Better My Daughter Die Than Signal “Sex is Ok”

If adolescent girls are given the HPV vaccine to guard against cervical cancer, will they be more likely to have sex? Some worry they will, and are pushing to keep girls from getting

I’ve never understood the concern.

I suspect few girls or women think much about the sex/cancer relationship. So how would inoculation make sexual activity more likely? “Oh, now I won’t get cancer, so I’ll have sex!” Who cares about STDs or pregnancy (which is what girls are much more likely to worry about).

Maybe parents fear that signing a consent form is tantamount to giving their okay to adolescent sex. All the more reason to allow girls to get vaccinated without parental consent.

And besides, a girl could end up getting cancer from HPV without ever having consensual sex outside marriage. She could be raped, or her husband could have an affair and transmit the disease to her in that way.

Still, it’s been a huge fuss in the conservative ranks. But why do so many conservatives feel that girls’ and women’s lives are not worth saving?

Right now, political fights revolve around limiting girls’ or women’s access to: the HPV vaccine, cancer screenings, tests for STDs — including H.I.V., nutrition programs for women and children, and Topeka, Kansas recently decriminalized domestic violence, saying they couldn’t afford it. Most recently the House passed HR 358, the “protect life” but kill women act, under which hospitals could refuse to perform emergency abortions even when a woman’s life is threatened by her pregnancy.

But back to the HPV controversy. Why would some parents risk their daughter’s death to send a signal about sex?

And is sex really so bad?

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on October 19, 2011, in feminism, gender, sex and sexuality, sexism, women and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. I am so surprised to know that some parents in the US have negative opinions of the HPV shot for their daughters. I moved to California from Japan last summer with my four children. My 15 and 13-year-old daughters had already got the HPV shots in Japan since all 13-17 years old girls can get a series of three HPV shots for free in Japan since 2010 (used to cost about $500). The shots can lessen the chance of most cervical cancers. I believe that allowing daughters to get them can be a message that we care their health and do not want them to suffer their future from cancer. If we talk seriously to our daughters about the shots focusing on health issues, they will more than likely understand what we want to say. Health issues and sex education should be handled in a different way.

  2. I think parents do get freaked out that they are saying that its ok to have sex with a vaccine. If that is their worry then that is where their job as a parent comes in. It has nothing to do with anything except them. Communication is the most important thing in any type of relationship. Parents, boyfriend/girlfriend, work/boss/co-workers, peers, teachers. With out verbal exchange everything else is minute. If you want to express a concern or idea to child or adolescent, do not scold them into it or shame or condemn them. By making something seem off limits or not allowed only makes the desire stronger. Parents should explain the facts and their opinions in a logical manner and allow their child to make their decision. Sex is not the worst thing that could happen to a persons child. It will happen eventually whether the parent likes it or not. The worst thing that could happen is death. Burring ones own child could most possibly be the most horrific life experience there is to face in this world. And not allowing a girl to get a vaccine could lead to death which would be at the accord of the parent who didnt allow it thinking they would send the message that sex is ok. Parents should not be afraid to talk to their child about anything in the world. They are the ones there to guide, inform, and help them along the way. Not pull the wool over their eyes thinking it is protection.

  3. This is outrageous! How will a parent stand there and fight against something that could help their daughters life? Girl’s are not that interested in an HPV shot either but for parents who know better, they should support the fact that this vaccine will prevent their little girl from one day getting cancer. Life is a game of chance, and parents do not have complete control of their children, and that’s perfectly okay because they are their own person. If a girl decides to have sex as adolescent they should not be worried about possibly getting cancer just because of their parents ignorance. If anything a parent should educate their children about sex and incorporate their beliefs and values so that maybe when the time comes their daughter might make the right choice.

  4. This is probably one of the most ridiculous thing I have ever read. It reminds me of all these things that parents do and how they unknowingly destroy their child’s life. I would like to bring up a very similar example, the much chastised MTV show, 16 and Pregnant. I hardly watch that show but from what I understand, abortion is not an option because these parents are against the idea of killing a child. However, have they ever thought if having a kid so early in their lives, especially without a stable job, education or partner, they might be causing their own kids their lives?

