Meet the liberated college woman. You may pity her.
"Unprotected" is a hard slap at the sexual free-for-all that prevails on American campuses and throughout American life. The author, revealed since publication as Dr. Miriam Grossman, a psychiatrist at the student health service at UCLA, was hesitant to put her name on this book. The orthodoxy within the academic world is a strict one, and those who transgress often pay with their jobs. Let's hope for her sake, but particularly for her patients' well being, that she is not punished for her heterodox views.
What does Dr. Grossman believe that is so dangerous to admit? Well, start with ordinary sex. She believes that casual, promiscuous sex is tough on many women. They are hard-wired to bond with those they have sex with (the hormone oxytocin is implicated), and she sees countless female students reporting stress, eating disorders and even depression for reasons they cannot understand. After all, the world sells them on the notion that sex is pure recreation, that the "hook-up" culture is natural and even empowering to women, and that love and sex are two completely different things.
She describes a 19-year-old, "Heather," who is depressed. She has a "friend with benefits," but only with the help of psychotherapy is she able to acknowledge that the relationship is causing her pain. She'd like to do things with him, like see movies or go out for dinner, but he is interested only in sex. Dr. Grossman helps Heather to see that her needs are being neglected.
Another student, "Olivia," is devastated after her first serious boyfriend breaks up with her. Her grades suffer, she weeps constantly and suffers a relapse of an eating disorder, making herself vomit up to six times a day. "'Why, doctor,' she asked, why do they tell you how to protect your body -- from herpes and pregnancy -- but they don't tell you what it does to your heart?'"And that may be the least of it. Health service physicians and nurses at UCLA and other colleges actually cheerlead for promiscuity. The author points to goaskalice.com, a question and answer service of the Columbia University Health Education Program. A man who was considering a menage a trois was told, after a few advisories about discussing the matter with his wife, "As far as where to find a third, often personal ads are placed in local alternative newspapers for people seeking different types of sexual encounters. And, don't forget to think about people you know as possibilities. . . . Have fun and BE SAFE!" The site also offers tips on how to clean a cat-o'-nine-tails between uses and advice on drinking urine. At the University of Missouri, "external water sports" is described as one form of "safer sex." (Hint: It has nothing to do with swimming pools.)
"Stacey" is paying a heavy price. An athlete and vegetarian who avoided preservatives, sodas and nicotine, and prided herself on discipline and a low body mass index, Stacey showed up at the health service after repeatedly cutting her forearms. Dr. Grossman reports that such self-injurious behavior is epidemic on campuses.
Stacey, it seems, had been diagnosed with HPV, a sexually transmitted disease. And while college health brochures and women's magazines suggest that the virus is no big deal, that's rubbish. In some cases it can lead to cancer. In every case it requires time-consuming and emotionally draining tests. And 43 percent of college women get it. Stacey's strain can lead to cancer, so she must be tested every six months for the rest of her life. Chlamydia, which is difficult to detect and cure, can cause infertility. Each year, 3 million women are treated for it. An unknown number never get treatment.
No effort is spared to teach young people about the dangers of smoking, saturated fat, "unsafe sex" and even osteoporosis. But no one tells young women that if they want to be mothers they would do well to plan their careers around the unavoidable biological fact of declining fertility after age 35. The establishment encourages the fiction that women can expect to remain fertile well into their 40s.
It's sad that this book is so necessary, but all the more welcome for that. Buy it for yourself, for your sons, but especially for your daughters.