Americans are scared of a lot of things. According to Chapman University's recent survey, those fears include cyber attacks, terrorism, tornadoes, and my personal favorite, robots replacing the workforce. But in a new research paper form Terri D. Conley at the University of Michigan, we may have one more fear to add to that list: sex.
If, like me, you find yourself staring at your monitor with a slack-jawed look of confusion,the Atlantic helpfully outlines the findings of the paper. When participants were presented with two groups of people, those who completed a 300 mile road trip and those who had unprotected sex one time, they were asked to identify which risk was bigger: dying from HIV, or dying from a car crash.
The response was overwhelmingly clear. Assuming each group had 1,000 people, they said 71 would die from HIV, and only 4 would die in a car crash. The Atlantic, citing stats from U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, tells us that you are in fact "20 times more likely to die from the car trip than from HIV contracted during an act of unprotected sex."
Think about this for a second: Americans are more scared of sex than they are of car accidents, even though you're far more likely to die as a result of a road trip than an STI or, God forbid, some other form of sex-related disaster.
Not only are we overly paranoid, we're quite wrong. We live in, arguably, the most sex-positive era to date. Women willingly submit their genitals in order to be crowned The World's Most Beautiful Vagina. There's compelling research dedicated to proving the many advantages of having a casual friend with benefits. Ass-eating in public barely provokes a raised eyebrow. So why the exaggerated fear when it comes to the riskiness of sex?
Researchers from the study point to stigma, mainly. We're a lot more likely to harshly judge those behaviors that we perceive as preventable: if you use condoms, the risks of transmitting STIs are greatly reduced. Therefore, if you carry or spread one, our collective reasoning goes, it's your fault for not being more cautious — in a way, it's like you've created the risk yourself. And as a result, we're far more terrified of irrational people who put us in harms way — jerks who don't practice safe sex — than seemingly unavoidable threats like a freak car accident.
To this, I champion perhaps the obvious solution to these fears: wear a condom, and get back in the saddle, you wimps.
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