Thursday, June 12, 2008

Sex and the Senator

In the Post, Hanna Rosin takes readers through the unimaginable – a sex education briefing for congressional staff by Senator/Doctor Tom Coburn. Yes, that Tom Coburn. Also that Tom Coburn. An excerpt:

For the first few minutes, it worked, as Coburn flipped through slides showing dry facts and figures about STDs, that 2 of every 3 new cases occur in people younger than 25, that most occur in people with multiple sexual partners. Then Coburn got serious. He flipped to his next slide. It showed a part of the male anatomy but not as a science textbook drawing; this was the real thing, and a particularly sorry example; it looked like it had been left outside by mistake and then rusted in some unnatural way, with scaly dry spots, and warts on an angry red background.

This image was now projected up on a wall of the U.S. Capitol, and the mood shifted instantly. None of the 160 or so audience members shrieked, or giggled, or ran out of the room. They're not 15 anymore, and this is a professional environment. The chatter stopped; everyone looked straight ahead, or down at their BlackBerries. A large number of women crossed their arms over their chests. Most everyone seemed encapsulated in the bit of air around them, afraid to move or touch the person sitting next to them. The half-eaten slices of pizza, now cooling on laps, seemed deeply

This is the seventh year that Coburn, who is a family doctor in Muskogee, has presented his slide show; he showed it for six years when he was in the House, and totes it around Oklahoma, and always he begins it the way he did yesterday: "I'm going to try not to give you my opinion," he says. "I'm just going to give you scientific facts." But the combination of Coburn, sex and the U.S. Capitol does not get away without controversy.

"His unwitting patients should get a second opinion," says Bill Smith, vice president of the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States. "What Dr. Coburn did was resort to typical scare tactics, showing pictures of genital warts that have gone untreated for decades, even though genital warts are highly treatable."

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