Ad-Express and Daily Iowegian, Centerville, IA

CNHI/Southeast Iowa

February 5, 2013

Did penicillin cause the sexual revolution?

Ask most people to account for the sexual revolution of the 1960s, and they will likely say something about improved access to birth control (as well as improved access to Jefferson Airplane and shrooms). But Andrew Francis, an economist at Emory University, wants to give a little credit to penicillin, too.

 What does the antibiotic have to do with free love? In 1943, scientists discovered that it could treat the STD syphilis, which had been spreading steadily across the United States - and especially through the army. As penicillin shots became more available in the '50s, syphilis deaths declined and risky sexual behavior - as measured in gonorrhea rates, teen pregnancies and illegitimate births - increased. These indices of erotic adventurousness, in other words, were rising way before abortion and the pill became an accepted part of women's reproductive lives during the '60s and early '70s.

Of course, penicillin didn't cause the swinging '60s full stop. Many historians credit progressive social forces that were already germinating in the straight-jacketed '50s. The legalization of the pill and the growing acceptance of abortion couldn't have hurt either. But Francis does make a suggestive case for penicillin's contribution to the decade's freewheeling ways, linking the rise in sexual risk-taking after the syphilis epidemic deflated to the rise in same after a new AIDS treatment came out in 2000.

 The study proposes another weird/ironic chain of cause and effect too. Because "the advent of penicillin may have produced analogous effects on sexual behavior as the advent of HAART [an anti-retroviral drug]," Francis argues, it's possible that the "spread of HIV may have been facilitated by the collapse of syphilis." In other words, people were less worried about doing it once syphilis left the picture, so they didn't take the precautions that might have safeguarded them against AIDS. Francis, the economist, thus offers a few words of caution to health policy makers: "To focus exclusively on the defeat of one disease can set the stage for the onset of another if preemptive measures are not taken."

But that shouldn't stop us liberated women from silently offering penicillin a prayer of thanks next time we embrace the legacy of free love.

 

 

1
Text Only
CNHI/Southeast Iowa
  • Victimized by the 'marriage penalty'

    In a few short months, I'll pass the milestone that every little girl dreams of: the day she swears - before family and God, in sickness and in health, all in the name of love - that she's willing to pay a much higher tax rate.

    April 15, 2014

  • Allergies are the real midlife crisis

    One of the biggest mysteries is why the disease comes and goes, and then comes and goes again. People tend to experience intense allergies between the ages of 5 and 16, then get a couple of decades off before the symptoms return in the 30s, only to diminish around retirement age.

    April 15, 2014

  • treadmill-very-fast.jpg Tax deduction for a gym membership?

    April marks another tax season when millions of Americans will deduct expenses related to home ownership, children and education from their annual tax bill. These deductions exist because of their perceived value to society; they encourage behaviors that keep the wheels of the economy turning. So why shouldn't the tax code be revised to reward preventive health?

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Blue Zones photo 2 Blue Zones kicks off in Osky

    OSKALOOSA -- Blue Zones Project held its Oskaloosa Kickoff Monday evening at the Oskaloosa High School gym to help improve the community's health. Blue Zones originated with Dan Buettner of National Geographic. He was asked to find areas of the world

    April 15, 2014 2 Photos

  • bomb1 VIDEO: A year after marathon bombing, Boston remains strong

    The City of Boston came together Tuesday to honor those who were injured and lost their lives at the Boston Marathon on the one-year anniversary of the bombing. While the day was sure to be emotional, those affected by last year's race are showing they won't let the tragedy keep them down.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Google acquires drone maker Titan Aerospace to spread Internet

    Google is adding drones to its fleets of robots and driverless cars.
    The Internet search company said it acquired Titan Aerospace, the maker of high-altitude, solar-powered satellites that provides customer access to data services around the world. Terms of the deal weren't disclosed.

    April 14, 2014

  • E-Cigarettes target youth with festivals, lawmakers say

    The findings, in a survey released Monday by members of Congress, should prod U.S. regulators to curb the industry, the lawmakers said. While e-cigarettes currently are unregulated, the Food and Drug Administration is working on a plan that would extend its tobacco oversight to the products.

    April 14, 2014

  • Search teams will send unmanned sub to look for missing Malaysian airliner

    Teams searching for a missing Malaysian airliner are planning for the first time to send an unmanned submarine into the depths of the Indian Ocean to look for wreckage, an Australian official leading the multi-nation search said Monday.

    April 14, 2014

  • Why Facebook is getting into the banking game

    Who would want to use Facebook as a bank? That's the question that immediately arises from news that the social network intends to get into the electronic money business.

    April 14, 2014

  • Troy Rider.jpg State responds to gag order request

    Marion County Attorney Ed Bull has filed a resistance, on behalf of the State of Iowa, to a motion made by Troy Neil Rider's defense attorney to restrict law enforcement's ability to comment on the pending case. 

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • Motorist dies in one-vehicle accident Sunday

    The crash involved a single vehicle on 170th Street.

    April 14, 2014

  • Screen shot 2014-04-11 at 4.49.09 PM.png Train, entertain your pets with these 3 smartphone apps

    While they may not have thumbs to use the phone, pets can benefit from smartphone apps designed specifically for them.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Stepping forward: The real Colbert

    Letterman changed the late-night TV game between his run on NBC's "Late Night" and starting the "Late Show" franchise in 1993. And while it's tough to replace a pop-culture icon, Colbert, in terms of pedigree and sense of humor, makes the most sense.

    April 11, 2014

  • Millions of Android phones, tablets vulnerable to Heartbleed bug

    Millions of smartphones and tablets running Google's Android operating system have the Heartbleed software bug, in a sign of how broadly the flaw extends beyond the Web and into consumer devices.

    April 11, 2014

  • School Board, OEA agree to new contract

    OSKALOOSA -- The Oskaloosa School Board agreed to a tentative agreement with the Oskaloosa Education Association at Tuesday's regular session. The agreement, which will be voted on the by the association later this week, will be a 3.6 percent increa

    April 11, 2014

Obituaries
Featured Ads
Poll

The Iowegian wants readers to think about food prices. Are you paying more than you were last year for certain food items? According to a survey by the American Farm Bureau Federation, "the cost of 16 food items" increased by 3.5 over 2013, as reported by the Des Moines Register. So, the question of the week is, "Are you feeling the food price increase pinch?"

A. Yes, and it hurts.
B. No, I don't feel a thing.
C. Not sure.
     View Results
Iowegian on Facebook