Roundups Sexual Health

Sexual Health Roundup: Condoms at Catholic Schools, Meds for STI-Exposed Partners, and Bacon-Flavored Condoms

Martha Kempner

This week, Boston College gets support for its decision to halt student condom distribution, Nebraska tries to pass an expedited partner treatment law, and the bacon condom arrives just in time for April Fool's Day (but it's not a joke).

Sexual Health Roundup is a weekly summary of news and research related to sexual behavior, sexuality education, contraception, STIs, and more.

Boston College Threatens Students Who Distribute Condoms

Students at Boston College have been attempting to make up for the administration’s anti-condom policy by taking matters into their own hands. They have created Safe Sites, a network of dorm rooms and other locations where free condoms and safe-sex information are available to students. Though the administration of the Catholic college has known about this program for over two years, it only recently took action, sending a letter on March 15 that threatened disciplinary repercussions, including expulsion, if students did not shut the operation down.

The administration contends the distribution of condoms is in violation of the school’s religious beliefs. School spokesperson Jack Dunn said in a statement, “As a Jesuit, Catholic University, there are certain Catholic commitments that Boston College is called to uphold. We ask our students to respect these commitments, particularly as they pertain to Catholic social teaching on the sanctity of life.”

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Many students, however, believe that safer sex information and access to condoms are too important to be ignored, even if they violate certain beliefs. Lizzie Jekanowski, chairwoman of the BC Students for Sexual Health, which runs the Safe Sites program, told the Boston Globe, “People are having sex on campus both at BC and at other Catholic schools. Catholics and non-Catholics alike need access to this information to make the best decisions for their health.”

In a piece for Rewire last week, three recent Boston College graduates “strongly condemn[ed] the administration’s abrupt and cowardly interference with students’ attempts to educate their peers and provide them with the tools they need to lead healthy lives.”

Their professors are backing them up. The Boston College chapter of the American Association of University Professors said this in a statement, “While it is the university’s right to distribute or not distribute contraceptives through the student health center, we believe that taking disciplinary action against students for lawful actions undertaken in the privacy of their dorm rooms constitutes an infringement of their rights.”

Still, the administration is standing by its threat of action, and many other Catholic colleges have come out in support of the move. According to the Boston Globe, officials at University of Notre Dame, Georgetown University, the University of Dayton, Holy Cross, Providence College, and the Catholic University of America have all said that they do not allow students to distribute contraception and that a student who did so could face disciplinary action. As Victor Nakas, a spokesman for Catholic University put it, “One of the teachings of our faith is that contraception is morally unacceptable. Since condoms are a form of contraception, we do not permit their distribution on campus.”

The students are set to meet with administrators at the end of April. In the meantime, they plan to continue the availability of condoms at Safe Sites. The local American Civil Liberties Union has also said it might become involved to protect the rights of the students involved.

Nebraska Law Would Allow for Antibiotic Prescriptions Without the Testing in Some Cases

Lawmakers in Nebraska debated a measure last week that would allow doctors to prescribe antibiotics without an exam to the sexual partners of patients diagnosed with chlamydia or gonorrhea, two of the most common bacterial sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

The bill, LB 528, was sponsored by Sara Howard, the newly elected state senator from Omaha. Howard says she is concerned with the high rates of STIs in her area (there were more than 3,300 cases of chlamydia and more than 860 cases of gonorrhea reported in Douglas County last year) and wants to make it easier for doctors to stop the spread of the disease, especially among individuals who are unwilling or unable to go to the doctor.

Under the bill, doctors would be required to write the partner’s name on the prescription and would be asked to follow procedures set up by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for calling the partner and asking about possible drug allergies. An amendment added to the bill would also require physicians to give general STI information along with the prescription.

The practice is called Expedited Partner Therapy (EPT), and it is supported by public health experts, including the CDC.  According to a fact sheet published but the National Coalition of STD Directors and the Council of State Government, EPT works:

Patients diagnosed with chlamydia or gonorrhea who received EPT were:

  • More likely to report that all of their sexual partners were treated than those who were told to refer their partners for treatment;

  • Less likely to report having sex with an untreated partner; and

  • Less likely to be diagnosed with another infection at a follow-up visit.

