I try not to make fun of Gwyneth Paltrow.
It has always seemed petty, not to mention redundant, to pile on the actress who inspires massive, collective eye rolls on the regular.
But the latest issue of Goop, her weekly newsletter, is devoted to sex and, I’m sorry, it’s ridiculous.
Her curated list of goodies includes a $15,000 24-karat gold sex toy, a $535 leather whip and lingerie pieces that cost more than my monthly utilities. (Fleur Du Mal lace bodysuit anyone? Just $395!)
The issue also includes dubious advice.
“Ideally, you want to find a vegan, paraben-free, glycerin-free, Nonoxynol-9-free and benzocaine- and lidocaine-free condom,” naturopathic doctor Maggie Ney tells Paltrow.
Ney and Paltrow are discussing lubricants and whether we should be scared of them, because many contain parabens. (I think they’re saying we should, although Paltrow once said she’d “rather smoke crack than eat cheese from a tin,” so her idea of harmful may differ slightly from mine.)
Anyway, the conversation turns to contraceptives. “Are latex condoms bad for us?” Paltrow asks.
Here’s when Ney lists the various chemicals and toxins used to treat latex and create the lubricants and spermicides frequently found in condoms. For four paragraphs, she discusses potential health risks from using condoms.
She does say, at the end, “I definitely feel that the benefits of condoms (protection against sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy at the same time) far outweigh the risk of being exposed to these chemicals and toxins. But even a good thing can be improved, and understanding what’s in our condoms can help drive consumers and drive demand for even safer options.”
That’s when she recommends, ideally, the vegan, paraben-free, glycerin-free, Nonoxynol-9-free, and benzocaine- and lidocaine-free variety.
Which leaves me wondering: Do such condoms exist? Are there brands that offer toxin-free condoms? Not that they mention.
Which leaves these possible, potential, maybe health risks floating around in our heads with no instruction on how to avoid them. Which some readers could easily take as a call to avoid condoms.
We have a track record of allowing celebrities to steer us away from medically sound methods (vaccines) by associating them with dangerous toxins. It would be a shame for that to extend into the realm of condoms, which we should be doing a better job of promoting (and using).
“America’s worsening STD epidemic is a clear call for better diagnosis, treatment and prevention,” Jonathan Mermin, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, said in the CDC’s 2014 sexually transmitted disease surveillance report. “STDs affect people in all walks of life, particularly young women and men.”
Reported cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis have increased for the first time since 2006, according to the report. Approximately 1.4 million Americans have chlamydia.
Using condoms consistently and correctly, the CDC says, is an effective strategy for reducing the risk of sexually transmitted infections.
Even if they’re not vegan.
If the Goop conversation leads readers to talk to their physicians about safe sex, that’s fantastic. If readers who’ve experienced allergic or negative reactions to condoms and lubricants are now armed with information to discuss with their healthcare professionals, that’s also fantastic. Hopefully, the main takeaway for readers is Ney’s point about condoms’ benefits outweighing their risks.
But if the article causes even one person to decide, “You know, I think I'll avoid condoms from now on,” it’s beyond ridiculous. It’s dangerous.
(And I kind of feel the same way about that $535 leather whip, but that’s for another column.)
Heidi Stevens is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune.
©2016 Chicago Tribune