1 Flesh: The Christian Group That Pushes Condomless Sex
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1flesh is a new and strikingly effective attempt by anti-choice Christians to mimic the aesthetic of genuinely hip pro-sex education Web sites. The first reaction of most liberals would be, no doubt, a roll of the eyes and laughter at them fundies for even trying. Sure, the site has remarkably good design, especially for appealing to a younger audience (it looks quite a bit like MTV’s Web site), but the second one starts reading the content, it becomes clear that all the Twitter and Tumblr pages in the world can’t hide the fact that it's promoting a no-sex-before-marriage agenda that will never, ever be cool.
Even though its attempts at selling a sex-negative message are doomed to eternal failure, we should still worry about this and other misinformation campaigns that are discouraging the use of contraception. You’ll never stop people from having sex, but well-placed misinformation could discourage them from taking necessary measures to prevent unintended pregnancy and STDs.
Most Americans by now have a passing familiarity with the way the anti-choice movement has grown past attacks on abortion and is moving on to attacks on contraception access, from defunding Planned Parenthood to fighting the Obama administration on an HHS requirement to make contraception available without a co-pay to women with insurance. What they may see less of is the war on contraception that’s going on in the culture. Anti-choice activists have been turning up the volume on misinformation campaigns aimed at creating doubt in the public, especially among young people, about the efficacy of contraception. These efforts started in earnest under the Bush administration, with the explosion of federally funded abstinence-only programs. As those programs have mostly receded due to utter inability to convince kids to abstain from sex, efforts like 1 Flesh and the Pill Kills have stepped up to try to sow doubts about the use of contraception.
Abstinence-only programs were justified by claims that they were about discouraging teenage sex altogether, but considering how much anti-choice literature tells romantic stories about how unintended pregnancy led to ecstatic proposals and happily-ever-afters, one gets the feeling they also would be happy with an uptick in the unplanned pregnancy rate. Sites like 1 Flesh make the “more pregnancies” agenda clear; the site specifically argues against the use of contraception even in marriage, which can’t serve any other purpose in the reality-based world except to increase the rate of unintended pregnancies.
Unfortunately, the new strategies that 1 Flesh is using might actually be effective in achieving this goal, because unlike the old church lady-style methods of anti-contraception efforts, 1 Flesh is tapping into preexisting cultural myths and narratives about contraception that are already known to cause people to be inconsistent in their contraception use.
They go straight for some common beliefs: 1) condoms ruin sex (as Dan Savage has noted, if condoms decreased sensation that much, you’d think men would notice more when they broke); 2) the pill has a lot more negative side effects than it actually has; and 3) condom breakage is more common than it is. In other words, the usual comportment of myths that sex educators find they have to debunk coming from all sorts of people, even those who don’t have any relationship to the Christian right whatsoever.
1 Flesh also promotes the idea that birth control doesn’t do anything to reduce the unintended pregnancy rate. That this idea might have traction in the public at large already might seem asinine (what are people using all that contraception for, if not to prevent pregnancy?), but even without Christian right propaganda, the idea that birth control doesn’t do a very good job at preventing unintended pregnancy is surprisingly widespread. Earlier this year, Guttmacher released a study where it quizzed over 1,000 young people between ages 18 and 29 about their contraception knowledge. Unsurprisingly, the usual myths about condom failure and pill danger were well-represented, but the big surprise was that the myth that birth control doesn’t actually matter was also widespread.