It’s Official: The HPV Vaccine Will Not Turn Girls Into “Sluts”

On October 15, the New York Times reported that adolescents who are vaccinated against human papillomavirus (HPV) aren’t more promiscuous than those who don’t get vaccinated. HPV is a sexually transmitted disease that raises the risk of some cancers. It’s not surprising that a vaccine has no effect on adolescent sexual behavior. What is surprising is that fear of “sluttiness” is the number-one reason parents decide not to vaccinate their kids against HPV.

Put another way: A large proportion of parents in the United States are more afraid of their kids having sex than they are of their kids getting cancer.

In fact, “slut-shaming” and negative messaging about female and non-straight sexuality could themselves be compared to a viral infection. A study published in November 2011 found that nearly half of students in grades seven through 12 experienced sexual harassment, and that most of the harassment is directed at girls for being either “slutty” or “prudes” or against kids who are suspected of being gay.

Seeking to shame someone because of her or his real or perceived sexual activity and desire is prevalent among teens and constitutes a type of bullying that is extremely damaging. The 2011 study noted that students reported being particularly negatively affected by slut shaming. Research consistently shows that LGBTI youth have a much higher rate of suicide or suicide attempts than the general population, with a strong correlation between depression or self-harm and gay bashing.

Slut shaming and gay bashing originate with adults. I don’t mean just adults who tell children that all sex outside marriage is bad or consign LGBTI kids to celibacy, or banish them to hell. I mean adults who refuse to have a real conversation with teenagers about sex and all that comes with it—good or bad. The sex-negative culture we have created by not having real conversations about sex and relationships affects everyone.

Here’s how:

When we tell adolescents that sex is not something they should desire or like, we are telling them to set aside their own experiences in favor of a lie. Spoiler alert! A study looking at trends in premarital sex from the 1950s until now shows that the majority of Americans have sex before marriage. One of two things happens next, and sometimes both simultaneously:

On one hand, adolescents stop listening to the adults who tell them scare stories, because they see for themselves that the adults are wrong. Not everyone who has sex before marriage gets pregnant, contracts AIDS, or dies. And sex can feel amazing. When the adolescent-adult relationship is breached, children can lose their lifelines to trusted adults, who could have guided them through the mess that is puberty.

And some kids start doubting their own instincts. When we tell them that something that feels good to them is “bad,” they start thinking they, themselves, are bad. In this sense, slut shaming creates a culture of self-hatred in which girls in particular are only too willing to see themselves as deserving abuse.

It‘s crucially important that we teach children to trust their own feelings about sex and relationships. Instead of telling teenagers not to have sex at all—a completely outlandish notion in a post-post-Madonna world—we need to acknowledge that sexual desire exists, and that consent, not shame, is key. Only a teenager who is taught to respect and acknowledge his or her own feelings will know when touching feels wrong, and therefore when they need to say no. This is one of the few things my parents got right. My mother told me more than once that the only rule about sex in our house was that I should never have sex I didn’t want to have.

Slut shaming and gay bashing come from the same place: adult discomfort with sex. This can translate into adolescent date rape, teenage pregnancies, and sexually-transmitted-infection rates that are through the roof for those under the age of 24. Shaming someone for having sex that he or she wants to have constitutes bullying and teaches teenagers to ignore their own feelings about sex, potentially pushing them to unprotected and unhappy encounters.

In short: The sex-negative culture that has parents denying their children access to cancer prevention is the same culture that may expose these children to a sexually- transmitted, cancer-inducing virus. It’s time to get real about sex.

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  • bitterbonker

    It’s a shame that young girls are being given anxiety by slut-shaming, as you described. It’s also a shame that young girls and their parents are being scared into taking a vaccine with a proven record of danger, but no record of preventing cervical cancer (which is fairly rare, and questionably link to HPV virus… heck, the whole infectious hypothesis of cancer is questionable). It’s just about as ridiculous to say girls have any need whatsoever for HPV vaccine, as it is to say that HPV vaccine will turn them into sluts. Both have no evidence to back them up.

  • crowepps

    Oh, sure, that makes sense.  All you have to do is discard years of medical research and science, avoid Google so you don’t accidently educate yourself, and proceed on the basis of ‘common sense’, which on the evidence of this post is neither common nor sensible.

    “A vaccine with a proven record of danger”

    “MONDAY, Oct. 1 (HealthDay News) — The most common side effects in girls and young women who receive the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine appear to be fainting right after the injection and skin infections where the shot was given, a new study confirms.”

    “no record of preventing cervical cancer”

    “A controlled trial of a human papillomavirus type 16 vaccine.


    The women were followed for a median of 17.4 months after completing the vaccination regimen. The incidence of persistent HPV-16 infection was 3.8 per 100 woman-years at risk in the placebo group and 0 per 100 woman-years at risk in the vaccine group (100 percent efficacy; 95 percent confidence interval, 90 to 100; P<0.001). All nine cases of HPV-16-related cervical intraepithelial neoplasia occurred among the placebo recipients.”

