Top ten lists for 2011. Think you’ve read them all? Well, wait—there’s one more for you to ponder: the best stories on sexuality of the past year. By “best” I mean the most positive and, yes, often the most encouraging stories of the year. (Stay tuned for the worst and, sadly, the cruelest stories next week.) But for now, here are the stories that illuminate. They should make us feel good that we are all sexual people from birth to death.
10. Boys as well as girls may soon be able to receive the HPV vaccine
The human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine protects against four different strains of the virus and against certain cancers in men and cervical cancer in women. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advisory panel recommended that boys as young as 11 and 12 routinely receive the Gardasil vaccine to prevent HPV infection. Doctors and many families have adopted its recommendation, but the CDC director and Secretary of Health and Human Services still need to sign off on it. Gardasil has already been approved for young women. Some parents, according to news reports, think the vaccination “undercuts their message of abstinence” and will be “a license for young people to be sexually active.” Supporters of the vaccination call such arguments “hollow.” I tend to agree. If the vaccine is recommended for girls, why not for boys? It is a matter of public health.
9. Public school students in Washington, D.C., to be tested on sexual knowledge
Students in public and public charter schools in Washington, D.C., will become the first students in the nation to take a sex-education standardized test this coming year. The
Office of the State Superintendent of Education announced the assessment for grades 5, 8, and 10, because the capital’s “rates of childhood obesity, sexually transmitted disease, and teen pregnancy are among the country’s highest," reports the Washington Post. Student test results should provide answers to questions about the district’s school sex education and health programs, and, hopefully, could propel other states into testing young people’s knowledge about key issues in their lives.
8. Growing interest in new contraceptives for men
The scientific community is busy developing new forms of male contraception to add to the standard choices of condoms and vasectomies. The goal is for these methods to be “safe, effective, and reversible.” Federal agencies, reports the New York Times are beginning to finance male contraceptive research as a result of “increasing support from women’s organizations and global health groups.” A spokesperson for the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development is quoted as saying, “We have a number of irons in the fire… I think men actually do want to do this.”
7. Teenage sexual behavior reveals greater responsibility, especially among boys
Results of a CDC study showed two surprises about young people’s sexual behavior: 80 percent of teenage boys reported “using condoms the first time they have sex,” and the number of teenagers having sex has dropped since the 1980s. Some credit may go to the female partners of guys who insist that they use protection as well as the efforts of parents, educators, health providers, nonprofits, and government officials who have supported and funded comprehensive sex education.