Spreading lies and STDs
examines the myths perpetrated by a right-wing "movement" that seeks to deter young people from using contraception--despite the peril to their health.
THE GLOBAL youth revolt has helped to topple regimes in North Africa and shaken the 1 percent all over, most recently in Montreal and Mexico. From struggles against dictators in North Africa and the Middle East, to battles over the right to education in the Americas and Europe, to strikes by young workers against sweatshop conditions in Chinese factories, to fights against austerity and the power of banks in Europe and the U.S., the youth are rising.
I don't have a crystal ball, and one wouldn't help me if I did, but I'm willing to bet that when the history books are written--at least those written by our side--they will describe the defining characteristics of a generation of young people coming of age today as a rejection of the status quo and the will to fight for a better world.
Not so, according to the folks at 1flesh.org, who claim that "if anything can be said of our generation, it's this: We want sexy back."
1flesh.org, a slick website that dubs itself "the revolt against contraception in marriage" (complete with the Ron Paul-esque use of a backwards "love" in a heart in the word "revolt") is an absurd, yet dangerous, attempt to tap into this rebellious spirit in order to promote monogamous sex, without contraception, within the context of marriage.
Basically, the group uses slick web design and graphics based off of Internet memes to promote pseudo-science that blames contraception and sex without marriage for all that is wrong in our sexual lives (and then some).
ACCORDING TO 1flesh.org, sex without condoms is the solution to all of the problems that distort sexual relationships in our society. You see, they, "a group of college kids," have "narrowed all the wackness down to its primary cause: The widespread use of artificial contraception."
The "wackness" consists of "sky-high rates of divorce, abortion and STDs; a world bored with sex and bored with romance; a world in which more and more people are turning to pornography to find sexual satisfaction; a world in which 1 in 5 women report being sexual assaulted, and the human body--the sexiest thing in the universe--is used to sell cars."
They're right about some things: STDs are indeed "wack" (in that they can have significant negative impacts on health and disproportionately affect poor people, women, LGBT people, youth and people of color); millions of people are sexually and romantically unfulfilled; the bulk of the porn that's out there is sexist, degrading and exploitative; and sexual assault, the objectification of women and the commodification of sex is fucked up and needs to be changed.
(An aside: If you can overlook the sinister for a bit, the site--stuck in a time warp where kids think Justin Timberlake is cool, call things "wack," and believe it's fun to "freak out your grandma" with your advocacy of sex without condoms--will elicit more than a few chuckles.)
However, divorce and abortion, as well as access to contraception, are all gains of struggles for women's rights that should be defended.
First, take divorce. Rising divorce rates can be, and often are, viewed as evidence that today's marriages are somehow getting worse, as opposed to those from the supposedly idyllic 1950s, when most people lived happily ever after. You know, when popular television shows featured jokes about domestic violence as their tag line ("One of these days, Alice! Bang, zoom...straight to the moon!").
More likely, they reflect a reality where the entrance of women into the workplace and the social and political gains of the women's and LGBT rights struggles of the 1960s and 1970s (and since) have allowed more women to escape abusive marriages they would previously have been trapped in. And the reduced stigma of divorce has allowed unhappy couples to split without facing social isolation.
Divorce is still an unnecessarily complicated and expensive procedure in the United States and in many countries around the world. For example, it was only in 2010, with the passage of a law in New York state, that no-fault divorces became available in all 50 states.
Rising divorce rates are better seen as evidence that the institution of monogamous heterosexual marriage is not a positive norm that everyone should aspire to. It might work for some, but over the past few decades more and more people have found themselves newly able to escape it and have jumped ship or avoided marriage altogether. A central component of struggles for LGBT and women's liberation is the right to live outside of the heterosexual nuclear family if one so chooses.
Secondly, access to abortion and contraception are essential for women to control their reproductive lives, and by extension their own bodies.
