades? In a nutshell, the sexual revolution. Thanks in part to Alfred Kinsey's fraudulent research, which purported to prove that ordinary Americans were engaging in illicit, extramarital, and deviant sexual acts in large numbers, and in part to the advent of widely available artificial contraception, especially the Pill, sexual mores began to shift. Author Mary Eberstadt offers this succinct definition of the sexual revolution in her book, Adam and Eve After the Pill: Paradoxes of the Sexual Revolution: "the ongoing destigmatization of all varieties of nonmarital sexual activity, accompanied by a sharp rise in such sexual activity, in diverse societies around the world (most notably, in the most advanced)."

Statistics regarding sexual behavior before 1960 are hard to come by (except for Kinsey's now-discredited data). But it's fair to say that cultural norms pre-revolution tied marriage and sex together. Not so today. The results of a 2002 survey published by the Guttmacher Institute indicate that "almost all" Americans have sex before marrying.2 It's also reasonable to assume that individuals today typically have more sexual partners over their lifetimes than, say, their grandparents did, in part because people are marrying later. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median age at first marriage in 1950 was 22.8 for men and 20.3 for women. By 2010, the median age was 28.2 for men and 26.1 for women.

So what have the "destigmatization of all varieties of nonmarital sexual activity" and a "sharp rise in such sexual activity" wrought?

An epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases.


Here's a look at where things stand today, according to a 2013 report by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), titled "Incidence, Prevalence, and Cost of Sexually Transmitted Infections [STIs] in the United States":

CDC's new estimates show that there are about 20 million new infections in the United States each year, costing the American healthcare system nearly $16 billion in direct medical costs alone. . . . In addition, CDC published an overall estimate of the number of prevalent STIs in the nation. Prevalence is the total number of new and existing infections at a given time. CDC's new data suggest that there are more than 110 million total STIs among men and women across the nation.3 (emphasis added here and throughout)

(per the CDC):

• Chlamydia
• Gonorrhea
• Hepatitis B virus (HBV)
• Herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2)
• Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
• Human papillomavirus (HPV)
• Syphilis
• Trichomoniasis

(all stats and info courtesy of the CDC):

• Chlamydia
In 2013, there were 1,401,906 chlamydial infections reported to the CDC.
—Of those, 949,270 were among 15-to-24-year-olds.
—Most people infected with chlamydia have no symptoms.
—Chlamydia can cause "serious, permanent damage to a woman's reproductive system, making it difficult or impossible to get pregnant."

—Human papillomavirus is the most commonly transmitted STI.
—There are 14 million new cases reported annually.
—Most people with HPV don't know they're infected. First symptoms may be genital warts, an abnormal Pap test result (for women), or actual cancers.
—While some types of HPV are harmless, others are known to cause cancers of the head and neck, cervical cancer, and genital warts.
—There is no treatment for the HPV virus.

• HSV-2 (Genital Herpes)
—Herpes simplex virus 2 is a lifelong infection.
—Each year, approximately 776,000 Americans get genital herpes.
15.5 percent of Americans aged 14–49 are currently infected.
—Most people with genital herpes don't know they have it. And even with no symptoms, the infection can be passed to sexual partners. Genital herpes sores usually appear as blisters, which can break and cause painful sores.
—Genital herpes can lead to chronic infections, miscarriage, premature birth, and fatal infections in newborns.

• Gonorrhea
—Although the rates of this disease are declining, the CDC warns that gonorrhea has "progressively developed resistance to the antibiotic drugs prescribed for it."
—Symptoms include a burning sensation when urinating, and increased vaginal discharge.


The CDC report estimates that young people ages 15–24 account for about half of all sexually transmitted infections, despite the fact that they account for only 25 percent of the country's sexually active population.


"The surest way to protect yourself against STDs is to not have sex. That means not having any vaginal, anal, or oral sex ('abstinence')." So says the CDC.

is the author of the newly-released book, Don’t Let the Culture Raise Your Kids, published by Our Sunday Visitor.  She has been covering family issues for twenty-five years, as a producer for CBS News, a contributor to National Catholic Register, and a Senior Editor for Salvo magazine.  She has written for, First Things, WORLD magazine, and Touchstone.

This article originally appeared in Salvo, Issue #35, Winter 2015 Copyright © 2024 Salvo |


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