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Germs, Genes, and Bacteria: How They Influence Modern Life (Collection) by Joyce A. Schoemaker, Paul J. H. Schoemaker, Anne Maczulak, Greg Gibson, David Clark

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7. Venereal disease and sexual behavior

“That depends, my lord, whether I embrace your mistress or your principles.”—John Wilkes (1727–1797), replying to Lord Sandwich, who had just told him that he would die either of the pox or on the gallows.

Venereal disease is embarrassing

In recent times, there has been a tendency to replace the ugly term VD (venereal disease) with the supposedly less embarrassing STD (sexually transmitted disease). Despite this, accurate data on the frequency of venereal disease is hard to obtain, even in advanced nations. The reason is obvious enough: embarrassment.

The history of venereal disease suggests that, over the long term, periods of promiscuity might alternate with periods of puritanism. Diseases transmitted ...

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