The days of traditional dating, it seems, are quite dead. Generation X was known for giving up on these traditional courting rituals in preference for hanging out and hooking up, and the generations that followed have continued this trend. These new relationship standards have increased the rates of casual sex and one night stands from previous years when the specter of HIV/AIDS loomed like a giant warning sign. However, the question still remains: are these activities and one night stands in particular, still dangerous?
The answer, not surprisingly, is yes. There are still dangers to be wary of when engaging in casual sex. Both the United States and the United Kingdom have shown an increase in the infection rates of certain Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) in recent years, partly due to the increased prevalence of riskier sexual behaviors. For instance, studies from institutions like Johns Hopkins tell us that nearly a quarter of all teenage girls have been infected with Chlamydia or gonorrhea, and that 50% of young people who have three or more sexual partners in one year have contracted an STD.
Among the good pieces of news in gauging the dangers of casual sex is the report that the rates of HIV infection are holding steady. In 2008, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released a study showing that HIV affects approximately 0.5% of the population under 50, very similar to the infection rate from a similar study conducted 12 years prior to this one. This level infection rate coupled with advancements in treatments has made HIV seem less like the lurking danger than it had previously been portrayed. Infection rates of gonorrhea are likewise holding steady in the American population.
Rates of Chlamydia infections, on the other hand are rising. The most recent study released by the CDC shows an increase of 7.5% in the rate of infections for this disease between the years 2006 and 2007. Chlamydia is often treated with an oral antibiotic, and the partners of an infected patient will also be urged to seek treatment to prevent re-infection. Left untreated, Chlamydia can cause infections of the urethra in both sexes or of the epididymis, the tube that carries sperm from the testes, in men. In women, untreated Chlamydia can lead to infertility or premature births. The disease can also be passed to the child causing eye infections, blindness, or pneumonia.
Over the same period, rates of syphilis have grown at the twice that rate, growing 15% in one year. Syphilis is similarly treated by use of antibiotics, and a single dose of penicillin often clears up an infection. This STD is noted for its symptoms of sores; however if left untreated it can lead to severe problems with the heart, brain, and nerves and may cause dementia, impotence, and even death.
With the rates of these diseases once again on the rise, it is clear that casual sex is not a safe activity. Condoms and other safer sex practices can help mitigate the dangers, but they are only effective when used properly. One night stands often occur under the influence of drugs and alcohol, which may lead to misuse of these practices.