Monday, July 14, 2014

Minnesota would-be governor explains AIDS. It's caused by sperm.

The internets are a strange place. On the one hand, you can learn a lot from them. On the other hand,  it's rife with "facts" so erroneous that they make your eyes bleed. And, although I haven't set foot in a children's classroom in years, and I know teachers who will strenuously disagree with me, I get the very strong impression that American education is so fluffy that you can quite easily graduate high school without being able to tell the difference.

In this case, Mr Loudly Incorrect is Bob Frey, a candidate for Governor of Minnesota. At least I assume he finished high school.  His views, according to MinnPost:

"But when questioned about his position on social issues, Frey added that it “does certainly need to be addressed for what it is. It’s not about the gay agenda but about the science and the financial impact of that agenda. It’s more about sodomy than about pigeonholing a lifestyle.”

Frey then explained his view: “When you have egg and sperm that meet in conception, there’s an enzyme in the front that burns through the egg. The enzyme burns through so the DNA can enter the egg. If the sperm is deposited anally, it's the enzyme that causes the immune system to fail. That’s why the term is AIDS – acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.”"
His son Mike Frey said the same thing, when testifying before the MN House Civil Law Committee about Gay Marriage.


It's utter bullshit, of course, and anyway fails to explain why gays shouldn't get married, as I imagine if they couldn't get married they'd just go in for premarital sex. In fact, I think premarital gay sex may have been observed in some societies already.  So there aren't many benefits to preventing gay marriage on disease-prevention grounds.

Tracking this statement down a little further, I was directed to this page -Towleroad.  Here, the authors are debunking a group founded by yet another Minnesotan politician, Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen, which put out bizarre videos that make the entirely incorrect claim about anal sex, above, as well as a number of other equally peculiar ones. Weirdly, the video is entitled Sodomy, Health, Money, and HF-826,” which is to say it was produced to address a school anti-bullying bill that somehow can only be attacked by videos filled with endless descriptions of anal and oral sex.  (Full disclaimer: I have not read HF-826.)

Here's the video which makes the anal sex claim.  If you're short on time, start at 3:21.


Or just take my word for it that the stills below are from the video.
 photo Untitled-1_zpsfcb221e3.jpg

 photo Untitled-2_zpsed9ac4fa.jpg

 photo Untitled-3_zpsde74b393.jpg

It claims that the references are peer reviewed before publication.  There's only one reference in there – Judson et al's COMPARATIVE PREVALENCE RATES OF SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED DISEASES IN HETEROSEXUAL AND HOMOSEXUAL MEN Am. J. Epidemiol. (1980) 112 (6): 836-843

Note the date.  It's from 1980. HIV/AIDS was not known at the time. Even the early name for AIDS, Gay Related Immune Deficiency (GRID), was not in use before 1982.  Judson's paper, which according to that site has been cited only once, concerns the higher prevalence of syphilis and gonorrhea in homosexual men attending STD clinics compared with heterosexual men.   Other STDs had a lower incidence in gay men. The speculation on the cause?
"It is speculated that higher rates of gonorrhea and syphilis result from a larger mean number of sexual contacts, more potential sites of infection, and more hidden and asymptomatic disease, while the lower rates of the other STD result from a lesser susceptibility of anal mucosa to the causative agent(s) of NGU, herpes genitalis, and venereal warts or from a lack of pubic apposition (pediculosis pubis)."
Nothing about the sperm "burning" through the mucosa with its enzymes.  This is because that is not a peer reviewed fact. It is more along the lines of hooey.

Larry Burtoft's Setting The Record Straight, also mentioned, is a book. Not a peer-reviewed paper.

Sperm do have enzymes in a vessel at the top of their heads.  Called the acrosome, it contains hyaluronidase (the -ase ending to enzymes means "I eat it") to break through the egg-surrounding cumulus cells it comes into contact with (they are suspended in hyaluronic acid, sometimes known as "goo" as it functions by "gluing" cells together or lubricating things that should slide over each other), and acrosin, which dissolves the clear zone around the egg so that fusion can begin . However, in the vast majority of cases, the acrosome is only activated after the sperm swims in the uterine environment and meets the chemical signals coming from an egg.  Sperm are not born as armed nuclear warheads looking for mucosa to "burn through", or happily burrowing with gimlet-eyed ease through rectal skin that's tough enough to keep billions of fecal bacteria – some armed with hyaluronidase – out of your bloodstream.

Still, that's not the weirdest part about the video.  Anybody can fail to remember what a zona pellucida is (or lack the nous to look it up), but most people can ask "what if?" questions. Such as "In that case, why aren't women getting AIDS in their mouths in vast quantities?" and "What about heterosexual anal intercourse?" and  "Why aren't all female porn stars dying?" and "If it's just due to the membranes being thinner there, why don't we see AIDS cases going back thousands of years? and "What is this HIV thing we've heard about – are you saying it doesn't exist?' and "If sperms have little cell-dissolving bombs on their heads,  why don't all teenage boys have a permanent rash on their hands?

Do politicians have a duty to at least partly understand the world we live in, or is it our duty to kick out the ones that clearly don't have a clue? In this case, he hasn't a clue. Don't vote for him, for heaven's sake. 


9:37 pm edited for clarity.
10:45 edited because Minneapolis is not a state

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