    There seems to be a huge “prevention is better then cure” debate here. The cure being the HPV shot while prevention is simply pretending that their children will practice abstinence because- OH! You will get cancer if you have sex! Honestly, in our highly sexualized culture today, there is no absolute way to prevent your teenaged daughter from having sex. Blame it only on our society and the heavy media influences that we have. There might be exceptions, but numbers only show that teenaged pre-marital sex is only on the rise. By not acknowledging this problem, parents are only harming their children. However, at least with the HPV shots, children will know the dangers of what sex will lead you into. Not only unwanted pregnancies and STDs, but one could actually get cancer and die from it. Education about sex issues is integral and by keeping our kids in the dark about the dangers of what sex could bring, and not teaching them about the cures and prevention, we are only deluding them into thinking of sex to be nothing but bed of roses, champagne and soft mood lighting. (I blame the media for that) These ignorant parents should be educated themselves before even having children!

  5. I have so much to say about this blog that I am having a hard time finding how to start it. First of all, the HPV shot is to prevent against cancer, if mother’s want to make the argument that getting this shot is going to provoke their daughters to have sex then you can say the same thing about other vaccines. Such as the Hep. vaccines, do you see people walking around licking the ground because now they are protected against hepatitis? No, of course not. Do you see people walking up to wild animals and getting bit because they can just get a rabies shot is anything happens? Hell no! If a girl is going to have sex, I’m sorry mothers, but she is just going to do it. The best thing for you to do is to protect her from anything bad happening to her and to provide her with the knowledge and morals you want her to have. Tell her about contraception and condoms and remaining abstinent. Keeping your daughter from getting a vaccine is not going to keep her from having sex, but it is going to risk her health.

  6. Mothers who believe that their daughters do not need protection from sexually transmitted dieses are horrible people. Children have the same amount of rights to protect themselves as any adult does. I believe that when children go into high school they start to make decisions for themselves. High school students need to start and learn what they can and cannot do and accept the consequences. High school is the frist step for people to learn what they can and cannot do; back in the day women married at the age of 13 they were adult then. In our history and in every countries history women are betrothed at birth or wed to someone twice their age at a very young age. What changed from back then to now.

  7. Meseret Workneh

    When I finished reading this article, I felt really sad because I realized that some people are still ignorant with regards to general health issues and particularly to women’s health. I would agree with the author that I don’t see a positive correlation between the HPV vaccine and sexual activity in teenagers.

    I believe that the decision for anyone to indulge in unprotected sex totally depends on the individual coupled with some aspects of how that particularly individual has been raised and educated with regards to sexual activities. Moreover as the author states, it’s no guarantee that abstaining from taking the vaccine and abstaining from sex at teenage years would render one HPV free for life, As I read in the article, it could be contacted through marriage if one’s partner is indulged in sexual relations outside his marriage, and worst still, one’s husband could be faithful , but contacted the diseases in a past relationship , particularly as HPV shows no signs and symptoms in most men. (, meaning one could have the disease without knowing.

    As to those who think women are not valuable such as the conservatives mentioned in the passage, I hope they get some education and change this way of thinking, for everyone is equal. It is so sad that in the 21st century , in a developed country such as ours, there still exist decriminative laws against women such as the HR 358.i believe that everyone is born free and have a right to make their choices regardless of the sex.

  8. I completely agree with what everyone has said. It’s total lunacy to think that because she gets a shot that she will be the town whore. Shots are now becoming part of middle school (whooping cough) so why not throw that vaccine in there without the student knowing? That way this whole issue could be avoided.

    However, I was trying to type out the other side of this issue and halfway through, I realized the real problem is that the parents themselves are not comfortable with the subject of sex, let alone to talk to their daughter/son about it. If they had taken an approach to educate about the perils (and rewards) of sex and how to engage in safe sex, I feel this would be much less of an issue. Unfortunately, the people who are against this vaccine are most likely the ones who’s children are sexually repressed and act on it later in life, or are just unfortunate to be born without the proper resources (education, IQ, poverty) to be armed with the knowledge that could prevent their death.

  9. I think getting information out about the vaccine. And opening up more womens eyes about the real issues it’s causing. It is real important to be safe. I would like to may my children aware of what harmful diseases are out there. That sex is something they could wait to experience when they were really ready and aware of what they were doing. If they made the choice to want to have sex then they need to be educated. Having the vaccine available when I was of age to take it. Then I would have suggested it to my mother for me. I don’t think nothings wrong with it. If there was a HIV vaccine everyone would probably want to take it. Just because this is for only women we shouild think about it first. And from what I understand there isn’t even a way to test a guy for the virus.

