From The Annals of the Obvious: HPV vaccination does not make girls more promiscuous

Yesterday it was all over the news what anyone with a brain cell might have been able to figure out on their own- vaccinating girls against Human Papilloma Virus does not make them whores.

Here’s the study:  Sexual Activity-Related Outcomes After Human Papillomavirus Vaccination of 11- to 12-Year Olds, by Bednarczyk et al.

To briefly borrow a summary for the NYTimes:

They selected a group of 1,398 girls who were 11 or 12 in 2006 — roughly a third of whom had received the HPV vaccine — and followed them through 2010. The researchers then looked at what they considered markers of sexual activity, including pregnancies, counseling on contraceptives, and testing for or diagnoses of sexually transmitted diseases.

Over all, in the time that the girls were followed, the researchers did not find any differences in these measures between the two groups.  Source:  Anahad O’Connor, NYT.

When I was a tween and got vaccinated against hepatitis, I didn’t run out and spread my legs either.  I don’t think I even realized that hepatitis could be sexually transmitted at that age- or even paid close attention to what I was being vaccinated against.

I’m not sure why people think that being vaccinated against an STD would make a child more promiscuous, but apparently that’s the most cited reason given by parents for not vaccinated against HPV!

I can’t understand the reasoning, “Hmm.  Should I vaccinate my daughter against cervical cancer?  Give her protection against oral cancers as well?  All with this simple vaccination?  Oh, wait!  It’s an STD?!  Heck no.  I’d rather a daughter who died of cervical cancer than a daughter who engaged in premarital sex- because I know my precious little angel would never do that otherwise!”

Look.  HPV is an STD that causes genital warts.  It also causes cervical cancer.  It’s also now been linked to oral cancers as well, see here.  The HPV vaccine could guard your children, female and male (it causes penile cancer as well) against infection.  That means your daughters won’t get cancer and neither will your sons (they also won’t pass it on to your future daughter in law*).  Even if your precious little angel saves him/herself for marriage, who’s to say their spouse did the same?  Newsflash:  Almost one third of 14- to 19- year olds are infected with HPV!  Those are not odds I want to take with the health of my kids.

Just as I do with every other vaccine, I’m going to follow the CDC guidelines when it comes to the HPV vaccine.  Mabel and Nemo will both be vaccinated.

That said, I’m not going to turn them loose without a healthy dose of info on sexuality and sexual health.  I hope they always make the wisest of decisions when it comes to sex.  I would be happy if they waited until they were married.  Do I know the odds of that are slim?  Yes.  Are young people inherently unable to make decisions based on the long-term consequences of their actions?  Heck yeah. That’s why this vaccine is so important-  I don’t want a single bad decision to result in a cancer diagnosis down the road- for them or for their future partners.

Also note, all of this is assuming that children only engage in consensual sexual relations.  We know that this is not the case.  Children should be protected from predators, but they should also be protected from being victimized twice- first at the hands of an abuser, and second from any STD that abuser might transmit to them.


*Pardon the hetero-normative language, but I’m guessing a person who fears a vaccine causing their daughter to have premarital sex, and that chance trumping her healthy, is NOT considering the possibility that their son or daughter could possibly ever be homosexual.


Filed under #scimom, Mother, Scientist

11 responses to “From The Annals of the Obvious: HPV vaccination does not make girls more promiscuous

  1. You skirt around it, but basically what you’re saying (and what I’ve heard other parents say straight out) is that in some people’s minds, admitting your kid is at risk for STD’s is tantamount to saying you’re a lousy parent because you can’t keep your kid from having premarital sex. So rather than admit this (or, maybe, be realistic and realize that teenagers are STUPID no matter how excellent the parents), these parents refuse the vaccine, and opine that those getting it have parents with lesser parental skills and therefore looser morals.

    Unfortunately, even smart people are ridiculously irrational when it comes to questioning their parenting skills. Hell, my own mother, who has a master’s degree and therefore, can’t be called a mental slouch, recently told me that she, to this day, still knows that I was a “good girl” before I married my boyfriend of 6 years… nevermind that she really had no idea what I was up to in college, and that we lived together for a year and a half before our wedding.

    • I’d say that if you can’t admit your kid will be sexual then you are a lousy parent- not because you can’t ‘control’ your kid, but because you’re irrational!

      I think it’s totally cool for parents to pretend their children are virginal- nobody really wants their parents in on all the details of their sex life. However, parents have to be realistic.

      You want to make sex the elephant in the room- A-OK, just make sure it doesn’t crush your kid to death because you can’t deal with it at all.

      My mom was VERY upset when I told her I planned to move in with my boyfriend- and I was 27! She never wanted the gory details of my love life, but (as a nurse) she made damn sure I had all the info I needed to make good choices.

      Again, though, this all assumes that children willingly participate in the activities that expose them to STDs- which is far from the case. It can be for a terrible reason- like abuse or molestation, or for a bad luck reason (being exposed by a medical mistake or at the Piercing Pagoda).

      Just err on the side of caution and protect your kid, ya know?

      • Completely agreed. I think if doctors put more emphasis on the parts that are less…. touchy… like protecting from possible abuse, or Piercing Pagoda, then maybe the irrational parents would be more amenable? It’s really a shame that sex is such a ridiculously taboo subject in this country. I think a lot more people would be less mental if that were the case.

        • Definitely. Did you see this article? I cannot imagine treating my child that way- where are people’s priorities?

          • Just as a complement the “parents don’t want to know kids have sex” – I don’t want to know or believe my parents had sex either. It’s just a disturbing thought in the familial context. My parents never did. And if they did, they just accidentally fell into it all four times it took for the four of us to be conceived.
            As an excuse for leaving the child at risk – well, the article above said it better than I ever could. And the mom in the NYTimes article that said “I hope for the best and prepare from the worst” also made sense.

          • Holy cow. Thank heavens each of them had at least one parent that was willing to be supportive.

            (incidentally, there’s a reason I have a strict generational restriction on who I friend on facebook)

  2. Pingback: Vaccines Work Infographic: Why I will vaccinate my daughter AND my son against HPV | mommacommaphd

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