    “questionably link to HPV virus”

     “Unlike most other cancers, however, in which multiple environmental, biologic, and lifestyle determinants contribute independently or jointly to carcinogenesis, cervical cancer has been shown to have a central causal agent, human papillomavirus (HPV) infection (13), whose contribution to the risk of the disease is much greater than that of any other recognized determinant (4).”


  • wildthing

    So we just worhip th fact that sexual ignorance andfear rule the teenage years so by the time we let them loose they are all too frigid to enjoy it… Sexual repression contines to rage and we say whew we knew a simple vaccination didn’t create horrible sluts… meanwhile mother nature turned all those hormoine loose on them anyway… too bad they are wasted on a race that can’t accept who they are.

  • bitterbonker

    “A vaccine with a proven record of danger”

    Dr. Diane Harper says young girls and their parents should receive more complete warnings before receiving the vaccine to prevent cervical cancer. Dr. Harper helped design and carry out the Phase II and Phase III safety and effectiveness studies to get Gardasil approved, and authored many of the published, scholarly papers about it. She has been a paid speaker and consultant to Merck. It’s highly unusual for a researcher to publicly criticize a medicine or vaccine she helped get approved. 

    “The risks of serious adverse events including death reported after Gardasil use in (the JAMA article by CDC’s Dr. Barbara Slade) were 3.4/100,000 doses distributed. The rate of serious adverse events on par with the death rate of cervical cancer. Gardasil has been associated with at least as many serious adverse events as there are deaths from cervical cancer developing each year. Indeed, the risks of vaccination are underreported in Slade’s article, as they are based on a denominator of doses distributed from Merck’s warehouse. Up to a third of those doses may be in refrigerators waiting to be dispensed as the autumn onslaught of vaccine messages is sent home to parents the first day of school. Should the denominator in Dr. Slade’s work be adjusted to account for this, and then divided by three for the number of women who would receive all three doses, the incidence rate of serious adverse events increases up to five fold. How does a parent value that information,” said Harper. 

    Dr. Scott Ratner and his wife, who’s also a physician, expressed similar concerns as Dr. Harper in an interview with CBS News last year. One of their teenage daughters became severely ill after her first dose of Gardasil. Dr. Ratner says she’d have been better off getting cervical cancer than the vaccination. “My daughter went from a varsity lacrosse player at Choate to a chronically ill, steroid-dependent patient with autoimmune myofasciitis. I’ve had to ask myself why I let my eldest of three daughters get an unproven vaccine against a few strains of a nonlethal virus that can be dealt with in more effective ways.”


    “The women were followed for a median of 17.4 months after completing the vaccination regimen.”

    LOL! So a vaccine that is given in young adulthood, in order to supposedly prevent a cancer that typically shows up in middle age or later, is shown to prevent cervical cancer based on a 1-1/2 year trial? HAHAHA! I can see why you spoke so disdainfully towards common sense, because you clearly lack it. “All you have to do is discard years of medical research and science” if you’re claiming your study in any way implicates HPV in developing cervical cancer.


    “questionably link to HPV virus”


    Papilloma viruses are transmitted by sexual and other contacts, like the herpes viruses, and are widespread or “ubiquitous” in at least 50% of the adult population of the U.S. and Europe (3, 191). For example, using the PCR to amplify sequences of one particular strain of papilloma virus, 46% of 467 women in Berkeley, California, with a median age of 22 were found to carry HPV, but none of them had cervical cancer (199).

    In the U.S., the incidence of cervical cancer in all women, with and without HPV, per 70-year lifetime is about 1% (197). In a controlled study of age-matched women, 67% of those with cervical cancer and 43% of those without were found to be HPV-positive (198). The presence of HPV in no more than 67% of age-matched women with cervical cancer indicates that HPV is not necessary for cervical cancer. These cancers are also observed on average only 20-50 years after infection (191).

    The controlled study of age-matched women described above suggests that 52% of the women with cervical cancer were smokers compared to only 27% of those without (198)… By contrast only 13,000 cervical cancers are observed annually in both HPV-positive and -negative women in the U.S. (197). Indeed, the test may be harmful, considering the anxiety a positive result induces in believers of the virus-cancer hypothesis.


    Furthermore, there is no plausible mechanism for *how* HPV or any virus can cause cancer. Correlation (weak correlation, at that) does not equal causation. If HPV or fragments of it occurs in some cases of cervical cancer, it doesn’t mean it’s the cause. The active cell growth in cervical dysplasias could be what is causing the papilloma viruses to become active, not the other way around. Cervical cancer shows no sign of being infectious, and it utterly fails Koch’s Postulates.