Thursday, October 7, 2010

Sex acts and Nuclear Waste

So the gist of the argument for those of you who have forgotten, or didn't read it,  having sex with someone while you knowingly are infected with HIV or something similar, without disclosure, is like burying nuclear waste in someone's backyard that will slowly cause them to get cancer and die.

First I think non-disclosure of most STDs is not a big deal.  Most STDs are not life threatening, and at most mildly inconvenient.  There are others that are most definitely not benign, but the more benign ones get lumped into the STD category, and people have an incredible fear of STDs, mostly born out of misinformation, ignorance, and lack of understanding.  The prejudicial status of these STDs might prevent people from entering into a relationship, or might end an existing relationship.  If steps can be taken to prevent transmission, then they should be, without thereby sacrificing the intimate relationship.

But non-disclosure of HIV status and similar life-altering STDs can be very harmful, and I think a person has an obligation to disclose. 

But I have a problem with the analogy.  Burying nuclear waste in someone's backyard requires them not to know about it.  This is more akin to a kind of rape, rather than sex with consent.  And when people do consent to sex, most people are well aware that there is a risk of being transmitted an STD, benign or life-threatening.  Anyone not aware of this is hopelessly naive, and consequently could never truly give their consent to sexual intercourse, since they are not informed of the risks.  (I think there is a moral principle that can be drawn from this... Don't have sex with dumb people, since it would amount to some kind of statutory rape.  There might be exceptions to this rule [I'm thinking of the mentally handicapped] but they would be few and far between.)

We don't typically think that people digging in our yard comes with the risk of radiation exposure.  Even if we make this example closer to sex, by having say a treasure hunter knock on the person's door, and ask if they could dig up their yard, and with permission, they dig up the yard, leaving behind nuclear waste... etc.  it would not be expected that this would happen. 

So does this weaken the analogy any?  I think it does.  I accept his conclusions for the most part, but maybe not to the same degree (see above with the talk about benign STDs), but that doesn't mean the argument is a good one. 

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