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How Can You Tell if a Brown Towel (Or Your Sexual Partner) is Clean?

Friday night. 10:00 P.M. Dateless, but that's quite OK. Beloved Chihuahuas in my lap. I watched ABC's 20/20 and it left me profoundly moved to want to blog about this week's episode. I'll give you a short summary, but the pics and video shots are located at the 20/20 Website for more info.

So this good-looking, well-spoken (with a European accent,) 40s-something man named Philippe, is living in Michigan. He's a Don Juan/Casanova archetype who dates really clean, attractive, classy (mature - aged 40-60) ladies... he was steady with 12 of them at one time.... for years. Each didn't know about the other, and each woman believed with all her heart that she was the only one and she was in a committed, monogamous, exclusive relationship, complete with physical benefits. This guy was described by his girlfriends as intelligent, sexy, made them feel they were the only woman on earth. He professed love. They had sex with him (unprotected) and were certain all was good. For some, the relationship lasted as long as 4 years.

One of the women became suspicious about him and conducted her own investigation.... was able to access his voice mail and confirmed that he had other women. She then got his cell phone bill - detailed - and matched up calls to women. There were so many... and then, the shocker... she was diagnosed with full blown AIDs. Long story short... she found the other 12 women, convinced them to talk with her/meet and they, too, had gotten HIV or AIDS. These women became friends.... they worked with the police and health dept. to try to stop Philippe from infecting others.

Under the privacy act of HIPAA.... there are no laws that Mr. Casa Nova has to disclose he has this disease. He knew since 1999 he had it and still, he was promiscuous. There was a review of legalities on the show... today, Philippe is in jail and very ill and thin. Still, there are no laws of protection and these woman are now advocates for criminalizing sexual promiscuity of a person who knows he has an infectious disease and knowingly passes it along. There was discussion on the show about ethics and the role of doctors/hospitals/Health Departments and police, etc.

Few questions were asked in the TV interviews as to why these women didn't protect themselves or take personal responsibility... that is one of my discussion points herein...further down.

My area of interest in all of this is two fold, which is the focus of this blog post...

1.) The psychology of the perpetrator and the women... which was not at all addressed in the show, and

2) How can you tell if a brown towel is clean? OR, in other words, when is it OK to have unprotected sex?


1.) First, my thinking (limited to what I saw on TV) is that Philippe was and remains in complete denial despite the facts of his disease, and doesn't accept responsibility that he is harming others. He is what psychologists would call a narcissist and either a psychopath or a sociopath (the first, psychopathy, being a mental disorder that is organic, the sociopath, in contrast, becomes mentally ill as a response to early developmental psychological damage in infancy/childhood--e.g. abuse or neglect, for example, which leaves the individual with defective thought processing and later compensating behaviors emerge. What is interesting and something I still can't seem to swallow... is the psychiatric and psychological professions view these pathologies as untreatable and most attempts for treatment to be futile. What is so disturbing, is the fact that these types of individuals are charming, likable, integrated into society... and may be your next door neighbor. Their disorder is not apparent.

Philippe falls into the category of sex predators and pedophiles. They are considered the dregs of humanity and, even in prison, are personality types subject to complete hatred, even by the baddest of bad criminals. Such deviants are rejected by all of society in most world cultures, not just America.

This won't gain me much support in what I'm about to say, but I'll say it anyway... any life, even the lowest form of criminal.... there is an element of my compassion. I do not understand this about myself... and seek to one day know. But it absolutely defies what I feel humanity is about to reject a life completely because we do not understand the psychology or medical condition causing the behaviors. I want to see science CARE enough and want to dig deeper to find solutions. I want to live in a world in which we do not give up and call someone or something "untreatable". To rather say... "Today, in 2009, we do not have answers and so our temporary solution is to remove the perpetrator from society so that he doesn't hurt others.... but there still is hope and an element of belief in recovery."

I don't want to defend what my dearest friends have called, "Mary Poppins" thinking. I don't have to defend it. It just is. But I know that I have a responsibility in this world... Given my thinking... I think you might agree that this is good enough reason why I chose not to go into counseling or therapy as a psychologist. In that clinical aspect of the field, it truly takes a mind of great discipline (and less emotionalism than I exhibit) to interact with serious pathologies, to treat based on current day methods, and accept that one cannot fix or heal all persons and things. I do not have the make-up to be a good therapist (my opinion, alone)... although I have other good attributes in psychology in the areas of education, research and writing, et. al. Simply stated, my compassion, my emotional involvement... drain me, hurt me.

