Go ahead and Google "sex" (as if you haven't already done so in the past hour); you'll find 2.8 billion results ranging from scientific discussion to pornography to databases of sex offenders.
Clearly, sex is something we like to talk about. But there is a hidden side to sex, where conspiracy theories and well-kept secrets abound...
By Jessica Ferri
Image: Massimo Catarinella
Prostitution is known as "the oldest profession." Trying to suppress it seems futile. Other countries and cities have legalized the practice, giving prostitutes greater protection under the law. In Germany, prostitutes were just recently asked to report their pay for taxes! Many rights groups and prostitutes advocate for the legalization of prostitution on the grounds that official regulations could better protect women.
Stopping Prostitution (Cont'd)
Image: Russell And Sydney Poore
Prostitution has been legalized in certain rural counties in Nevada and several cases of fraud and racketeering have since been prosecuted. Someone must be profiting from keeping prostitutes in the shadows.
This is the practice of using science to improve "the genetic composition of a society." After eugenics principles were used in the Nazi medical experiments it became a very, very dirty word. The Nazis tried to improve society's genetic composition through forced sterilization and targeted euthanasia.
Now, we have the technology to confine eugenics to the laboratory. On the cutting edge of science, we are using the principles of eugenics to cure disease through stem cells and other genetic therapies. Still, in the hands of the wrong person, the same genetic technology that currently mitigates hereditary illness could be used to create a neo-Nazi master race.
In America, most parents opt to have their male infant circumcised. Because it makes daily hygiene easier, the medical community recommends it. For Jews, circumcision is a religious practice. Medical research has show that if circumcision is performed shortly after birth it has no negative effect on sexual function.
Just when a campaign was growing to prevent what some believe is unnecessary genital mutilation, medical research has shown that circumcision also significantly decreases the transmission of HIV and STDs. Some anti-circumcision activists, however, look upon the timing of this discovery with suspicion.
In the 1920s, therapists and doctors argued that homosexuality was a curable disease. Conversion therapy, a mixture of behavior modification, aversion therapy, and sex therapy was applied to gay individuals. As one can imagine, this therapy was aggressive, ineffectual and certainly unethical.
Homosexuality "Cures" (Cont'd)
Though the conspiracy to convert gay people into heterosexuals was largely abandoned by the medical community in the 1980s and discredited in a 2009 study by the American Psychological Association, the practice of "praying away the gay" continues in ultra-conservative Christian ministries across the United States. (Marcus Bachmann, husband of Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, purportedly tries to "cure" its patients of homosexuality at one of his health clinic.s)
Female Genital Mutilation
Also known as female circumcision, this mutilation affects an estimated 100-140 million women in 28 countries, according to the World Health Organization. Just like male circumcision, practitioners argue that FGM keeps women healthy with the added bonus that it prevents unwanted pregnancies. In truth, FGM inflicts lifelong suffering on women.
Female Genital Mutilation (Cont'd)
Rarely performed with anesthesia, women are at risk for infection, sterilization, and even death when their genitals are cut, often at the onset of puberty. This practice also turns intercourse into an excruciating act for women. FGM is often defended on cultural grounds but many see it as a conspiracy to keep women submissive.
At birth, the attending physician examines the newborn's genitals and officially assigns a male or female sex to the infant. With prenatal testing, most parents know the sex of their child before it's born.
Gender Reassignment (Cont'd)
In some situations, however, visible sex characteristics are vague and, up until recently, doctors would encourage the parents to simply choose a gender for their child. Occasionally, those decisions can be wrong, especially in "intersex" people, who have internal anatomy that is inconsistent with their external anatomy. This practice has led to a sub-culture of intersex individuals in our binary world.
Raising a Child Androgynously
The discussion of what to do in the case of an intersex child has become a hot topic in the medical community. In this atypical instance, it might be appropriate for the child to choose his or her own gender. Are children born with gender proclivities, like dolls for girls, trucks for boys, or do we force our children into those preferences?
This was the common practice of the Mormon faith until 1904 and, in the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints (FLDS) faith, polygamy is still in practice. In the early days of Mormonism, the number of men was severely limited due to disease, war, and the hardships of pioneer life. It made logical sense for one man to take on many women, many of whom were widows with children and therefore very vulnerable.
Though members of the FLDS argue that plural marriage works better than traditional marriage, rights-groups see it as a way for one man to keep women and their children under his control.
China's Birth Blockade
Since 1978, China has restricted urban couples to only one birth, in hopes to bring the population under control. In the thirty years since its inception, demographers believe that up to 400 million births have been prevented.
China's Birth Blockade (Cont'd)
The problem with the one-child policy stems from an apparent son preference. A widespread conspiracy against girls has taken place as many parents will have sex-selective abortions until they know they carry a boy.
It seems like every other day there's a celebrity sex tape circulating on the internet. With computer technology, it's easy for hackers to break into cell phones or computers and disseminate intimate photos and videos on the web. This activity is illegal, and several stars, like Scarlett Johansson, have pursued legal action.
But other celebrities such as Paris Hilton and Pamela Anderson have marketed their sex tapes, making millions of dollars off sales and publicity. Perhaps, even when the lady doth protest too much, sex tapes are marketing tools.
When JFK allegedly boinked Marilyn Monroe, the rumor was kept behind closed doors. Today, the doors have been flung wide open and sex scandals have become a very powerful political tool in the United States. As Newsweek reported during Lewinskygate, conservatives had been on the warpath to dig up proof of Clinton's philandering even before he was elected.
Sex Scandals (Cont'd)
Conveniently, when Anthony Weiner was rising as a popular liberal politician, a sex scandal destroyed his career. That said, powerful people get cocky and let their guards down, often making them easy targets.
In many conservative Christian households across America, abstinence is taught to children as the only means to protect against pregnancy and STDs. The organization True Love Waits requires its members to make this pledge: "I make a commitment to God, myself, my family, my friends, my future mate and my future children to be sexually abstinent from this day until the day I enter a biblical marriage relationship."
The problem with religion-based abstinence-only sex education is that there is a strong correlation between high rates of religiosity and high rates of teenage pregnancy. Think maybe these parents forgot about adolescent rebellion?
HPV Vaccine and Cancer
Conservative politicians, such as Michele Bachmann, have come out against giving young women a vaccine for the Human Papillomavirus (HPV), because they claim it causes cancer.
HPV Vaccine and Cancer (Cont'd)
However, this rumor is universally disputed by the scientific community. The HPV vaccine prevents HPV, a virus that causes some types of cervical and anal cancer. Vaccinating young women (and men) against HPV will prevent the spread of this very common disease and the cancer it can cause.