The Solution To Rising STD Rates? Stop Using Condoms, Says Catholic Group

Let’s play a game. I’ll list some problems with their proposed solutions, and you decide if any of them are real:

  • In response to rising car crash fatalities, drivers are encouraged to stop using seat-belts.
  • In response to lagging literacy rates, parents are asked to remove their children from school.
  • In response to a spike in crime rates, the police are asked to reduce their presence in a city.
  • In response to rising STD rates, people are asked to stop using condoms.

Incredibly, even though all of these statements use essentially the same messed-up logic, the one about giving up condoms to solve the STD problem is a real recommendation that was just made by a real group in response to a real problem.

Well, to be fair, the argument says that, in response to rising STD rates, people should not use condoms and also not have sex… which is like telling people that seat belts don’t work and you really shouldn’t use the car (other than to drive to church).

We’ve discussed the folks at 1Flesh before. They want to convince as many people as possible that condoms (and other forms of contraception) don’t work and can actually harm you, so it’s really better if you don’t use them at all. Their arguments are the same ones that have led to record teen pregnancy rates amongst the victims of abstinence-only “education,” wrapped in a few layers of hip graphics and slang (i.e: we’re not conservative retrogrades, we know how to use LOL and even ROFL!)

Their latest salvo comes in response to the honestly-worrying issue of drug-resistant gonorrhea. Gonorrhea is caused by the bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoeae. People in industrialized nations are not accustomed to fearing bacteria, because we usually have antibiotics that reduce the threat of bacterial infections from “terrifying killer” to “manageable annoyance.” However, decades of antibiotic use, including overuse and misuse, have led to the emergence of bacterial strains that are resistant to the most common antibiotic treatments.

Emerging antibiotic resistance is a real problem that requires multiple fronts of action to contain. These include: Doing a better job of educating the public on safe sexual practices, using current antibiotics in the proper way, and investing in research to discover new antibiotics.

The folks at 1Flesh link to U.S.News & World Report for their story on gonorrhea. They could have instead linked to the Center for Disease Control factsheet on the disease. (Maybe they chose not to because you can’t get through a CDC post without them begging you to use condoms “consistently and correctly.”)

1Flesh doesn’t think increasing “consistent and correct” use of condoms will help you. Their argument is usually some form of the following:

  • People use condoms more than they used to.
  • More people have STDs than before.
  • Therefore, using condoms doesn’t prevent the spread of STDs.

Much like Creationist “evidence,” this argument can lead to brain freeze because you hardly know where to begin rebutting it.

People certainly use condoms more than they used to. They are also much more sexually active than in years past. It is also true that STD rates have risen. However, in many cases, this is due more to higher reporting rates and better screening methods than to actual increases in the rates themselves. Such is the case with chlamydia, for instance. Also, the undisputed king of the STDs, HIV, has seen a rapid decline in transmission rates over the years. Oddly enough, this is not because mass numbers of American citizens heeded the call of the Catholic Church to not have sex, not use condoms, and remain virgins until marriage (though, to be fair, this would be a very effective, if utterly unrealistic, way of avoiding HIV). Instead, HIV transmission rates have declined due to mass education and expanding use of condoms. The CDC recommendations actually do include abstinence and mutual monogamy as a way of avoiding HIV but, inconveniently for 1Flesh, they also include condoms — which are effective, no  matter what 1Flesh would have you believe.

When the 1Flesh article quotes the CDC, it says this:

… on a personal, human level, we need to take the CDC seriously. “The most reliable ways to avoid transmission of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), are to abstain from sexual activity or to be in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with an uninfected partner.”

What they ignored were the sentences appearing a few lines before the quoted section:

To achieve the maximum protective effect, condoms must be used both consistently and correctly. Inconsistent use can lead to STD acquisition because transmission can occur with a single act of intercourse with an infected partner. Similarly, if condoms are not used correctly, the protective effect may be diminished even when they are used consistently.

I’m sure that if 1Flesh had their way, STD rates would plummet. However 1Flesh’s method would involve all of us going into marriage as virgins and then never ever straying. And, obviously, your husband or wife will be of opposite gender to you, since we all know that gay people are “intrinsically disordered.”

This land of sexually-repressed paradise does not, and will not, exist. It completely ignores the reality of the world in which we live.

When you tell people that condoms won’t work, you don’t make them more likely to stay virgins until holy matrimony. You make them less likely to use condoms while having sex, making them more likely to get the STDs you claim to want to prevent.

