Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Dan Savage on Media, the HPV Vaccine, and Sexism

In this week's Savage Love column*, Dan Savage tackles the link between throat cancer, oral sex, and HPV - and makes the disturbing claim that
up to now the mainstream media have refrained from calling the right's opposition to the HPV vaccine what it is—delusional, psychotic, homicidal—because up to now only women's lives were at stake.

That's about to change.

Here's the headline from my morning paper: "HPV Factors in Throat Cancer: Study Could Shift Debate About Vaccine." You bet it will. Up to now the HPV vaccine—which, again, has proven 100 percent effective against the cancer-causing strains of the virus—could merely prevent 10,000 cases of cervical cancer in American women every year, along with 4,000 deaths. But now the debate could shift—it will shift, it already has shifted—because it's no longer "just" the lives of 4,000 American women that are on the line, but the sex lives of 150 million American men.
Is Dan right? Based on the media coverage of the link between HPV, oral sex and throat cancer, he just might be. And that raises, as I said, disturbing questions. Is it just because instead of talking about 4,000 people a year, we're talking millions, or is it accurate to break it down on gender lines? And if that gender breakdown is right, what in the world does that really, truly say about our society?

*Note: Savage Love is a sexually explicit column that tackles reader questions about sex and sexuality in a no-hold's barred manner. If you are offended by or would prefer to avoid casual and explicit language, do not read Savage Love!


Emilie Clemmens said...

My knee-jerk reaction is to agree that the bias has some basis in gender. I guess I ask myself, if it were millions (insteads of thousands) of young women, would the political debate about promiscuity carry on and cloud the issue? Yes, I think it would.

Anonymous said...

I'm thinking that it's about TIME we started talking about vaccinating boys/men along with girls/women. If this news gets us further towards that end, then I guess I see it as the silver lining in the cloud.