The Komen challenge has already brought a huge number of diaries. It’s clear this is a serious blow to women's health. But I'd like to make the case that this was a serious blow to men's health, as well. One of the best and easiest places to get STD testing and birth control services is at Planned Parenthood, which is just as critical for men as for women.
For those of us with an open sex life STD testing is an important component of keeping ourselves and our partners safe. But going to your regular doctor for testing can be embarrassing. A great alternative is Planned Parenthood, which has inexpensive and anonymous testing. This provides a reasonable way to maintain both privacy and safety.
Now, I'm not the world's expert on sex. However, my girlfriend is, and thus I've had the pleasure and privilege of learning a great deal about the subject. I've even participated in some of her ESO lectures* (where I, naturally, played the part of the penis). As a result of her efforts to promote a positive view of sexuality I’ve probably been exposed to more real sex in America than the typical American.
Even so I know that I’m reticent to talk about sex with anyone except my most intimate friends. I worry about what can happen to my health insurance and other important resources if I disclose too much. Being proactive about birth control and preventing disease transmission can seem crass and overly optimistic at times. But it’s necessary part of a safe and active sex life. So, I’ve learned about safe sex techniques** and I’ve gone to get STD testing when appropriate.
It was obvious to me fairly early in life that I did not want to limit my sexual experience to just one partner. But if you are going to have multiple partners then you must address the issue of disease transmission. There are two practical ways to do that. You can ignore the issue or you can learn and use safe sex. I chose the latter (although not as quickly as I would like to tell you). Having an expert on sex handy meant that, at a point I couldn't avoid the issue.
Taking responsibility might sound like a drag, but what I found was that safe sex turns out to be quite a lot of fun. Besides, it gives you something to do with your hands in those moments when you might otherwise be tense or nervous. But, it isn't enough to make you completely safe. Nothing can really do that, but you can get closer with testing. And, I've gotten my testing from Planned Parenthood. I think it’s the best option. Aside from confidentiality, one big advantage is that they do enough of it to know what's current and what's reasonable.
And so, when I got a call from Planned Parenthood a couple weeks ago, asking for a donation, you might think that I'd immediately get out my wallet and give them something. Well, not exactly.
You see, their pitch was that I should donate because our opponents were planning more attacks on abortion rights. And that's true. In fact, we just saw a nasty fight in the south over a so-called personhood initiative. And, I know that our opponents are planning more attempts like that.
It’s not that I’m hardhearted. I just think it's time for Planned Parenthood, and other progressive groups, to stop defending these various rights--and go on the offensive to expand them. When is Planned Parenthood going to have a campaign to open a bunch of new clinics in Mississippi, for instance? When is someone going to call me up and ask me for money to do that? Quite frankly, an appeal to hold back the tide once again isn’t that appealing, if you’ll pardon the expression.
But, if anti-abortionists were trying to prevent the opening of new clinics, they couldn't afford to mount attacks to take away women's rights. They'd be too busy trying to stop their expansion. And that's where we need to be as a strategy.
So, my initial response when I got this call was to say "No, I'm sorry, but I don't want to hear about how they are trying to take away women's rights. I want to hear that you guys are out there on the offensive making them respond to our initiatives."
After I got that off my chest, though, I thought about the times that Planned Parenthood had been there for me. I'm fortunate to have never needed them for an abortion. I've never needed them for anything more serious than an STD test. So, I contributed. I actually contributed a little more than I was readily comfortable with, but it is such a deserving cause. It's a cause I believe in, which is about more than abortion and more than women's health and more than men's health. It's really about a nation's health.
I was unprepared and stunned, then, the following week when Susan G. Komen pulled their funding. After all the other attacks, here was one from what should be our friends. Thankfully, everyone opened up the lines to help out Planned Parenthood. It turns out that I'm not alone in caring about this organization. It turns out that Planned Parenthood has broad national support. The Komen challenge really made it brilliantly clear how much support there really is. That’s a bit of a silver lining in a very dark cloud.
It also turned out that they needed more than what I'd given them the week before. I have to say that I was not enthusiastic about making another contribution. I'd already given at the office, so to speak. But, here's the thing. They were there for me when I needed them. And so, I gave to them a second time. I doubled my contribution. And since this went through the Daily Kos link, I'm expecting it will get matching funds, as well.
I'm not going to provide a link here for you to contribute because I think it's easy enough for you to find one. But I want to make this appeal to other men. This is about more than women’s health. Join me in making this a men’s cause. They're there for you, too.
* ESO means "Extended Sexual Orgasm". STD is short for "sexually transmitted disease".
** I use the term "safe sex" here even though there is some controversy as to whether it should be "safer sex" or some other term. But for the sake of brevity and optimism, I've chosen "safe sex", which means generally the use of barriers such as condoms, medical gloves, and plastic or rubber items to prevent exchange of bodily fluids.