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Renée Schafer Horton: If COVID affected penises not mere lungs, how different the virus response would be
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Renée Schafer Horton: If COVID affected penises not mere lungs, how different the virus response would be

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The following is the opinion and analysis of the writer:

Imagine, if you will, that a new airborne virus is discovered that only afflicts men. It is twice as contagious as the seasonal flu and appears on every continent within two months of the first case. Most people who contract it recover, but in a certain percentage of the male population, the virus causes permanent impotence and incontinence.

After a few months of watching men suffer and panic spread, scientists are able to predict that the horrible two-fer side effect will only afflict about 300,000 men in the United States during the pandemic’s first year. In Pima County, that unlucky few would number only about 800 out of a total male population of about 500,000.

In other words, most men who are infected would end up being fine.

The problem is the virus’ unpredictability. At first it appears only men over the age of 65 are at risk of diapers for life and no sexual intimacy. Then, about 1 in 20 younger men – all of whom were healthy before the virus – develop what urologists end up calling “Long-haul Johnson Weekly Effect.”

That condition is a cruel roulette of male-part failures, where one week a man is perfectly fine, and the next week, he loses bladder function. The following week, the incontinence disappears only to be replaced a couple of weeks later with seven days of impotence.

Naturally, men are terrified. Experts can’t seem to figure out which men are most susceptible to the virus or which will end up with permanent dysfunction or Long-haul Johnson Weekly Effect. The only thing virologists can say for sure is that the virus spreads through the air, so people should wear masks and avoid crowds, especially crowded indoor spaces.

Men — and their concerned wives and girlfriends — start letter-writing campaigns demanding scientists work faster on vaccines.

They insist public officials keep afloat businesses that must close while male employees lock themselves in their houses to protect their nether regions.

President Trump holds a press conference in which he states, “Only idiots would question this much science, by this many researchers, in this many labs across the globe. The virus is a grave threat to the very definition of manhood and we must work together to stop the spread!”

He mandates nationwide mask-wearing and asks the population to forgo holiday gatherings. Airline travel grinds to a halt as male pilots refuse to expose themselves to potential virus carriers.

Ah. If only COVID-19 struck below the belt instead of above the diaphragm. Then, maybe the Tucson Medical Center nursing staff wouldn’t have had to run a full-page newspaper ad imploring the community to stay strong, stay masked and stay home so nurses can stay alive.

Maybe then people wouldn’t crowd-source their science off social media and cherry-pick their data from far-right news sites to justify standing in a coffee shop stating, as I observed last week, “No one’s gonna force me to wear a mask.”

Maybe then Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), wouldn’t spout off about masks being ineffectual and that contracting COVID-19 means you’re immune. (The senator might want to speak with my relative’s co-worker, whose mother has contracted the coronavirus twice since March.)

But COVID-19 doesn’t attack penises, it attacks lungs, so we’re stuck with deniers who live in a sans-science reality where what they want — to live their lives in freedom! — is all that matters. They don’t care about the doctors or nurses or hospitals stressed to the limit, or, quite literally, anyone else besides themselves.

This is the behavior of a toddler or a teenager, self-focused to a fault, unable to see past their immediate desires, and it is long past time it stopped.

So, to those people still willfully ignoring plea after plea from medical professionals who just want to survive this pandemic and go home to their families, there is only one thing to say: Shame on you.

Renée Schafer Horton is a regular Star op-ed contributor. Reach her at or follow her on Instagram


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