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The HPV Vaccine and Female Sexuality

The HPV Vaccine and Female Sexuality October 19, 2012

NPR reports on a new study that finds that getting the vaccine against HPV infection does not cause teenage girls to become more sexually active than those who don’t. That part is pretty unremarkable to me. What is more interesting is what this says about societal attitudes about female sexuality:

When it comes to sex and daughters, evidence doesn’t trump emotion. Julie Stewart is one of those parents. She told NPR’s Richard Knox last fall that it seems premature to be giving her preteen daughter a vaccine to protect against cervical cancer, which can be caused by HPV.

“I realize it’s probably more about my squeamishness with the thought of her becoming sexually active than the vaccination itself,” Stewart says. “It’s not the science. I think it’s my own issues around her developing sexually.”…

Earlier this year, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that teenage boys get the HPV vaccine too, but that decision hasn’t sparked nearly as much worry as has vaccinating girls.

I’ve heard this attitude repeatedly throughout my life, especially from fathers. A lot of them actively root for their teenage sons to have sex but lose their minds over the idea of their daughters having sex. I’m not sure who the boys are supposed to have sex with in such a scenario, but irrationality is clearly what we’re dealing with here. But this is the natural result of religious traditions regarding sex. Judaism, Christianity and Islam all obsess over female virginity, but not over male virginity. Their god commands the stoning of women who are not virgins on their wedding day, but prescribes no such punishment for men.

And in the Bible, if an unmarried, and presumably virginal, woman is raped, her rapist need only pay her father a tidy sum and he gets to keep the woman — because she is owned by her father until ownership is transferred to her husband, and if she loses her virginity she is damaged goods. This is the misogynistic root of all this emotional nonsense about female sexuality. And it’s time we got rid of it.


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