  10. Reading all this information infuriates me. How parents would risk their daughters’ death because they do not want to send the message that they are allowing their daughter to have sex. There always seems to be a double standard when it comes to males or females because I’m sure that if it was someone’s son and the topic was sex, most parents would be lenient. It makes me upset because I’ve lived this first hand. I have an older brother, and when he was about 17, he would constantly bring over his girlfriend and she would sleep with him in the same room. My mother never said anything about it, but now when my boyfriend comes to the house and it gets too late for him to go home, my mother lets him sleeps over at our house, but not together. She makes us sleep in separate rooms and locks the doors to make sure neither one of us goes into one another’s room at night. I’m 19. I personally would not disrespect my house like that, but regardless, to see how lenient my mother was with my brother because he is a boy, and how overprotective she is with me because I am a girl is unjust: we should both be given same treatment.

  11. I happen to agree with all of your comments, I can’t believe some parents would think this way. They could save their child’s life from cancer, instead they are thinking of themselves and how “they think” it would benefit their child. Even if they think their girl will not have sex if they do not get the vaccine, hypothetically what if they do? What then? Your daughter might get HPV and have cancer. Wouldn’t as a parent you feel horrible if you knew that you could prevent this? At least, this is the way I feel. When I have a kid, and it’s a girl she is getting the HPV vaccine as soon as she can. I want to help in any way I can to prevent cancer. Also as stated in the blog, there are still STD’s and pregnancy to think about. Many parents think that these precautions, such as not getting the vaccine, will stop there children from having sex. This may be the case, but I agree with Francis, If the girl has values and respects herself she will make the right decisions for herself. Parents should help their daughters make good life decisions and let them learn as young adults, but once those girls or boys turn 18 they are legal adults and it’s their own choice to get the vaccine.

  12. I can’t believe what I just read. How could some parents risk their daughters lives like that? All it is, is just a shot. A vaccination shot to protect their daughter from a life threatening cancer. It could save their daughters lives and future. If a girl were to get this vaccination with the approval of her parents, it doesn’t mean the girl will go out and have sex with whoever she wants. If the parents raised their daughter right and gave her advice as to why this shot is necessary, then it shouldn’t be such a big deal because they’re actually saving her life. And it’s not like it will automatically alter the girls perspectives on sexual intercourse. If she has values and respect for herself, then she, herself, know what’s best for her. A parent can stop their daughter from doing what they want (of course, I’m talking about them being of age to make their own decisions). They can only offer their support. However, if I were in the girls position and my parents are really stubborn and won’t sign a consent form for me to get vaccinated, then I would probably wait til I turn 18. That way, I would be able to get the vaccine without their consent or disagreement.

  13. People with the opinion that a shot could mean instantaneous transformation in to sex crazed teens always seem so difficult to dissuade since they clearly have no critical thinking capabilities. By denying anyone this shot you are greatly increasing the risk of several forms of cancer which is just a malicious thing to do. The overarching theme seems to be something along the lines of “My child isn’t a slut so she won’t even need it.” You are signaling a lack of care for your child when you put them purposely in to danger; coincidentally exactly what one does when denying their child this shot.

    As i said, hard to argue when the other party refuses to think.

  14. Allyson Velasquez

    After reading this article, I am more shocked than anything. It disgusts me that parents wouldn’t allow their daughters to get the HPV shot because they are worried that it makes sex seem ok. Instead of conveying the right message to their daughters, these parents are just acting ignorant. Not allowing their daughters to get the shot, could make them more rebellious in the future. Additionally, if a women without the HPV shot, were in a horrible situation (which many women are), such as rape, they are much more likely to get cancer. It is absurd at the way these parents are thinking. Preventative care should always be the most important factor in decision making, and by not allowing their daughters to get the HPV shot is ridiculous. S parent can only shelter their children so much. At some point no matter what their parents say, their children are going to do what ever they want. Young women may not be thinking clearly and be put in a bad situation. By having the HPV shot, they are prepared and taking preventative measures. Being safe is a whole lot better then being sorry. If parents are worried about their children having sex, they should talk to their children and address the consequences of their actions. Every woman should be allowed the HPV shot, and every parent should be understanding of it. In the end, people are going to do what they want, so they might as well be safe.

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