Our country is obsessed with wasted youth. We apparently drink, smoke and fornicate as though it were going out of fashion.
Our country is obsessed with wasted youth. We apparently drink, smoke and fornicate as though it were going out of fashion. But the times they are a-changing and not every bright, young thing can get away with massive weekend purges on their bank account and dignity, and more often than not they wake up with something a little worse than a hangover. Now our youth’s love of booze-filled frivolity has led them to a life of sexually transmitted diseases.
According to the World Health Organisation, over 333 million new cases of treatable sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are recorded worldwide, with the highest rates found in 20-24 year olds. Western Europe has an estimated four million adults with STIs while Britain has 427,000 reported cases; this doesn’t take into account the number of people who haven’t visited a GUM (genitourinary medicine) clinic.
So why the rise in STIs? What causes numerous young people to drop their pants and their common sense in return for a few minutes of pleasure and weeks of agony and discomfort? The trigger most professionals point to is drink—and lots of it.
The Health Protection Agency believe that young people need to practise safer sex to avoid the risk of unwanted infection, but surely anyone in a sober, sane mind would know that? The problem comes when people are a little less inhabited and more open to brash and careless decision making, the result of having one too many. But our country’s youth are not just drinking the odd pint or two; they are knocking back the shots, the chasers and any three for two offers they can get their hands on.
One in four Brits now binge drink, and if you don’t already know how many units are in your evening glass of Pinot Grigio, you too could be one of the many thousands of people who are now classed as binge drinkers. The UK now holds the title of Europe’s heaviest drinkers with our 15-16 year olds responsible for the third highest drinking group.
The British Medical Journal (BMJ) has monitored the effects of binge drinking on young adults for the last decade and in 2010 published a report which found that Europe’s youth of today have become “socialised early on by their peers in to holding their booze.” The report gives conclusive evidence that this “coupled with a society which is relatively relaxed about sex results in increased risk-taking behaviour and clearly ineffective attempts to protect themselves from STIs.” The BMJ also adds that more people are now tested and this contributes to the overall ‘rise’ in STIs; STI awareness stalls are available at Fresher’s fairs and college Open days as a preliminary caution to their new-found freedom.
So is the reason why STIs are on the rise not just due to binge drinking, but from our culture’s message that it is socially acceptable to be promiscuous?
Well, first of all, STIs are on the rise not just in the younger generation, but in all groups, especially older women. This is primarily due to the rise in divorce rates meaning older men and women are meeting and sleeping with more people than they would have done 20 to 30 years ago. In addition, they don’t realise how easy it is to catch a sexually transmitted infection and they often believe that an adult who has stepped out of a 15-year marriage is likely to be STI free. Naivety plays a huge factor here.
Another reason is down to parenting, and I am not saying that all young people with an STI have bad parents, but unfortunately there is a link between broken homes affecting how the young behave and that can often mean erratic behaviour and poor choices. The way young people even talk about sex is worrying and not using the proper terminology for genitals or for sexual infections is causing them to behave immaturely in very mature situations. Using inappropriate language is lessening the seriousness of the matter—it’s ridiculous that taking part in a very grown-up act causes people to act younger than their age.
Ultimately, binge drinking has played a vital role in the number of people who now have an STI, but there is continuing speculation over the role of casual sex and one night stands. Whilst making condoms accessible in toilets is now considered the norm, letting 13-year-old girls have an implant shouldn’t be. People are more likely to think they can become promiscuous because of how easy it is to get the likes of the morning-after pill and because of that, they think it’s safe to have sex without any other form of protection.
Getting young people to take sex seriously is no easy feat, but the doctors, sexual health nurses and parents who strive to educate them on the negatives of unsafe sex should not give up hope. Interestingly, more people from the ages of 15-24 are seeking STI tests and condom sales have risen by nearly eight per cent year on year.
Perhaps the lure of a wild night on the town overrides caution but the intention for safe sex is there.