Saying condoms don’t work is a lie… which you would think the 1Flesh people would consider a sin. Maybe not a grave and terrible sin, like marrying your same-sex partner of 35 years, but still a no-no. Right, guys?

About Claudia

I'm a lifelong atheist and a molecular biologist with a passion for science and a passionate opposition to its enemies.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

    you’ve probably read about the Dallas school district and a related example of stupidity. they decided to cease providing birth control to students. and shockingly (not!) the teen pregnancy rates skyrocketed.

    …and what’s up with “1Flesh?” that’s just a creepy name for a “religious” organization.

    • CelticWhisper

      Yeah, every time I see that name I’m reminded of the hospital scene from “Jacob’s Ladder.”

    • jdm8

      It is Texas. I recall they have the highest or second highest teenage pregnancy rate in the US, likely because of this and the abstinence-only sex education stance. Dogma is more important than facts.

    • Nox

      1Flesh’s goal is not to prevent STDs. If it were, their advice would make no sense. Their goal is to make sure STDs are an everpresent risk for anyone who disobeys the church’s orders (this is why that same church is so concerned with abortion, and in a less direct sense it is also why they oppose gay marriage). It’s part two of the two part scam the catholic church has been running for centuries.

      Part one of the scam is sex is only allowed in marriage. Any sex outside of marriage is a sin. People who sin go to hell. Part two of the scam is you have to be married in the catholic church for it to be recognized by god, and they will only let you do that if you do a few other things. Those who don’t bow and scrape enough (or fail to bring their children to the church) (or are “disordered”) can be denied this sacrament, or have it rescinded later. Taken together, the two parts of this scam mean the only orgasm you don’t go to hell for is the one you get a priest’s permission to have.

      Heterosexual intercourse for the strict purpose of creating children, exclusively within a marriage blessed by a pedophile, is the only expression of human sexuality that is not considered a sin. Those who stray outside of this “natural order” are subject to punishment if available, or impotent threats of punishment if not. With threats of hellfire becoming more impotent every day, and the risk of pregnancy becoming more avoidable, it’s no surprise they should turn to biological warfare.

      • Sue Blue

        You hit the nail on the head. It’s ALL about preserving the threat of “punishment” for sex, especially for women, who have the added risk of pregnancy. Consequences must be played up and alternative (read “common sense”, “scientific”, and “medical”) solutions must be played down, discredited, or turned into some sort of secular medical/scientific conspiracy. It’s all about preserving the religious, patriarchal status quo. That’s exactly why people like “1Flesh” campaign against birth control in all forms, abortion, and STD prevention in the form of condoms and vaccines like Gardasil.

      • nakedanthropologist

        Excellent analysis – and scary accurate. I was raised Catholic, but thankfully was able to escape. Those people are a menace.

    • http://www.flickr.com/groups/invisiblepinkunicorn Anna

      I’m glad I’m not the only one creeped out by the name. Doesn’t it refer to a man and woman becoming “one flesh” when they marry? We had someone here espousing that view a while back, and I just can’t get over how weird it sounds. Husbands and wives don’t own each other bodies, and they’re not conjoined twins. They’re each individual people, with their own bodily autonomy.

  • John Gills

    Reminds me of the old wisecrack, “When the facts do not support the theory, the facts must be discarded.”

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

    Went to their web page, clicked on the About 1Flesh link. Read this line and then stopped: We are a bunch of college students rebelling against the current sexual culture.

    I shall slowly run away now.

    • http://chaoskeptic.blogspot.com Rev. Ouabache

      I’m pretty sure that the site is run by one guy (not a bunch) and he’s mostly middle aged (not a college aged student).

      • Alexandra

        I was under the impression that it’s mostly the brainchild of Marc Barnes, who has a Patheos blog, Bad Catholic.

  • A3Kr0n

    Catholics won’t use condoms, Catholics die from STDs. I don’t see a problem here.
    /s ◄this means sarcastic

    • C Peterson

      Won’t work, given that even the majority of Catholics are wise enough to ignore this advice, and use condoms in potentially risky situations. And for ordinary birth control, for that matter.

      It isn’t Catholics (in the U.S.) who are suffering from a failure to use condoms, but undereducated fundies in the Bible Belt.

      • http://twitter.com/docslacker MD

        And poor, as in not wealthy, Catholics in South America, Africa, and Asia. Boy, do they get screwed over. Specially the (surprise, surprise) women.

