Press Hysteria Over Sexual Health Posters


The fear of the sexually active woman continues to stalk Britain’s press. Today’s piece of despicable crap – originally reported in a local rag and then reprinted pretty much verbatim by (of course) the Daily Mail – is headlined “Row breaks out over ‘disgusting’ Kingston sexual health campaign that ‘encourages women to sleep around'”.

The poster in question tops this story, and if you look very carefully, you’ll see that at no point does it tell anyone – not even women, who are apparently so simple-minded that they’ll do whatever an advert tells them to – to ‘sleep around’. Nowhere on the poster does it say that people should have unprotected sex with multiple partners.

To me, it is more likely saying that if you live in Kingston and have a partner in Clapham, the coil is a solution to the fear of forgetting your pill. But that’s just me. Maybe I’m just naive.

Certainly, Kingston councillor Mary Clark (formerly Conservative, now an independent after having a row with colleagues) is having none of it. “I’m very broad-minded”, she comments, before inevitably proving herself to be as broad-minded as her fellow Mary, the late and unlamented Whitehouse, by continuing “but I just find this campaign disgusting.”

Mary is certainly worked up. She continues:

“What ‘pill’ are they referring too? The contraceptive pill? The morning after pill? The campaign is offensive.”

Now, I’m not an expert on these things, but I’m wondering what sort of woman Clark thinks will not bother with contraception but will have a ready supply of morning after pills at home. If there are such women around, maybe they should be encouraged to try actual contraception, which will be cheaper and healthier all round. Of course, I rather imagine that these women are a mere figment of Clark’s fevered imagination.

She then pulls the ‘won’t someone think of the children’ argument out of her hat.

“I saw two girls, they must have been 11 or 12, looking at the poster. It is saying to them, ‘be as promiscuous as you like, as long as you’ve got a coil in’.”

Well, no. No it isn’t. It absolutely says nothing of the sort. That’s you putting your own extraordinarily warped interpretation on the poster and on the likelihood of 11 or 12 year olds even understanding what it is saying, let along taking it to heart until they reach the age where they can get coils fitted and become promiscuous slatterns.

Of course, the story tries – and fails – to make this about sexual health and the spread of STIs rather than morality, but you have to wonder what they would have made of a condom ad with a similar message. Perhaps they wouldn’t have objected – after all, in the British media, the double standard and slut-shaming of ‘promiscuous’ women remains all the rage.

The fact that local councils are willing to get involved in sexual health campaigns is something that we should welcome. The fact that some people find such campaigns ‘disgusting’ is deeply depressing. It’s moralising, cynical, bullshit-driven journalism and backward politicians that are the really offensive things here.