Kathy Petersen’s Blog

Another reason to promote abstinence

Posted in Uncategorized by Kathy on September 25, 2009

The launch of the so-called “Sex Degrees of Separation” (of course the title comes from “six degrees of separation” — the idea that every human is connected to every other human on the planet in six people or less — for instance, I shook hands with Magic Johnson when I was a child, so that is one degree; which means that every other person he has ever come in contact with would be two degrees away from me) shows the exponential problem of multiple sex partners. Here’s an article discussing it a bit, and here’s the calculator itself.

Of course, there are some assumptions in the calculator which may or may not be accurate. If two virgins marry, it doesn’t matter if the “average” man or woman has had 6-9 previous sexual partners (who themselves were also previously sexually exposed to multiple partners), their total risk is “1”. I would like to see the data and assumptions that this calculator is based on — certainly not monogamy!

Out of curiosity, I put in my real stats (my husband as my only sex partner), and it came up with an indirect exposure to over 1.2 million people. Mm-hmm. I put in my real stats for when I got married (to see if the ages made a difference), and it was 1.0 million people. So, despite the fact that my husband and I have been monogamous for the past 6 years, I somehow became indirectly exposed to an additional 200,000 people? Uh, yeah. Of course, the “average” person (who may not be real — some people will sleep with anything that moves while others may retain their virginity or at least be much more choosy) will sleep with more people the older s/he gets, so it would make sense for the relative risk to rise. But then, you can’t calculate your real risk, if you’re one of the outliers.

At the lowest risk (aside from virginity and zero sexual partners, of course!), namely being a 16-y/o girl whose last sexual partner was a 16-17-y/0 boy, you would be indirectly exposed to about 3,000 different people. However, if you’re a 16-y/o boy whose last sexual partner was a 16-17-y/o girl, your indirect exposure is “only” 17.

I just realized that you can calculate your risk going back to three degrees of separation, instead of six. Doing this for a woman sleeping with one 25-y/o man drops the risk from 92,280 to only 282. So, that could be a way to show lower risk from chaste or more-chaste people.

Back in college, I remember an experiment the biology teacher did, which was supposed to show the risk of sleeping around. It didn’t work… yet it did work. Each student took a vial of clear liquid (it looked like water), and we were supposed to mix and mingle with the other students, swapping fluid — you see how it could mimic sex. Since it was the first day, and most of us didn’t know anybody else in the lab, or we sat next to people we did know, we mostly just mixed fluid with the people who were closest to us. The teacher called out for us to “circulate and make friends,” but we still pretty much stayed within our 3-person lab groups, or at most with the lab group nearest us. Then after a little while, she came by and put a drop or two of a chemical into our vials, to cause a reaction with the heretofore unknown substance put into one (or more) of the vials that looked clear. It ended up that very few people had vials that turned blue. I think the person who made up that experiment intended it to show risk of having sex (swapping fluids indiscriminately with everyone in class), with many or perhaps even most of the vials of clear water turning blue. Instead, the reverse was shown to be true — that if you’re monogamous (only swapping fluids with your lab partner), then you lower or eliminate your risk of STDs. Since only a few people’s vials turned blue, it didn’t make a big splash, like the visual from everyone’s vial turning blue; but it made the point (in reverse) just the same.


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