All Your Genitalia Are Belong to Us.*

Hello again, everybody! I’m flea. I post primarily at One Good Thing, but I also blog about sex at Neal Pollack’s Offsprung and write book reviews for my own site, Books Are Pretty, and at Dawn Price’s Sure Woman.

But that’s not enough, I don’t think, so here I am again, prepared to gross you out first thing on a Monday morning, before anybody’s had their coffee yet. Consider yourself warned.

Here we go: Many years ago I had a coworker that used to shrug off the pressure of the work week by spending her weekends blowing the reggae bands that booked gigs at a local Rastafarian bar. Me, I prefer weekend activities that don’t require as much effort, but I’m lazy like that.

A few months after she let this little nugget of information drop, (to everyone at work. During lunch.) she came to work on a Monday morning looking slightly under the weather, her face a bit puffy, her eyes red. As the week progressed, she got worse and worse. It was strenuously suggested by more than one person that she see a doctor, because her eyes had swollen almost totally shut and were starting to ooze. After the typical round-and-round discussion of the impossibility of a doctor’s appointment because health care is neither universal or provided by the company we worked for**, I finally begged her to make an appointment with the Chicago Women’s Health Center, a women’s reproductive health care clinic with a sliding pay scale, because I just had a feeling. And sure enough, the verdict came back swiftly and mercilessly: Gonorrhea. In her eyes.

Ladies and gentlemen, is there a more compelling reason to use condoms during oral sex? No. There is not.

You would think that because of horrifying situations like this, we would be knocking ourselves out to prevent today’s youth from having similar anecdotes to tell, but no. In fact, there’s a certain amount of buzz going around in the scientific world that biologists are thisclose to creating the first synthetic life form, a replica of a bacteria called Mycoplasma genitalium. This little bacterium has 517 genes, the shortest gene sequence in the entire animal kingdom.

Mycoplamsa genitalium

How they are doing this, I think, is by stripping the bacterium of what they have determined to be non-essential genes, reducing it down to the simplest gene-sequence possible. Then a miracle occurs***, and then they’ll have built a completely synthetic organism using the minimum number of genes necessary to sustain life. Which is fascinating enough on its own, but is made even more so when you learn what the scientists are dealing with.

Do you know what Mycoplasma genitalium is? IT’S AN STD.

Yes. After all our efforts to eradicate the scourge of chronic itching and misery of various strains of the clap, not to mention the anguish of people everywhere who had to stand two feet away from someone when they confess that they’re suffering the ramifications of getting poked in the eye with an infected penis, we’re going to throw it all away and build robot VD.

I’m convinced this is a plot by the scientific community to get back at the football players that gave them ballbreaking wedgies in the locker room after P.E. Or cramping the style of those sexy motherfuckers that play the guitar and sing about smoking pot on the beach.
________________
*Title provided by Linneaus.

**Next time your Republican comrades start going on about welfare reform and subsidized childcare and the free market and privatization of health care or whatever it is that they go on about, and how it’s okay because the poor choose to be poor (or stupid), remember this anecdote of a woman who ignored gonorrhea in her eyes because she couldn’t afford to get it treated. It’s all connected.

***I didn’t exactly understand the process here.


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41 comments for “All Your Genitalia Are Belong to Us.*

  1. June 18, 2007 at 11:57 am

    Right on about the health care. Not to mention the fact that abstinence-only sex education really isn’t pushing the use of condoms with oral sex.

    What a horror story!

  2. Myca
    June 18, 2007 at 12:06 pm

    Gonorrhea. In her eyes.

    Ew! Ew! Ew! I am so very thoroughly squicked!

  3. everstar
    June 18, 2007 at 12:16 pm

    but latex is so nasty-tasting.

  4. Linnaeus
    June 18, 2007 at 12:22 pm

    How they are doing this, I think, is by stripping the bacterium of what they have determined to be non-essential genes, reducing it down to the simplest gene-sequence possible. Then a miracle occurs**, and then they’ll have built a completely synthetic organism using the minimum number of genes necessary to sustain life.

    The “miracle” is that once you’ve sequenced a minimal genome, you can then synthesize it artificially, and then inject it into “ghost” bacteria whose own DNA has been destroyed by UV irradation. If you get the bacteria to survive and replicate, you have the potential to make artificial bacterial genomes that contain genes that code for desireable biological products or that can carry out some desired function.

    M. genitalium‘s small genome size is what made it attractive for this kind of study; the smaller the genome, the fewer painstaking experiments you have to do to find out which genes are absolutely necessary for growth (and they still had to do a lot anyway). The thing is, I’m not sure if the essential genes are linked to anything pathogenic. The minimal genome injected into a ghost bacterium may not, by itself, cause disease.

  5. Roy
    June 18, 2007 at 12:31 pm

    but latex is so nasty-tasting.

    Still… better than the alternative in this case, I should think.

  6. Flea
    June 18, 2007 at 12:32 pm

    The minimal genome injected into a ghost bacterium may not, by itself, cause disease.

    No, probably not. But I was unable to resist the concept of robot VD.

  7. Linnaeus
    June 18, 2007 at 12:44 pm

    But I was unable to resist the concept of robot VD.

