Sex education and the internet have a shaky relationship. To start with the obvious, everyone knows the internet is for porn. At any given moment, you’re just a few clicks away from satisfying your curiosity about any sex imaginable — although no one tells you until later that the images aren’t exactly always realistic. But like just about any other topic, the internet provides a virtually unlimited supply of information about sex, from the credible and useful to the outrageous and sometimes downright disturbing. Enter 1Flesh.org, a new website full of brightly-coloured charts and graphics, YouTube videos, and references to internet memes accompanying discussions about sexual health.
Many of the basic educational resources about sex on the internet are geared towards teens and young adults, and with good reason: they often have questions about sex that go beyond the 30-minute puberty video they were shown in health class. If they’re young and embarrassed, they might not have anyone they can talk to about their concerns or curiosities, and the world wide web provides quick and anonymous access to any information they might require. But of course, it’s finding the right kind of information that’s the hard part.
With such an obvious appeal for the young, social media-driven online audience, it’s too bad that the majority of the 1flesh’s information is misleading, poorly supported and potentially even damaging.
The movement behind 1Flesh began with blogger Marc Barnes “in opposition to the use of artificial contraception.” At first glance, this doesn’t seem like anything new. The website features the same old “save sex for marriage” teachings — a legitimate choice for someone to make about their own sex life — but 1Flesh takes it an inappropriate step further. Not only should you avoid sex until you’re hitched, say the founders of 1Flesh, but you should also eschew hormonal and barrier methods of birth control entirely. Instead, everyone should use the Creighton Model, a natural method which involves tracking a woman’s fertility cycle and abstaining from sex for eight to 11 days each month when conception is possible.
This is necessary because according to 1Flesh, the cause of all the sexual “wackness” in the world, including “sky-high rates of divorce, abortion and STDs,” is artificial birth control. Yes, indeed: little did we all know that the family planning aisle of every drug store contains the terrifying cause of the downward spiral of mankind. And backing up 1Flesh’s insistence that birth control is evil are a series of arguments that only contribute to a misleading, fear-mongering approach to sex education.
Some of the biggest misconceptions about various birth control methods are here stated as fact, with misleading pieces of “evidence” from scientific and sociological studies. They rattle off ways the birth control pill kills women’s sex drives and puts them at a higher risk for breast cancer, accompanied by videos of hip-looking girls making the case for why the pill doesn’t work. While birth control pills, like any prescribed medication, have risks and benefits to be considered, 1Flesh’s broad claims about the pill’s potential for serious harm are narrow and accusatory, leaving little room for consideration of individual choice. Perhaps the most ludicrous feature of 1Flesh is the site’s statements about condoms, with inaccurate information about the incorrect idea that they do not help prevent the spread of HIV or other STIs. And putting the nail in the coffin of any rational thought is the section of the site explaining “how condoms ruin sex,” citing 30-year-old studies about the health benefits of semen absorbed during sex for women.
The unfortunate side to all this is behind the confrontational judgments about birth control methods, 1Flesh raises some ideas about sexual health that deserve further discussion. They address, for example, the corporate world of pharmaceuticals that markets and sells birth control pills to women as well as the environmental concerns over the presence of artificial hormones in the earth’s water supply. These are legitimate things to consider when you’re deciding what method is best for you. But of course, that hinges on the possibility of choice, something 1Flesh doesn’t seem interested in.
It can be quite difficult to find accurate information about sexual health. The internet is already a hotbed of less-than-credible sex education, and packaging and distributing misleading “facts” about contraception specifically targeting young people only contributes to further misunderstandings, making them poorly-equipped to make healthy and independent decisions about their own bodies.
While 1Flesh says they’re fighting for “awesome marriages and mind-blowing sex lives … women and men to be loved and respected for who they are,” they need to consider having some respect for an individual’s own properly-informed choices.
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