hawaii, reese, and anal sex

Well, I’m in Hawaii, and you know what? They should really market this place as a vacation destination or something. It’s nice!
I’m staying at a lovely cottage in Kailua, which is a lovely little town on the northeast shore of Oahu. Not touristy, not resorty — just a nice middle-class town with a great beach. Haven’t seen any identifiable tourists yet, although I’m sure they’ll pop up. I’m right around the corner from Kailua Intermediate, home of one of the cooler mascots I’ve heard of, the Junior Surfriders. Mad props to the estimable Lisa — occasional commenter on these pages, Friend-Of-Crabwalk, and former Hawaii resident — for suggesting the place.
Rental car note: Any initial excitement you may have at being offered a cheap convertible at Dollar Rent-A-Car will be extinguished the moment you step into your Chrysler Sebring and realize you’ve seen lawnmowers with more power.
In other F.O.C. news, congrats to Reese on the birth of son Hank. (Actually, in the email he sent out, Reese only refers to “the baby,” but I’m making the assumption that a child named Hank is a son, not a daughter. I think that’s pretty safe.)
And, finally, I’d like to point out this article in Slate by the weirdly conservative Will Saletan. (I don’t mean politically conservative — I mean stylistically conservative. I always imagine him writing with a bow tie and a schoolmarm’s pucker.) It details how the media missed the boat when reporting on the CDC’s recent release of sexual-activity data. Newspapers all reported on the (shocking!) fact that a lot of teenagers perform oral sex. They missed the big story, he says, which was that around 35 to 40 percent of young adults have had anal sex.
Now, what minor media organization focused on the anal-sex numbers the moment the data came out? This one.
Where I disagree with Saletan is his tsk-tsking that this is awful awful awful because more anal sex means we’re all going to die of AIDS. (That’s an ever-so-slight oversimplification of his argument, but there you have it.) But Saletan himself quotes the CDC’s own stats on HIV transmission:
According to data released earlier this year by the Centers for Disease Control, the probability of HIV acquisition by the receptive partner in unprotected oral sex with an HIV carrier is one per 10,000 acts. In vaginal sex, it’s 10 per 10,000 acts. In anal sex, it’s 50 per 10,000 acts.
This fits in with a long-time crabwalk obsession: HIV is actually really hard to get if you’re a healthy heterosexual American. Re-read those numbers: If you have unprotected vaginal sex with someone who is HIV positive, you still only have about a 1-in-1,000 chance of becoming infected yourself. Oral sex is 1-in-10,000, and even unprotected receptive anal sex with a HIV-positive partner is only 1-in-200. How many sex-ed classes are honest about that? If they’re anything like the classes I took as a kid, they pretty much all said any of those scenarios meant instant death.
(Also note that all of those stats are for the receptive partner — i.e., the woman, if we’re speaking heterosexually. Female-to-male transmission is several times more difficult than that.)
The fact of the matter is that, as long as you’re not sleeping with bisexuals or IV drug users, heterosexual Americans just don’t get HIV. It just doesn’t happen. The number of heterosexual-to-heterosexual transmissions among otherwise healthy Americans is vanishingly small.
Now, none of this is to say (a) we should cut AIDS funding or anything stupid like that — we should of course do the opposite; (b) that AIDS in Africa is a myth of some sort — it’s not, because poorly maintained African bodies are much more likely to ease transmission; I spent six weeks in Africa reporting on this; (c) that there aren’t plenty of other bugs out there that are no fun at all and are much easier to transmit than HIV (herpes chief among them); or (d) that the fact AIDS is still primarily a gay problem in this country makes it even one iota less important.
But I don’t like false scaremongering, and that’s what we’ve traditionally had in this country about HIV. It comes from a good place — the idea being that heteros won’t care about AIDS unless they can be convinced it will affect them — but it’s just wrong.

One thought on “hawaii, reese, and anal sex”

  1. I think you should start a campaign to educate Americans about their back-door propensities. Hmmm. All the URLs I’m thinking of are probably already taken…

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