You’ve got to hand it to the pope. He can get away with saying stuff that would result in public crucifixion for anyone else.
Tuesday, for instance, he told a crowd of Africans that using condoms may help the spread of AIDS.
Yeah, he went there.
I don’t consider myself a qualified expert on public health, but I’m going to say that using condoms doesn’t, per se, spread AIDS. The pope may be a bit off the mark here, but he has some good points in his argument.
He said that the best way to stop the spread of AIDS is through the values of marriage, chastity and fidelity. Old fashioned, sure, but pretty hard to argue with. If everyone born from here on out waited until marriage to have sex and stayed loyal to their spouse, AIDS would practically disappear within a few generations.
It is completely unfeasible to actually expect everyone to do this, but it makes sense for the pope to advocate these Christian values.
The other part of his argument is a good bit more debatable, and hence we get the controversy. He argues that condoms encourage sex – albeit safe sex – and thus make people more likely to spread the disease.
Is he right? The evidence is mixed. Most evidence from liberal, pro-sex ed groups says that condom availability does not encourage sexual activity, while evidence from conservative Christian groups says that it does.
Basic economic theory says that it probably increases promiscuity to a degree. Take high school sex ed classes, for instance. If you put a condom in front of a horny teenage boy and tell him “If you use this device, you can have sex without any consequences,” there’s a good chance he’ll give it more consideration than if he thought the ol’ hanky panky would result in syphilis, the clap and a baby.
On the other hand, if you don’t give out condoms, there are plenty of horny teenagers who do it anyway and wind up with syphilis, the clap and a baby.
Then there’s also the consideration that a lot of teenagers, and even college students, probably shouldn’t be having sex, safe or not.
Sex is a heavily emotional and intimate experience that many people in our generation take far too lightly. Commonplace drunken party hookups cheapen the emotional value of sex and turn it from an intimate experience into carnal screwing. Few could argue that passing out condoms would help alleviate this problem.
The pope argues that the best sexual experience comes from waiting until marriage because of the emotional intimacy that can be expressed through such an act, which also has the benefit of eliminating the possibility of STDs for people who remain faithful to a monogamous relationship.
Unfortunately for His Holiness, few people in either the U.S. or Africa will actually wait until marriage or even wait to get to know their partners before getting their freak on.
The pope’s comments seem a bit harsh and decidedly outdated, but he’s really just being optimistic about our prospects for returning to sex as an emotional experience and stopping AIDS in the process.
And why shouldn’t he be optimistic? He’s the freakin’ pope.