Point of all of this.... It's just not a black and white picture about light and dark and good versus bad.... Pathologies and "what is normal?" lie on a spectrum with two ends, and somewhere, there may be balance and stabilization. We need greater understanding with more scientific research and experiments and trials. This field still has so far to go, I think. Again, this is not being a sympathetic heart to a criminal, I am simply recognizing that the behaviors of a psychopath/sociopath are NOT understood from a scientific and analytical position... given limitations in the field. That's all about that...

Now, on the psychology of the women.... I read some of the opinions posted at 20 20s website... many women wrote in to express anger at the women in this interview. They were angry because the women represented themselves as "victim," when personal responsibility is something about which they might have considered. And I agree here. Many of these women fell prey to the fairy tale and got caught up. In loving Philippe and wanting to please him, one woman went to a "swingers club" with him, even though she was not of that lifestyle. In the interview, the women failed to recognize their own poor choices because they "wanted" to believe Philippe was honest and caring for their best interests, they wanted to believe that they had finally found true love.

Don't we do that? That phrase.... "Looking at the world through rose colored glasses".... don't we want to pretend things are nicer than they are, that people are honest and good and trustworthy? Because who would want to date someone who is careful, who has boundaries and rules which come before risk-taking and loving with abandonment and in the throes of passion? Who would want to date someone who isn't passionate enough to fall into the physicality of the moments under moonlight, enhanced by the potion of wine and under hypnosis by song? Who is going to want to hang out with a chick who has a checklist asking, "When is the last time you had sexual relations and to what extend do you know of that partner's medical history?" You see... there is a true difficult spot between personal responsibility and romance.

I'll address the nuts and bolts about protected/unprotected sex in item #2... For now, I am NOT defending the women who were harmed by Philippe. I'm just saying... it is easy to see the concept of being swept away in romance. It is understood. As a consequence, there is something important for people watching that show last night to learn. And maybe now, as viewers, people will be more careful at the risk of popping the bubble of the fairy tale.

2.) How can you tell if a brown towel is clean? I know people who don't use condoms when they meet someone new, with whom they begin a sexual relationship; that's because, they say he or she is very clean (free from germs), dresses nice, comes from a good part of town or from a good family, has had only a few partners and is considered low risk, says he/she just had a blood test and is clean...etc. These are poor excuses. I have friends who have told me, "I make sure they shower before we romp...." Oh, Really? Soap on the loins kills the HIV virus? Does your shampoo take care of lice or crabs?

A brown towel that is used and hung on a hook to dry can later appear clean, for your next us, but someone might have dragged it across their butt crack and now you're wiping your face on it.

Crude, but a point I wanted to make.

Not everyone who ever contracted the AIDS virus, HIV or any STD was promiscuous, a swinger in the ghetto, etc. It happens to good people, CLEAN people... people with degrees and managerial jobs and young and old, alike. They are people who shower and brush their teach and have nice haircuts. You're kidding yourself if you think you can identify who is at risk for disease and who is safe.

Whoever you f*ck, you literally have f*cked everyone they ever f*cked and their partners and their partners, until a friggen baseball stadium is filled with people. Herpes and chlamydia can lay dormant for 10 years and then surface.

If you think a condom protects you from STD, I have some info to share: The source of these facts is HERE

"Counting on condoms is flirting with death." -- Dr. Helen Singer-Kaplan, founder of the Human Sexuality Program at the New York Weill Cornell Medical Center, Cornell University.

"Dr. Richard Gordon, International AIDS Conference presenter and University of Manitoba professor, concluded after live studies that red dye testing demonstrated that seminal fluid leaks out of even properly-fitted condoms both prior to and after orgasm."
--Beverly Sottile-Malona. "Condoms and AIDS." America, November 2, 1991.

According to Contraceptive Technology, the condom's user effectiveness rate is 85 percent9. This means that, under real-world conditions, a woman whose sexual partners use condoms for every act of sexual intercourse has a 15 percent chance of becoming pregnant in a year.

1,609 of 4,666 women (34.5 percent) obtaining abortions at the Leeds Marie Stopes International abortion clinic were using condoms that failed.

27% of the abortions performed at Paris' Hospital St. Louis are done because of condom failure.

"Of 100 women whose partner uses a condom for one year, 3 to 36 will become pregnant."
--"United States Department of Health, Education and Welfare. Contraception: Comparing the Options.

One test showed that 14.6 percent of condoms used in a clinical trial either broke or slipped off the penis during intercourse or withdrawal.

"As has been discussed, condoms do not offer protection for diseases that are transmitted by skin to skin contact such as human papilloma virus and herpes simplex virus, frequently found throughout the genital area in infected individuals. No degree of condom education will curb the transmission of these organisms." --Stephen Genuis, M.D. "What About the Condom?" Risky Sex (2nd Edition). Edmonton, Alberta: KEG Publishing, 1991.

