Discuss: xoJane's Dangerous Course in Sex Ed
Oct 14, 2011
The website xoJane.com is supposed to be a place where women can find “inclusive and uplifting” content that is “nothing but honest at all times” written by women with “with strong voices, identities and opinions.” But yesterday, the site published an “advice column” in which xoJane’s designated expert on sexual health dispensed the same caliber of advice that I would expect from a horny 15-year-old boy (“I don’t need to wear a condom, baby. I can just pull out.”).
The content was frustrating, but not terribly surprising given that “health director” Cat Marnell’s only qualification to hold such a title is her ability to convert oxygen into carbon dioxide.
The article begins with Marnell lamenting that every pharmacy in New York City is sold out of the emergency contraceptive, Plan B. Marnell’s upset because she, against the medical advice on the product’s packaging and common sense, uses Plan B as her primary method of birth control. And she wants to advise against this risky practice, not because condoms and the Pill are safer and more effective, but because women should “step up” and encourage their partners to pull out. That’s what passes for mature sexual decision making in Marnell’s world.
The post that follows her lamentation is a 1,000+ word, rambling screed that illustrates the kind of shockingly reckless content that passes for “health” advice at xoJane.com. Reading it was like being trapped in a stream of consciousness nightmare, but instead of James Joyce, my tour guide was a ditzy mascara expert who floated off topic like a balloon in a hurricane. It took her 300+ words and a tangent about the finer points of suicide and noose-tying before she finally tackled her primary subject matter–the availability and usage of emergency contraceptives–by describing other birth control methods thusly:
1) Letting the man come somewhere besides where it will get me pregnant. Which is always (vaguely) fun. SO, why not? Because I always instruct someone to do it the dangerous way. FYI, this will be the first and last time I discuss my sex life on this website. It’s just not my thing; I just can’t do it. I’m doing it only because this is a birth control issue.
Not only is this woman endorsing pulling out as a valid birth control method, she’s also dismissing her ridiculous advice as nothing more than an extension of her adorably non-conformist faux-Bohemian lifestyle. Because telling women to have sex in dangerous and irresponsible ways that could cause them to get pregnant or contract a life threatening sexually transmitted disease is just how she rolls.
Forget the fact that the American education system, religious leaders and the government have spent time, effort and BILLIONS OF DOLLARS trying to teach women to be sexually responsible. Cat Marnell and xoJane.com don’t endorse antiquated, patrician notions about safe sex and reproductive responsibility.
As for discussing her sex life on the Internet, this post is over 1,000 words long. Clearly, she wasn’t having as much trouble as she thought.
2) Birth control pills. NO. They will make me fat; they will make me “spot” (another thing I squeamishly just DON’T LIKE TALKING ABOUT; don’t worry, though, everyone else who works here does); they will give me acne; and quite frankly, they will NOT prevent me from getting pregnant! I know this because IT HAPPENED TO ME™.
No, I didn’t take my pills right; I forget things like this unless they are FUN pills, or what I BELIEVE, delusionally, to be a “fun” pill at the time; anyway, the point is, unless a pill gets me speedy or doped up as all hell I will NOT remember to take it, and then I will get pregnant! I JUST WILL.
Her eye-opening confessions about illicit drug use aside, what really bothers me is it that her primary argument against birth control is that she’s too irresponsible to take it correctly. Nevermind the fact that birth control has been proven to be more than 99% effective when taken as directed by real scientists with advanced degrees in specialties that she probably can’t even pronounce. Nope, remembering to take a daily pill is hard, scientific and medical proof of its effectiveness be damned.
I’m also horrified by the notion that vanity is an acceptable excuse for being lazy about your reproductive health. After all, an unintended pregnancy is far less trouble than a few pimples or a couple of extra pounds. [facepalm]
3) The Depo-Provera Shot. Uh-huh. Same concept as the pills, if you get my drift. Egads, but it’s true.
I’ve read this five times, and I still have no idea what point she’s trying to make here. I definitely don’t get her drift, but I can’t say that I’m terribly upset that my brain doesn’t function on her wavelength. Especially if that frequency allows women to dismiss an effective and safe method of birth control with sixteen words of incoherent drivel.
4) Condoms. Nope! As if. I don’t know. I don’t sleep with that many people and so I just don’t do condoms! ARG I HATE TALKING ABOUT MY SEX LIFE; LET’S END THIS.
Forget the fact that in the U.S., the fastest growing group of people with HIV/AIDS is young women. Don’t worry about the growing number of cases of syphilis and chlamydia. And don’t give a moment’s thought to the number of incurable STDs that can leave a woman infertile or cause cancer. Nope, as long as you’re not sleeping with “that many people,” Cher from Clueless says that condoms aren’t important (as if!).
5) Abortion. This shouldn’t even be on the list though obviously I’ve had them. Abortions are not birth control and I hate them! I’m OBVIOUSLY pro-choice but I think they are terrible and wrong and I hate having them. And I mean terrible for everyone involved. It breaks my heart all around.
Now, I don’t want this to turn into a debate about abortion. Because, in my view, the implications of telling young women not to use condoms or birth control is the more critical point here. After all, abortions are preventable if you use birth control responsibly like most adult women do. But I find it deeply upsetting that this unintelligible nonsense is what passes for thoughtful commentary about reproductive rights on xoJane.
6) A diaphragm. Ooh! The wild card! I had one of these in college, and by college I mean the year I was 18 and living in Soho and going to “acting school” and blowing my trust fund on cocaine and champagne at all of the best clubs. Anyway, I lugged around a diaphragm with me in a little case and would OCCASIONALLY use it.
Marnell readily admits that she engaged in skeins of risky behavior and that it’s a miracle that she’s never contracted an STD, and yet, she still feels qualified to dispense advice on birth control without referencing a single medical expert. She’s not only taking risks with her own life but encouraging other women to do the same because birth control is hard, condoms are yucky and making responsible choices (like an effing grown up) doesn’t fall in line with her non-conformist lifestyle. And, as she mentions later in the post, it’s okay for her to say incendiary and possibly dangerous things because she accepts that the “haters” will come after her.
Some readers suggested that this article might be a failed attempt at humorous satire. I think that that’s probably wishful thinking. Because publishing an article that talks about condom usage like it’s a lifestyle choice and counsels women against using traditional methods of birth control isn’t funny, it’s shamefully irresponsible.
Imagine the fury that would be ignited if a men’s magazine like Maxim encouraged guys to eschew condoms and act with reckless disregard about birth control. Even if it was satire, there would be a national outcry from women’s groups, health organizations and politicians. But this article was written by a blonde, twenty-something beauty writer with absolutely zero qualifications to be a “health director” so the public outcry will be muted at best.
Frankly, I believe that Marnell, and anyone who refuses to use condoms and/or birth control, is far too feckless and immature to be having sex. I know 8th graders with more sense than this woman. She has absolutely no business giving anyone advice about birth control, but that won’t stop xoJane.com from letting her write irresponsible articles like this in the future. After all, I bet that this disgusting post netted xoJane more pageviews than it had all month, maybe all year.
It’s a sad day when Cosmopolitan and Seventeen dispense better advice than a website whose founder is allegedly a feminist luminary for the 21st Century. I guess life on the web is all about buzz and pageviews. It’s a shame, Jane Pratt used to have integrity.