        • Stev84

          Don’t forget the Philippines. Maybe the best example of the horror a Catholic theocracy can inflict in a country. They are suffering from overpopulation, rampant poverty, overfishing and a lack of arable land, and yet indoctrinated politicians still think that more people are the solution.

          • Miss_Beara

            There is a terribly sad documentary about that. Women and children living in filth. Children unable to receive an education and a clean place to play, women unable to support themselves let alone their children. Most of the time the man is nowhere to be seen. Women having secret abortions because they cannot possibly raise another child and birth control is a big no no. But they better keep on having those babies or else there will be more poverty!

            So sad. :(

        • C Peterson

          Yes, that’s why I was careful to limit my comment to U.S. Catholics. The dogma spewed by the Vatican does massive damage to Catholics elsewhere… especially Africa.

      • A3Kr0n

        Ya, I doubt there is a single Catholic in my town that doesn’t use contraceptives. Still, there are way too many of them swarming around :-)

      • pagansister

        Of the teachers I taught with in the Catholic school, only 2 had more than 2 children—and that was 1 with 3 and 1 with 4. I suspect they didn’t follow directions about NFP but used their common sense and used ABC. The non-robot Catholics.

  • Machintelligence

    It isn’t every day that you encounter weapons grade stupid. But I’m not surprised by the source.

  • Darwin’s Dagger

    Catholicism: Where logic goes to die.

  • ganner918

    Don’t you see, condoms give people LICENSE to go have unholy dirty sinful sex. Preventing disease isn’t a problem we have to worry about. Just do what the Bible says and you’ll be fine. If you go awhoring and catch something? Oh well, should have kept your pants on I guess. You deserve it.

    Did I nail the christianspeak?

    • Tainda

      Mmmmmm “Unholy Dirty Sinful Sex” (use a Homer Simpson vision for that)

    • Patterrssonn

      It is indeed unfortunate that people commit the sin of using sex for pleasure instead of as the uterine sperm delivery mechanism god designed it to be.

    • allein

      I don’t know but I think “go awhoring” should be a new holiday tradition. It sounds so festive! ;)

    • CelticWhisper

      condoms give people LICENSE to go have unholy dirty sinful sex

      As long as the license is GPLv3, I don’t see a problem.

  • The Captain

    I don’t think their name is working either, whenever I hear or read “1Flesh” I imagine some sort of a device made to put my penis into.

    • CelticWhisper

      They were thinking of marketing a sex toy, but focus groups showed there wasn’t much interest in a Fleshlight with a hidden, spring-loaded CB-6000 built in.

      • The Captain

        I had to google that and now I know what all my friends are getting for birthday presents this year.

        • CelticWhisper

          “Happy birthday, Tim! Trololololol…”

      • Gus Snarp

        Someone actually makes that thing? I decided not to linger on the page at work, but is that a joke?

        • allein

          Judging from the number of times I’ve heard Dan Savage mention it on his podcast and column, yes, it is a real thing.

        • CelticWhisper

          Actually makes which thing? I mean, both exist, just wondering what you were unaware of.

    • Patterrssonn

      It makes me think of early David Cronenberg.

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    Hah! Funny one Claudia! Very good! Where’s the ‘Onion’ link?

  • Patterrssonn

    Expect to be swamped by ‘Bad Catholic’ trolls at any point now.

  • pagansister

    Who the heck falls for this type of nonsense anyhow? If anyone has 1/2 a brain, they wouldn’t believe this tripe.

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      I’m thinking the type of people who create groups like like ’1Flesh’.

      • TheBlackCat13

        I think you are both right.

  • Ibis3

    I’m sure that if 1Flesh had their way, STD rates would plummet.

    No. If they had their way, STD rates would go through the roof. They want there to be punishment for women to have sex with anyone but their God-sanctioned owner. They’d probably also like for children 12 and under to be immune (even from being carriers), so that, should a priest be tempted into sin by one of them, he doesn’t have to worry.

  • Carmelita Spats

    This Catholic group is not the freakiest one out there…If you want to see wide-eyed fanatics with a mouthful of Savior, go to The Pill Kills. They believe that the birth control pill MURDERS children! I’ve gone through many rounds with them and they told me that since I used an IUD the first years of my marriage, I had starved my babies to death! Apparently, I’m a serial killer for using an IUD…You can’t make this shit up!