"The condom was useless as a prophylactic against gonorrhea and even under ideal conditions against syphilis." --Nicholas J. Fiumara, M.D., Massachusetts Department of Public Health. "Effectiveness of Condoms in Preventing V.D." New England Journal of Medicine, October 21, page 972.

Here are the STDs you can get from ORAL SEX (Source: Here)

  • Genital chlamydial infection is the most common bacterial STD in the United States, and is the leading cause of preventable infertility and ectopic pregnancies.
  • Genital warts (condyloma acuminata) are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV), the most common viral STD in the United States, accounting for three million new cases each year. HPV is present in an estimated 50 percent of all sexually active young women, and, as with other STDs, is associated with multiple sexual partners and with earlier intercourse.
  • Gonorrhea - caused by strains resistant to treatment, and up to one-fourth of all infected men have no symptoms. Gonorrhea can also infect other mucous membranes, including the mouth. The disease can have extremely serious consequences if left untreated, including sterility, pelvic abscesses and severe health problems for infants born to infected mothers.
  • Hepatitis B is a particularly dangerous problem in some developing countries. It can lead to chronic hepatitis, cirrhosis, cancers, hepatic (liver) failure and death. There is no cure for Hepatitis B, and up to 20 percent of the general population in many developing countries show signs of infection.
  • Herpes genitalis is caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV) - most show no symptoms. Those who do show symptoms may have painful ulcers in the genital or mouth area.
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is a result of infection with other STDs and viruses/bacteria such as gonorrhea and E. Coli. PID afflicts one million American women each year, 20 percent of whom require hospitalization. PID also inflames the Fallopian tubes and is a leading cause of ectopic pregnancy.
  • Syphilis, one of the deadliest STDs, recently reached its highest level in 40 years, with 134,000 people in the United States newly infected in 1990.Untreated syphilis can lead to rashes, lesions, paralysis, aneurysms, blindness and death.
So... don't be so sure you are a good judge of a brown towel or a sexual partner.


Jilly said...

"When is the last time you had sexual relations and to what extend do you know of that partner's medical history?"

You know, I had to sit through sec ed every year from 10 years old to 18 years old, and let me tell you, this is exactly what we were told to ask someone before we had sex.

If the person doesn't like you asking, then right off the bat you know that you shouldn't be having sex with them. If the person chooses to lie, then they're horrible people and you should re-evaluate who you're spending that sort of time with.

I grew up thinking that getting tested with each partner and sharing the result is just what you do. I also grw up thinkng that sex is something you do once you're very vested in a relationship. Silly me.

as to "condom failure" i tend to think this is a "people" failure. I've never had a condom fail or break, but then again, we actually sat in class and learned how to put a condom on and what practices can cause condoms to fail, like wrong lube and using ones teeth to open the package. Now-a-days some crazy ass fundies would flip out if their kids touched a fake penis to slap on a glove.

You're right that people think "that can't happen to me" or "so-and-so looks clean." I don't trust anyone, I assume everyone is dirty. Want to do the deed? Let's go get tested together and share the results at the same time. If there's nothing to hide, then good for us.

I'm glad this lady found out what she needed to know, but if she's having to stalk him (get into his voicemail and and phone bill) that's a little nutso to me and perhaps she shouldn't have had sex with him to beginw ith. I guess it's a sign of the times that it's okay to stalk someone like that.

I also remembering that condoms are crap protection against most STDs and that dental dams and flavored condoms should be used for oral. I haven't seen what's taught in sex ed since I was 18, but I bet it isn't the same as what I learned. Then again, most kids these days probably have no idea who Ryan White was and why he was important.


Spidey said...

i guess what i learned from this is never buy brown towels. and never f*ck anyone ever again if i ever lose bigjoe.

Roger D. Curry said...

This is interesting. Are we as so-called "normals" entitled to judge the sociopaths and "punish" them so as to separate them from society, place them in an environment which is unduly dangerous and in some instances end their lives? And how do we judge?

There is the problem, how to judge. And I am a tee-total hypocrite. I have met VERY few true sociopaths. But some. No feeling of responsibility, no expression nor feeling of guilt. (How do I know no feeling? The one I'm thinking of charmed a guy into turning his back and shot him in the heart, then calmly cleaned up the scene and vanished for a long time.)

So I am sorry to say that I do feel that we judge them and that we then separate them from non-criminal potential victims without guilt ourselves.

And I am disturbed as hell that we have to do that, but it's just a hard fucking world sometime.


doreenmary said...

Jilly, just as a point of clarity. The cell phone that Philippe used was owned and paid for by his girlfriend... she had every right to review the activity on it... not like she violated his account as a stalker.

Anonymous said...

How can you tell that the bloke you have been married to and hsagging for 20 years hasn;t been shagging someone else the only ay to be safe is to never have sex again, but who wants to live without sex?


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