In which each generation thinks it invented sex; and on chlamydia and prostitution


The young’uns always think they invented sex, don’t they?

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that “Oral sex is on the rise”.

The Australasian sexual health congress in Perth has been told oral sex, once the exclusive domain of sex workers, has now become a leading part in the sexual repertoire for straight and gay Australians.

“For young people it’s an almost universal practice now, with 90 per cent trying it before the age of 30,” said Basil Donovan, a professor of sexual health at the University of NSW.[…]

Another sexual health expert, Dr Juliet Richters, author of the book Doing it Down Under, said she believed the rise of feminism was the key to the trend, with women now happier to say what they wanted.

If you have a look at Kinsey data from around sixty years ago, nearly fifty percent of his married heterosexual subjects had performed oral sex, with little difference between men and women. Maybe it’s more popular now in 2008, particularly between non-marital partners, but oral sex sure wasn’t the “exclusive domain of sex workers” mid-twentieth century.

Donovan claims:

“80 years ago […] it was entirely the work of sex workers and men were never going to get it at home.”

So recreational oral sex in married couples went from zero to fifty percent between 1930 and 1950? Anyone here believe that?

[Tigtog suggests that the caption for the photo accompanying the article should be “Oral sex: ur doing it rong.”][Hat tip to Ken.]

In other Sexual Health Congress news, the same professor, Basil Donovan, has called for national decriminalisation of prostitution. More details at ABC’s The World Today.

MICHAEL EDWARDS [reporter]: In New South Wales, prostitution is decriminalised and Sharon says sex workers take control of their own health concerns.

SHARON [sex worker]: I found that working in New South Wales has been more conducive to accessing health services and taking control of my health than when I was in Perth worried about, you know, the police or when I was in Victoria feeling forced and insulted and degraded and invaded by having to go for mandatory testing.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: And a new study shows sex workers in New South Wales have some of the lowest rates of sexually transmitted diseases in the entire country.

The study’s author, Professor Basil Donovan from the National Centre in HIV, says decriminalising and deregulating the sex industry works.

BASIL DONOVAN: In Sydney you are looking at a chlamydia prevalence that means how many women are infected in any one day are one to two per cent in Sydney sex workers.

The general population of prevalence for women of the same age is four to five per cent. Count the school girls is about one to two per cent or slightly higher. The prevalence of gonorrhoea in sex workers in Sydney is about as close as you can get to zero.

Note that previous work suggests that the prevalence of chlamydia in men is similar to the prevalence in women. This means that in any given heterosexual sex work encounter in a decriminalised environment, the man may be around 500% more likely than the woman to be carrying chlamydia at the time. (Possibly more; I can’t find a study testing for the prevalence of chlamydia carriage amongst the subset of men who patronise sex workers.)

This sure puts paid to the old misogynist canard about prostitutes being a public health menace, doesn’t it?

More on “mandatory testing” at the Scarlet Alliance.

Categories: gender & feminism, history

Tags: , , ,

5 replies

  1. I’m not sure I’d credit zero 1930 to 50% 1950 precisely, but a big difference post wwii? Sure.
    More generally, I’m interested in the implication that there is data for 80 years ago. I was under the impression that there wasn’t really.

  2. I’m not familiar with any data that old, Laura, and couldn’t find any on a quick look. My folks were familiar with the concept of oral sex in the 1950s – though I haven’t asked them whether they got up to it or not – but my grandparents are all gone, so I’ve no one IRL to grill.
    Both fellatio and cunnilingus feature in visual pornography of the 1920s and 1930s, but that doesn’t address the question of what happened recreationally. I’m still not buying “zero”, though, no way, nohow, not without very convincing and replicated data. And I’m thinking that perhaps the professor involved didn’t think outside of the latter-day Anglosphere, either.

  3. I suspect the big difference is not in the number engaging in the activity as being willing to admit it.
    Grendels last blog post..PNG

  4. Prior to WWII there was a lot of taboo surrounding oral sex in North America. When the soldiers returned from the war they had picked up some new tricks. Of course this translated into men wanting oral sex but not wanting to reciprocate. To this day for every ten times a woman sucks a dick she receives cunnilingus three times. It is interesting to note that they only real true sex taboo across cultures is what goes in the mouth and that is because of its social visibility.
    Renees last blog post..Miss Navajo: Reconceptualizing Native American Beauty.

  5. i’m sure the zero percent must be wrong. its not like you wouldnt get around to doing it without anyone telling you, i’m sure people must have tries it. and if it was a taboo, surely even more would want to give it a go.
    art’s last blog post..Row With a View

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