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The Effect of Weak Ties in the Spread of STD’s

by Kaycee

In American culture, STD’s are a taboo and carry a lot of stigma and judgement with them. However, as a culture the idea of sex is fairly accepted, even outside of committed relationships; in the form of both casual sexual relations and concurrent relationships or cheating. This glamorization of sex creates these elaborate webs of sexual relations. This is something people do no think about before becoming intimate with another person. There are many situations where ones sexual network may be to blame for an STD diagnosis not necescarially their values. I will even argue that those ¬†who believe they are in monogamous relationships are at more risk for acquiring an STD than those who are solely promiscuous. This is because when someone is sleeping with multiple people is aware that there is a great risk of coming into contact with an STD and therefore take more precautions. However, when feelings and emotions are involved, one is more likely to take greater risks for the person that they love; never knowing what that person is doing while they are not around.

We consider weak bonds to be very important in bringing our networks together and broadening the numbers of people we are able to connect to and gain information from. Sometimes even realizing that we are connected to people we never imagined being connected to. However, when it comes to sex, having many weak bonds to other people that you are unaware of poses an obvious threat.

First, let’s consider a long term relationship between two people as shown Below in Figure A.

This figure represents a monogamous heterosexual couple. Here, in terms of STD’s, this pair is very safe from the threat of STD’s if both partners are negative since they only have contact with each other.

Second we will look at the relationships of one person who has many weak ties. Even with relationships that have many weak ties and no strong ties like in Figure B, the partners are relatively safe because there is not form of trust between them. Therefore they are less likely to participate in risky behavior such as unprotected sex and are more likely to get tested frequently so they detect STD’s early on before spreading them to other people.


The problem is when these two types of relationships are  combined. Concurrent relationships that occur with an unexpecting partner is problematic because they trust that strong tie that they have and only see what is expressed in Figure A. This means that they are more likely to engage in unprotected sex with their trusted partner and are less likely to get tested very frequently.


This concept is expressed in the article by Carolyn Halpern who mentions “Black females generally were the least likely to be in high-risk behavior clusters but the most likely to report STDs.” This shows us that when one person goes outside of the relationship it can negatively affect an unsuspecting partner despite their lack of risky behavior.

When it comes to STD’s we cannot continue to put stigma on those who suffer from these diseases whether they are curable or last a lifetime. We also have to look at how the networks we are a part of can not only work for us but against us and find a way to remedy this problem.


One Response to “ The Effect of Weak Ties in the Spread of STD’s ”

  • Rebeca

    It’s a very interesting article. I’m going to read it much more slowly because I do not understand well some concepts. Anyway thank you for sharing.

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