    All your genitalia are belong to us.

  8. mythago
    June 18, 2007 at 1:15 pm

    Uh….wouldn’t said comrades just go on about how the woman must have been poor and slutty and THEY would never, ever have gotten such a disease because they’re moral people with large paychecks? (Okay, they’d say it in code, but that’s what they’d say, yes?)

  9. June 18, 2007 at 1:57 pm

    but latex is so nasty-tasting.

    and gonorrhea in your EYES is better?

    **just saw roy’s comment, lol ~ guess gmta**

  10. June 18, 2007 at 2:36 pm

    i wonder if the anti-abortion people march in front of the clinic that gave her affordable medical care when no one else would. she could have gone blind, that’s not a joke.

  11. June 18, 2007 at 2:49 pm

    Mythago wins the political prediction game.

    Also, polyurethane tastes like Saran wrap, and they make condoms out of that.

  12. June 18, 2007 at 2:53 pm

    i wonder if the anti-abortion people march in front of the clinic that gave her affordable medical care when no one else would.

    Well, yes, ninjanurse – they were out there when I went to get my free (!) annual exam and pap smear. “Do you not have insurance?” the lady with the giant dead baby post called out to me. I did not wait around to hear what alternative she was going to suggest.

  13. June 18, 2007 at 3:15 pm

    poster. Not post. I suck at typing today.

  14. evil fizz
    June 18, 2007 at 3:43 pm

    When I had wretched viral conjunctivitis in college, they asked if it was possible for me to have contracted optical chlamydia.

    Also, you can get it optically from not washing your hands well after touching yourself or a partner down south.

  15. micheyd
    June 18, 2007 at 3:44 pm

    “Do you not have insurance?” the lady with the giant dead baby post called out to me.

    Whaaat? Like, was she just trying to get your attention? I know it’s not unusual for those types to be viciously nosy, but it’s none of her fucking business! Was she going to suggest you’re immoral for not having the money for health insurance, or for daring to want a healthy cervix?

  16. June 18, 2007 at 4:26 pm

    All your genitalia are belong to us.

    And that should have been the post title. Where are you when I need you?

  17. JoAsakura
    June 18, 2007 at 4:28 pm

    Well, that’s the single grossest thing i’ve heard today. And I say that as someone with a spouse who currently has an oozing, infected sebaceous cyst on his head. ^^;

    And the story, really, really sounds like something an abstenince only fundie would latch onto. “She dared to have TEH ORAL SEXXORZ! And got VD eyes!” =p

  18. Thomas
    June 18, 2007 at 4:30 pm

    after touching yourself or a partner down south.

    What, in the Gulf Coast states? I’d never touch a partner down there! They have laws against dildoes! They’d throw me in jail for the stuff I like to do!

  19. Frumious B
    June 18, 2007 at 4:34 pm

    Yes. After all our efforts to eradicate the scourge of chronic itching and misery of various strains of the clap, not to mention the anguish of people everywhere who had to stand two feet away from someone when they confess that they’re suffering the ramifications of getting poked in the eye with an infected penis, we’re going to throw it all away and build robot VD.

    What Linnaeus said. Also, the goal is to produce a technique, not a superbug. It’s not the scientists fault that the simplest genome happens to be that of an STD-causing bacterium.

    Are bacteria part of the animal kingdom? They weren’t when I was in school, but times and science change.

  20. June 18, 2007 at 4:37 pm

    Okay, they’d say it in code, but that’s what they’d say, yes?

    I just said remember it. I understand the futility of actually getting into some sort of debate over this.

    Are bacteria part of the animal kingdom?

    Aren’t they? What else would they be?

  21. evil fizz
    June 18, 2007 at 4:42 pm

    What, in the Gulf Coast states? I’d never touch a partner down there! They have laws against dildoes! They’d throw me in jail for the stuff I like to do!

    I dunno, I hear good things about New Orleans. “Down south” was actually my poor ophthalmology resident’s term. He was so embarrassed by the entire incident. It took him three tries to get the word chlamydia out.

  22. Flea
    June 18, 2007 at 4:46 pm

    You know what? I just realized I forgot to include the link to the BBC article that was talking about replicating the microbe. I put it in, but I’ll put the link here, too. I’m sorry!

    http://newsrss.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/6733797.stm

  23. Autumn Harvest
    June 18, 2007 at 4:51 pm

    Bacteria are their their own kingdom (Monera).

  24. Flea
    June 18, 2007 at 4:53 pm

    They have their own kingdom? I had no idea. Man, I really shouldn’t have slept through high school biology.

  25. Flea
    June 18, 2007 at 5:00 pm

    Okay, I’ve been reading up on Kingdoms and whatnot, and as it turns out, I happen to be on the cutting edge of science. If this was 1735. Ha!

  26. Thomas
    June 18, 2007 at 5:41 pm

    “Down south” was actually my poor ophthalmology resident’s term. He was so embarrassed by the entire incident. It took him three tries to get the word chlamydia out.

    Not yet ready for the “kink aware providers” list. Perhaps he has since improved.

