This week we learned that the HPV vaccine does not cause young women to have sex. A study looked at the medical records of 1,400 women under the age of 16 to determine sexual behavior based on pregnancy tests, contraceptive counseling, and STI screenings and diagnoses. It found no difference in behavior between those who had received the HPV vaccine and those who had not.
As Marianne Møllman points out in her piece, this fear—that their daughters would be become “sluts" —is the number-one reason that parents do not vaccinate their daughters against HPV. Apparently, this fear is even greater than the fear of cervical cancer, a potentially deadly but completely preventable disease.
You would think that this study would allay such fears. The truth is, we’ve seen this argument made repeatedly—whether it’s about making condoms available in schools, providing sex education, or allowing Emergency Contraception (EC) to be sold over the counter. The idea that access to protection will cause young women to run wild is deeply ingrained in our culture. Think of how fast Rush Limbaugh connected Sandra Fluke’s request for contraceptive coverage to her own clearly “slutty” sexual behavior. And it doesn’t seem to matter that the notion has been debunked by research time and time again.