    • pagansister

      Wow, Carmelita, looks like you and I are indeed guilty of starving our babies as I used an IUD waaaay back in the 1970′s after my 2nd child…and before that I used that new birth control method, called “THE PILL!” for 3 years before we decided to have our first child. Unbelievable—-and I said below—people are gullible enough to actually fall for the BS the group in this post talks about and the one you mentioned? Wonder what they think of vasectomies or a woman having her tubes tied?

  • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ Bubba Tarandfeathered

    From Monty Python’s flying Circus

    MRS. BLACKITT: But it’s the same with us, Harry.
    MR. BLACKITT: What do you mean?
    MRS. BLACKITT: Well, I mean, we’ve got two children, and we’ve had sexual intercourse twice.
    MR. BLACKITT: That’s not the point. We could have it any time we wanted.
    MRS. BLACKITT: Really?
    MR. BLACKITT: Oh, yes, and, what’s more, because we don’t believe in all that Papist claptrap, we can take precautions.
    MRS. BLACKITT: What, you mean… lock the door?
    MR. BLACKITT: No, no. I
    mean, because we are members of the Protestant Reformed Church, which
    successfully challenged the autocratic power of the Papacy in the mid-
    sixteenth century, we can wear little rubber devices to prevent issue.
    MRS. BLACKITT: What d’you mean?
    MR. BLACKITT: I could, if I wanted, have sexual intercourse with you,…
    MRS. BLACKITT: Oh, yes, Harry.
    MR. BLACKITT: …and, by wearing a rubber sheath over my old
    feller, I could insure… that, when I came off, you would not be
    impregnated.
    MRS. BLACKITT: Ooh!
    MR. BLACKITT: That’s what being a Protestant’s all about.
    That’s why it’s the church for me. That’s why it’s the church for
    anyone who respects the individual and the individual’s right to decide
    for him or herself. When Martin Luther nailed his protest up to the
    church door in fifteen- seventeen, he may not have realised the full
    significance of what he was doing, but four hundred years later, thanks
    to him, my dear, I can wear whatever I want on my John Thomas,… [sniff] …and, Protestantism doesn’t stop at the simple condom! Oh, no! I can wear French Ticklers if I want.
    MRS. BLACKITT: You what?
    MR.
    BLACKITT: French Ticklers. Black Mambos. Crocodile Ribs. Sheaths
    that are designed not only to protect, but also to enhance the
    stimulation of sexual congress.
    MRS. BLACKITT: Have you got one?
    MR. BLACKITT: Have I got one? Uh, well, no, but I can go down
    the road any time I want and walk into Harry’s and hold my head up high
    and say in a loud, steady voice, ‘Harry, I want you to sell me a condom. In fact, today, I think I’ll have a French Tickler, for I am a Protestant.’
    MRS. BLACKITT: Well, why don’t you?
    MR. BLACKITT: But they– Well, they cannot, ’cause their church
    never made the great leap out of the Middle Ages and the domination of
    alien episcopal supremacy.
    NARRATOR #1: But, despite the attempts of Protestants to promote the idea of sex for pleasure, children continued to multiply everywhere.

    Seems its good to be a Protestant.

  • http://twitter.com/ThyGoddess Michelle

    Alright. I gotta ask.

    These guys… Are they for real or is this all just a joke site? I mean, it’s got a tone to be a hoax site.

    • jdm8

      It’s hard to get a bead on who they are. For a while, I thought it was an astroturfing campaign because they promoted a very specific brand of “natural family planning” products. They might well be, I haven’t looked at it any further.

  • Tak

    It strikes me as funny that Catholics imply sex should be more or less exclusively for procreation when this supposedly ‘designed’ reproductive system is SO inefficient.

  • http://fractalheretic.blogspot.com/ Fractal Heretic

    We can argue with people about this until the cows come home, but at the end of the day we’ve just got to show statistics and say look: this is what happens when you make condoms available, and this is what happens when you don’t. End of debate. More condoms = less STDs. You can speculate on why you think it works that way, but you don’t get to speculate on why you think the opposite should happen when reality is staring you in the face.

  • rufus_t

    And that’s a big correlation =/= causation for the idiots at 1Flesh.
    Do we really want to bring out the statistics linking the sales of ice cream and shark attacks (there really is a correlation, but I’m not pathologically stupid enough to say that sharks prefer their humans with ice cream sauce…)

  • webannie

    Condoms have long been used to prevent disease and pregnancy. Many
    people, but not all, support ending the spread of sexually transmitted ….http://ogibogi.com/node/11827 for details.


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