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A wolf in sheep’s clothing

Well, we missed it, but apparently September 26th was World Contraception Day.

Gotta say, #sorrynotsorry.

Pardon me if I seem a little aggravated here. It’s just difficult to watch YourLife — the youth-oriented, contraceptive-promoting Bayer website that invented the campaign — put out information that does everything but directly ask you to buy Bayer’s products and simultaneously commits such clear disservices to men, women, and the dignity of sex.

Phew.

Let me try again, but this time with evidence and more punctuation.

A good starting place is this video, released in late August to prepare for the 10th annual World Contraception Day. I’ll comment on a few major points in a bit, but consider watching it first so that we’re on the same page.

No, I’m serious, watch it.

Pharmaceutical elephant in the room

Okay, as much as I want to examine the entire video and rectify the misleading (and sometimes directly untrue) statements it makes, this is a blog post, not a thesis.

Instead, let’s focus on the most important point:

This video is SCREAMING “buy my products.”

The video all but admits this itself, stating that “all” long-term problems that arise from crisis pregnancies “could be prevented through the effective use of contraception.” In other words, if everyone made a financial investment in a type of product that Bayer happens to provide, all this could go away.

Ignoring the factually irresponsible elements of that claim, the underlying message is obvious. The problematic bit isn’t that Bayer wants you to buy their products, it’s that Bayer has disguised itself as a “teen sexual health resource” to do so, thus preying on some of the most naive and uneducated populations to spike their sales, while counting on nervous or detached parents to direct their children to YourLife and back off.

Granted, there is a parental section of the website, but it’s difficult to find, woefully limited (it consists entirely of three PDFs), and tells the parent that it’s their job to give their child “impartial” advice regarding sex, so that the teens can make the big life choices themselves. Because if there’s one demographic properly primed to make responsible sexual decisions, it’s the group without a fully developed frontal cortex, right?

The website claims to target young people ages 18-25, but that seems to be largely for legal purposes. The entire website is clearly designed for much younger teens, around 7th or 8th grade. That’s exactly the age group that is most strongly swayed by peer pressure and tends towards impulsive behavior. For these very reasons, parental guidance is still very important during these stages and moral education is critical.

Anything redeeming…at all?

Look, I’m an unmarried twentysomething with a theology degree and extensive study in JPII’s Theology of the Body, which effectively summarizes the Church’s (wildly fulfilling!) teaching on sex (among other things). As someone who actively follows Church teaching, worked as a professional chastity speaker for years, and continues speaking independently on sexual ethics, I was interested in finding any shred of information from YourLife regarding the virtue of chastity.

Actually, in a hard-to-find PDF, the website did mention that some people may choose to forego sexual activity outside of specific relationships or for specific reasons. And there was another mention of chastity’s close relative, abstinence, in a single bullet point of one of the last parts of a slideshow buried in workshop materials for sex ed presenters.

No information on abstinence or chastity seemed easily (or even moderately) available in the teen-oriented bulk of YourLife. Again, there was one deep-buried mention that made a throwaway comment about some people legitimately not wanting to have sex, but that was swiftly followed up with a comment effectively pointing to emotional immaturity.

Who’s the immature one?

Look, there are two enormous problems here. One: for all intents and purposes, YourLife is just a giant advertisement for a pharmaceutical-dependent philosophy on sex. Two: In order for Bayer max out its investment in contraception, it must first reduce sex to something no more important than a handshake.

It should be obvious, but I’ll say it again for the people in the back of the metaphorical room: Bayer is wearing YourLife as a mask while it advertises for itself.

They aim to spread a particular set of beliefs that will translate directly into higher demand for a type of product that Bayer and its competitors can supply. Encouraging kids to look up answers to sexual matters on their own — using websites provided by a company that wants money — is both irresponsible and propogandistic.

Bayer isn’t going to catch these teens when the contraception inevitably fails, wipe their tears when yet another partner uses them for sexual pleasure, or point them to the beautiful meaning and purpose of their sexuality.

In fact, for Bayer to capitalize their financial investment in birth control, the pharmaceutical giant has to convince teens that sex is critical for happiness.

I could be wrong, but I’m not sure the chaste are the immature ones here, Bayer.

— Forest Hempen
Marketing and Communications Associate