  27. Myca
    June 18, 2007 at 5:43 pm

    And got VD eyes!” =p

    Now I’m hearing this to the tune of that Kim Carnes song.

  28. June 18, 2007 at 5:46 pm

    Yup. And recent evidence of bacteria thriving deep in the Earth’s crust in the middle of apparently solid granite suggests that the old saw about most of the world’s biomass being tied up in trees and woody plants is wrong. The Monerans probably make up a majority (not just a plurality) of the world’s biomass. They already outnumber everything else by several orders of magnitude, and have a staggering amount of genetic diversity. Monerans are found everywhere, making humans’ boasts of adapting to any environment a cute joke.

    It’s the bacteria’s world. You and me? We just live in it.

    Though it makes for all sorts of humor, there probably is a practical reason for a bacterium associated with sexually transmitted infections to be the first organism with a completely synthetic genome — it’s a parasite. Parasites as a class tend towards simplicity (rather than complexity) of both form and genome. Anything not necessary gets thrown out. Intestinal parasites like tapeworms had ancestors with elaborate sensory equipment, but the human gut is not a place with a whole lot of environmental variation. That expensive sensory equipment and the nervous system supporting it got discarded with a quickness. There’s nothing they need to see, they don’t have to be able to move. All they have to do is latch onto the intestinal wall, absorb the nutrients we’ve so kindly digested for them, and make eggs.

    Incidentally, this is also a refutation of the idiots who claim that evolution always tends towards greater complexity. Not true. Evolution doesn’t always tend towards anything but efficiency of reproduction and survival within a specific environment. Change the environment, and a whole different set of characteristics becomes favorable.

  29. June 18, 2007 at 5:48 pm

    Sorry about the veering tangent my post took! Feel free to not follow it. :)

  30. Cerberus
    June 18, 2007 at 5:55 pm

    To form medicines against any type of bacteria or virus, it helps a great deal to know and be able to replicate the inectious particle.

    Thus the ability to create a “robot STD” is to be cheered as a great step towards developing simple and non-harmful treatments and cures.

    Also, they mainly chose it because it was the easiest to replicate. It’s a first step towards replicating many more units which will also eventually probably have uses in the form of recreated organs and other units and much much more.

    What will be bastardly is that when one of these scientists use the new particle to develop a new treatment or cure, pharmaceutical companies, hospital biases, and most of all the insurance companies will keep it from easily reaching the people who need it most.

  31. Nicole
    June 18, 2007 at 5:56 pm

    but latex is so nasty-tasting.

    That’s why they make flavored latex condoms: http://store.babeland.com/safe-sex-condoms/trustex-multiflavored-condoms

  32. Farhat
    June 18, 2007 at 6:14 pm

    I guess to lighten the atmosphere I’ll provide Frank Zappa’s “Why does it hurt when I pee”.

    Shortly after his liaison with the taco stand lady, joe makes a horrible discovery…

    Joe:
    Why does it hurt when I pee?
    Why does it hurt when I pee?
    I dont want no doctor
    To stick no needle in me
    Why does it hurt when I pee?
    I got it from the toilet seat
    I got it from the toilet seat
    It jumped right up
    n grabbed my meat
    Got it from the toilet seat
    My balls feel like a pair of maracas
    My balls feel like a pair of maracas
    Oh God I probably got the
    Gon-o-ka-ka-khackus!
    My balls feel like a pair of maracas
    Ai-ee-ai-ee-ahhhh!
    Why does it
    Why does it
    Why does it
    Why does it hurt…when i
    Peeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee?

  33. Linnaeus
    June 18, 2007 at 6:26 pm

    And that should have been the post title. Where are you when I need you?

    Just throw up a spotlight with the outline of a plant, and I’m there.

  34. Linnaeus
    June 18, 2007 at 6:36 pm

    Okay, I’ve been reading up on Kingdoms and whatnot, and as it turns out, I happen to be on the cutting edge of science. If this was 1735. Ha!

    There’s a newer scheme of classification that replaces the five-kingdom model with three “domains”: Bacteria (or Eubacteria), Archaea (The Organisms Formerly Known As Blue-Green Algae), and Eukarya (everything else).

    Bacteria are truly masters of their own domain! And ours as well.

  35. Hector B.
    June 18, 2007 at 10:13 pm

    Gonorrhea. In her eyes.

    Although I know it’s not for everyone, I’m gonna put in a good word for monogamy at this point. And for leaving “facials” to the pornmakers oeuvre.

  36. Hector B.
    June 18, 2007 at 10:15 pm

    OK I don’t know what happened there. I swear I put

    and

    around what I copied from flea’s post.

  37. Halloween Jack
    June 19, 2007 at 3:03 pm
  38. louise
    June 19, 2007 at 3:43 pm

    And here I was thinking the POLLEN was what is causing my eyes to act up…

  39. guide
    June 21, 2007 at 11:30 am

    I see we share a common interest! Excellent job on the website!

  40. anna
    June 21, 2007 at 5:49 pm

    No doubt about it, flavored condoms, lubes and dental dams are your friends. Buy them online without getting embarrassed
    (they come in a blank cardboard box) at http://www.condomania.com

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