From "Chastity Pollutes? NY Times Website Hosts Idea That Social Conservatism Causes AIDS" by Tim Graham, posted 7/9/07, at NewsBusters.org
On Sunday, New York Times economics columnist David Leonhardt reviewed the new book "More Sex is Safer Sex: The Unconventional Wisdom of Economics" by Steven Landsburg, a regular contributor to the liberal site Slate.com. Leonhardt panned the book as too cute and too far afield from the "dismal science" of economics, but the Times book editors gave the Landsburg thesis an excerpt on the Times website. According to Landsburg, people who are chaste and monogamous (who practice "extreme sexual conservatism") cause the spread of AIDS through the "sin of self-restraint." The excerpt begins:
This is not a joke.
It's true: AIDS is nature's awful retribution for our tolerance of immoderate and socially irresponsible sexual behavior. The epidemic is the price of our permissive attitudes toward monogamy, chastity, and other forms of extreme sexual conservatism. You've read elsewhere about the sin of promiscuity. Let me tell you about the sin of self-restraint.
Consider Martin, a charming and generally prudent young man with a limited sexual history, who has been gently flirting with his coworker Joan. As last week's office party approached, both Joan and Martin silently and separately entertained the prospect that they just might be going home together. Unfortunately, Fate, through its agents at the Centers for Disease Control, intervened. The morning of the party, Martin happened to notice one of those CDC-sponsored subway ads touting the virtues of abstinence. Chastened, he decided to stay home. In Martin's absence, Joan hooked up with the equally charming but considerably less prudent Maxwell - and Joan got AIDS.
When the cautious Martin withdraws from the mating game, he makes it easier for the reckless Maxwell to prey on the hapless Joan. If those subway ads are more effective against Martin than against Maxwell, they are a threat to Joan's safety. This is especially so when they displace Calvin Klein ads, which might have put Martin in a more socially beneficent mood.
Martin's chastity is a form of pollution -- chastity pollutes the sexual environment by reducing the fraction of relatively safe partners in the dating pool. Factory owners pollute too much because they have to breathe only a fraction of their own pollution; Martin stays home alone too much because he bears only a fraction of the consequences.
The man who wrote this, Stephen Landsburg, is apparently a well respected professor of economics at the University of Rochestor, commentator, author and contributor to the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and Slate. All that to say, he is not part of the fringe Left.
Having said that, some ideas are so stupid it is probably best not to comment on them at all...
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