State laws on the subject vary. According to a CDC analysis of the law, 32 states have laws or policies that allow EPT (it is also allowed on a pilot basis in Baltimore); EPT is “potentially allowable” in 11 additional states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico; and seven states have laws or policies that likely prohibit EPT. Nebraska is currently one of the 11 states in which EPT is “potentially allowable.” Howard, however, believes the law is important because it would allow doctors to feel more comfortable prescribing STI treatment to partners.

Some lawmakers disagree, arguing that providing prescriptions without a visit or a test is bad medicine. State Senator Lydia Brasch of Bancroft, for example, said she was worried about the bill because prescription drugs have risky side effects, and it’s unclear who would be responsible for follow-up care if a prescription is given without an office visit.

A similar measure was introduced last year but fell just a few votes short of passing.

Bacon Condoms: Coming to a Store Near You

This is not a late April Fool’s joke. J&D Foods, the manufacturer of everything bacon, has just released bacon condoms.  Not only do these new condoms taste and smell like bacon, they feature images of bacon as well—hence the product’s tagline, “Make your meat look like meat.”

The company, which also makes bacon sunscreen, bacon lip balm, bacon-flavored envelopes, and a bacon-themed coffin, claims that its newest product is “proudly made in America of the highest quality latex and rigorously tested to help ensure the utmost reliability and safety for when you’re makin’ Bacon.”

I’m all for more condoms, better condoms, and condoms that people will enjoy wearing, but I’m not sure this is what the market really needed.

News Sexual Health

Boston High Schools May Soon Make Condoms Available and Provide More Sex Ed

Martha Kempner

The Boston School Committee is considering adopting a new policy that would add sexuality education and other health courses and make condoms available at all high schools in the city.

The Boston School Committee is considering adopting a new policy that would add sexuality education and other health courses and make condoms available at all high schools in the city. The move to change these policies comes as the city is seeing high rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), especially chlamydia, among teens. In 2012, there were 1,249 cases reported among 15- to 19-year-olds in Boston.

Currently the city’s schools are operating under a policy that was controversial when it was passed in 1994. It allows for condom availability only at the 19 schools that house school-based health centers (there are a total of 32 high schools in the city). At the time, Mayor Thomas M. Menino pushed for the policy out of a concern over rising HIV-infection rates among teenagers in the city. The policy passed despite staunch opposition from the previous mayor and the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston.

It has not been updated in nearly a decade, however, and many people in the city, including students, think it does not go far enough. According to the Boston Globe:

In the Fall of 2010 young people from the Hyde Square Task Force in Jamaica Plain launched an aggressive campaign to persuade school officials to offer free condoms in all high schools, and to increase the rigor and availability of sexual health education courses, which they said had been dropped from several schools because of budget cuts or MCAS [standardized test] prep.

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In fact, only eight of the 32 high schools in the city currently offer sex education.

The school committee is now considering a number of these proposals. Under the suggested condom policy, students at all city schools would be able to receive condoms either from school staff, the Boston Public Health Commission, or a community health service partner. Any student receiving condoms would be given counseling on safer practices at the same time. Parents who do not want their children to receive condoms could opt out of the program.

This policy would be part of a larger health and wellness program, which would apply to all grade levels and include improved physical education classes, education about nutrition, bullying prevention programs, and sexuality education.

Members of the school committee seemed supportive of these changes, including condom availability, when they met at the beginning of the month. The committee’s chairman, Michael O’Neill, told the Globe, “Many members spoke positively about the comprehensiveness of the policy and acknowledged the reality our students face.” No one spoke out to oppose changing the policy.

The school committee is set to meet again on June 19.

Roundups Sexual Health

Sexual Health Roundup: Condoms as Evidence, Lies About Sexual History, and Sex Toys at Elite Schools

Martha Kempner

This week, the Brooklyn DA told cops to stop collecting condoms as evidence of prostitution, studies found that college kids lie about their sexual behavior and students at elite British schools buy a lot of sex toys, and the U.S. cities that have the most same-sex couples raising kids may surprise you.

Sexual Health Roundup is a weekly summary of news and research related to sexual behavior, sexuality education, contraception, STIs, and more.

