HPV Vaccines for Boys Easier Than for Girls: Why We Refuse to Save Girls’ Lives

By Juliana Jiménez

Now that Michele Bachmann is out of the race, we can look at some of the effects she had on national discourse. One of her most memorable moments was when she said — with no proof, on national TV — that HPV vaccines cause mental retardation.

Bachmann speaking at CPAC in Washington D.C. on February 11, 2011.
Bachmann speaking at CPAC in Washington D.C. on February 11, 2011. Credit: Wikipedia

Then, recently, NPR had a story on how the HPV vaccine for boys seems to have been better received than it was for girls.

The damage done by Bachmann’s statements is difficult to gage. But the fact that the same vaccine that is so controversial for girls, might be acceptable for boys of the same age, is at the very least, disturbing.

When we hear about lethal gender discrimination, we think of countries like Ethiopia, where, as NYT’s columnist Nicholas Kristof retells, when resources are low, girls are starved in favor of their brothers. But the same is happening here, where parents are so disturbed by the notion of their daughters having sex, that they rather they get cancer (or any other STD for that matter), than have them vaccinated. How crazy is this? It’s not even that they prefer they die over them having sex, because that is not what is happening, it’s that they prefer to think their daughters are not having sex, than to save their lives. As a society, we are so perturbed by sex, by women having sex, that we rather risk their lives than to even think about it. Sadly, I guess I could say the same about my parents.

Growing up, sex was not discussed openly in my family, (wince), it was rather taboo. It was something like, “why would you want to do that?” Only after I announced that I was going to move in with my boyfriend, at the tender age of 23, that my mom asked me if I was using “something”, for one of the Top 3 Most Awkward conversations in my life. It was such a shameful moment. She did it so angrily, too, so aggressively. I felt so much shame, being with her, talking about this thing that I was doing, but I “wasn’t really doing.”  What I find so strange is that my mom has a fairly decent medical background, and is usually up-front about physical-medical things, about 27.5 times more than my dad is. But that does not prevent her from doing her very best in making me feel horrible when we “talk” about sex (the two and a half times it happened), and by talk I mean her barking out three sentences and me fidgeting in shame with a fascinating piece of lint on my shirt.

The point is, she knows how important contraception is, she knows exactly all the biomechanics of them, but she doesn’t talk to me about that, no, she would rather shame me into not having sex, she would rather risk me getting an STD, possibly dying from it, possibly getting pregnant. Great strategy. Like the Pope on condoms in Africa; it’s actually my mother’s deeply Catholic upbringing that might cause all this. Like Mother Teresa and contraception and abortion, which she called “the greatest destroyer of peace.”

More on that on the next post.

5 thoughts on “HPV Vaccines for Boys Easier Than for Girls: Why We Refuse to Save Girls’ Lives

  1. Although I am typically not pro-vaccine, I know that if I had a child he or she would definitely be vaccinated against HPV. It’s so incredibly common anymore, and most boys don’t know they have it to alert their partner to begin with. Better to be safe than sorry, right?

    1. Hey, thanks for the comment! agreed, a vaccine for cancer is and should be a VERY big deal, and everyone should be all over that. The thing is, a lot of people don’t realize it doesn’t just cause HPV, it also leads to other types of cancers. Saving your own kids’ lives should be a no-brainer, right?

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