If women don't have access to abortion and contraception, they can't control if and when they have children. Given the fact that the burden of raising children falls disproportionately on women, as well as the obvious--they're the ones who carry the fetus, which any woman who has ever been pregnant will tell you is no simple feat--if women cannot control reproduction they cannot participate as equals to men in society. Reproductive freedom is not sufficient for women's liberation, but it's certainly necessary.
BEHIND ALL of the rhetoric about "rebellion" and "[starting] a revolution," at the core of 1flesh.org is an attempt to turn back key components of women's rights.
Although the site is far from open about its religious motivations, 1flesh.org is the project of Marc Barnes, a popular Catholic anti-abortion and contraception blogger who goes by the name "Bad Catholic."
He promotes a kinder, gentler, "hipper" sexism: "Towards abortion doctors, nurses and clinicians, we must couple our anger with sadness--like a father who learns his teenage daughter is sleeping around. Anger without sadness is not love."
Barnes is a talented young man with a profoundly sexist world view that he justifies using religion. Barnes, with his attacks on Planned Parenthood (which he accuses of promoting "gendercide") and groups like Catholics for Choice, is clearly a soldier in the war on women.
He is turning his talents towards using slick social media strategies to covertly spread this dangerous worldview to an unsuspecting public, much like the Kony 2012 campaign by "Invisible Children" used its video and website to promote evangelical imperialism under the guise of rescuing children from the fate of being forced to be soldiers.
Still don't believe that Barnes is a sexist pig? Check out his blog post "Why Cougars Scare the Living Crap Out of Me," a Panglossian nightmare that seemingly attributes the beauty of young women to their capacity to reproduce and that of older women to their ability to hug their grandchildren.
Then there is his blog post on 1flesh, "9 Reasons Ovulation is Pretty Much Witchcraft," where he feels the need to issue this disclaimer before attempting to express his admiration for women (which he bases on their ability to ovulate, again reducing women to the ability to reproduce): "I'm a dude. Being such, I've always had a rather inflated opinion of myself when it comes to the battle of the sexes. (I just find it difficult to believe that anything can approach the beauty of being able to effectively pee while standing up.)"
The post has to be read in full to appreciate how obnoxious it is, but this gem stands out: "Women's self-esteem takes a dip when they're ovulating--they're much more aware of guys looking at them. (We are, by the way, and it's your fault. You just went through a magical, good-smelling, better-looking, sweeter-sounding, space-time-warping sorcery. What in all hell else are we supposed to be looking at?)"
Did I mention he opposes gay marriage? And masturbation?
While 1flesh.org might seem too ridiculous to take seriously, it is part of a backlash against women's rights that stretches back to the heyday of the women's rights movement--for example, the Hyde Amendment, which denies women federal funding for abortion, passed just three years after the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision. This is a backlash that continues to pose a real and growing threat and will only be defeated with a revival of a grassroots movement that demands women's liberation.
And they pose a threat not just to women, but to all of us who are sexually active. As Katie J.M. Baker pointed out in Jezebel.com's takedown of 1flesh:
Groups like 1flesh love to blabber on about how contraception success statistics are bullshit because people don't know how to use condoms properly, but they always ignore the oft-proven fact that abstinence-only education--the idea that it's oh-so-simple to wait until marriage--DOES NOT WORK AT ALL. And that's why the movement is more than a laughable attempt to make antiquated notions of sexuality relevant. 1flesh should be held accountable for more than its lameness.
While Barnes may have good intentions--emphasis on the "may"--at best, he lives in a dream world where people will be convinced by clever Internet memes to abandon masturbation, condoms, birth control and abortion; to wait to have sex until marriage; and to then live happily ever after in holy, monogamous, heterosexual matrimony.
Here on planet Earth, human beings who are denied sex education and access to condoms have unprotected sex and become infected with STDs, including HIV. Women denied access to birth control and abortion seek to terminate their unwanted pregnancies in back alleys and die by the tens of thousands as a result.
There is nothing sexy about that.
A previous version of this article was published at Sex Under Capitalism.