Brooklyn DA to Police: Stop Seizing Condoms as Evidence of Prostitution

As Rewire has reported in the past, New York City police officers have historically used possession of condoms—especially a large number of condoms—as proof of prostitution. Officers have even confiscated some condoms to use as evidence. Such a policy clearly conflicts with public health goals of preventing STDs and HIV, yet efforts to overturn it have failed.

In a step toward ending the practice, Brooklyn District Attorney Charles J. Hynes sent a letter to Police Commissioner Ray Kelly explaining that his office would no longer use the possession of condoms as evidence of prostitution or “loitering for the purpose of prostitution.” The letter went on to say: “Accordingly, the collection and vouchering of condoms as evidence by members of your department [in cases in Brooklyn] should immediately cease.”

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According to the New York Times, prosecutors in Manhattan, Queens, and the Bronx do not have official policies on this topic but say they rarely use condoms as evidence. Still, there are questions as to whether large quantities of condoms indicate sex trafficking, and some sex workers still wonder how many condoms is too many.

Surprise! Men and Women Lie about Their Sexual Histories

A new study finds that heterosexual college students are more likely to lie about sex than other gender stereotypical behavior. Researchers at Ohio State University gave 293 heterosexual students an anonymous questionnaire that asked about their sexual history as well as other activities that are often seen as gender-specific (such as driving fast or dressing up in the clothes typical of another gender). Then they attached the students to a fake polygraph machine and asked the questions again to see if the answers were different when students were under perceived pressure to be more truthful.

It turns out that students were most likely to have lied about sex than other topics, and the lies they told seemed designed to put their personal history more in line with what was expected of them as a man or woman. On the anonymous paper survey, male students reported having had sex at an earlier age and with more people than the female students. When students were hooked up to a fake polygraph machine, however, the female students were more likely to report that they had more partners than the male students.

Does Smart Equal Sexy?

A much less academic study was conducted by the British sex toy retailer Lovehoney, which analyzed its sales over the last few years and found that students at the most elite schools in Britain spent much more money on sex toys than their peers at less exclusive institutions of learning. Students at Cambridge, for example, spent the equivalent of $14,700 on sex toys last year, followed closely but their Oxford pals, who spent $14,550.

Of course, such an informal survey can’t tell us why these students are more likely to buy a Hitachi Magic Wand than their less academically minded friends. Could it be that they are having less sex and therefore are more in need of tools to, well, help themselves? Could it be that they have more expendable income than students at other schools and feel freer to spend it on luxury items like the Jessica Rabbit 2.0? Or is it really that smart people have higher sex drives as so many of the headlines announced?

It turns out this last one is the least likely explanation. Previous research has found intelligence is actually correlated with less frequent sex. A 2007 study of students at top U.S. colleges found that they were far less likely to have had sex than others in their age group. In fact, that study found that only 65 percent of MIT graduate students had ever had sex (nationally, 80 percent of men and 75 percent of women have sex by age 19).

The Places With the Highest Percentage of Same-Sex Couples Raising Kids May Surprise You

When most people think of Salt Lake City, Utah, the first thing that comes to mind is probably not a same-sex family. And it’s unlikely that the word Mississippi conjures up images of gay pride parades brimming with kids. Yet these two disparate areas made the list of places that have the highest percentage of same-sex couples raising children.

The Williams Institute at UCLA’s School of Law conducted an analysis of 2010 census data. They found that among metropolitan areas with more than one million residents, the highest percentage of same-sex couples raising kids can be found in Salt Lake City (26 percent), Detroit (22 percent), Memphis (22 percent), Columbus, Ohio (19 percent), and Oklahoma City (19 percent). The states with the highest percentage of same-sex couples raising kids are also surprising: Mississippi (26 percent), Wyoming (25 percent), and Arkansas (24 percent).

To be clear, this means, for example, that 22 percent of all same-sex couples who reside in Memphis are raising kids. It does not mean that these areas have more same-couples than in other places, more families headed by same-sex couples, or even a higher percentage of same-sex couples with kids when compared to the total population.

Still, it is interesting that these metropolitan areas with the highest percentages of same-sex couples raising children are all in states that have a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. Williams Institute Public Policy Research Fellow Angeliki Kastanis said in a press release, “Research consistently shows that same-sex couples raise children all across the country. This analysis underscores the fact that recognition of LGBT families is a consequential policy question in every state.”