Episode 36. STIs: The Ultimate Booby Trap

Tying tubes, nonconsensual hysterectomies, withholding medical care without contraception use…these are just a few ways that forced sterilization has occurred in the United States. The history of forced sterilization is sewn into the fabric of US history, and has played an insidious role in this country. This episode, we learn about the eugenics movement, its impact on communities of color and how these issues continue to manifest today. Then join us in our Feminist Corner as we discuss forced sterilization in the context of abortion bans and how healthcare providers play a key role in protecting patients from experiencing this blatant violation of human and reproductive rights.

Feminist Corner:

What are you thoughts on disease as a social phenomenon and how does that impact the way STIs have been stigmatized over time?

Would we widen our STI screening guidelines to include men? How do the current guidelines contribute to historically negative connotations of STIs?

Listen to the episode, discuss these questions with friends and family, let us know what you think!

Show Notes:

This episode will focus on STIs like chlamydia and gonorrhea more so than HIV and syphilis as those two have very distinct histories that have large emotional and social impacts on minority groups.

STIs are infections spread by vaginal, oral or anal sex. STD is an older term which was changed because diseases typically cannot be cured, but many bugs that cause sexual infections can be. Other STIs like HIV and Herpes Simplex ,or HSV, cannot be cured, but they can be managed. 

Common STIs: Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, Herpes Simplex Virus, Human Papillomavirus, and more!

STIs were noted in texts as old as the Ebers Papyrus of Ancient Egypt and the Old Testament of the Bible. Hippocrates, Celsus, Soranus and Galen of Ancient Greece and Rome, who actually gave us the work gonorrhea which means “flow of semen.” 

Over time, more information was learned about STIs regarding how they are spread and what happens once you have them. In the 1940s and 1950s when WWII was going on and even more ppl were looking into STIs, there were 14,975 cases of gon in men and 3,089 in women. And sex was turned into a national security threat.

In 1974, a Lancet article came out titled “The chlamydia genus is in fashion again.” 

It brought new evidence about the role of genital infections and pelvic inflammatory disease, calling to attention how up to 45% of kind of “non specific” genital infections are due to chlamydia. 

Screening guidelines from the CDC and USPSTF state that all women under 25 and all MSM should start getting screened for gonorrhea and chlamydia annually. 


Adeeyo, D. (2013, June 11). According to These 1940s Sexual Health Ads, All Women Have VD. Cosmopolitan. https://www.cosmopolitan.com/entertainment/celebs/news/a13205/old-sexual-health-ads/

CDC Newsroom. (2016, January 1). CDC. https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2021/p0413-stds.html

King, K. (2015, December 9). The Curious Origins of Every Major STD. Thrillist. https://www.thrillist.com/health/nation/the-wacky-ridiculous-histories-of-common-stds

Romm, C. (2015, October 8). Sexually Active Women Were Quarantined During World War II. The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/10/during-world-war-ii-sexually-active-women-were-a-national-security-threat/409555/

Royer, H. R. (2008). Young women’s representations of sexually transmitted infections and sexually transmitted infection testing (Order No. 3314299). Available from Dissertations & Theses @ CIC Institutions; ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. (304451826). Retrieved from https://proxy.lib.umich.edu/login?url=https://www.proquest.com/dissertations-theses/young-womens-representations-sexually-transmitted/docview/304451826/se-2?accountid=14667

Why the CDC Doesn’t Recommend Screening Straight Men for STDs. (2021, August 25). WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/sexual-conditions/news/20210825/why-the-cdc-doesnt-recommend-screening-straight-men-stds

Worboys M. Chlamydia: A Disease without a History. In: Szreter S, editor. The Hidden Affliction: Sexually Transmitted Infections and Infertility in History. Rochester (NY): University of Rochester Press; 2019 Oct. Chapter Five. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK547154/

Like the episode? Send us your thoughts and questions!

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