Just a few decades ago, information on women’s health was mostly sequestered in library books and doctors’ offices. Women have always passed down know-how through word of mouth, but the multi-generation game of telephone inevitably led to a few garbled connections. Toss in widespread fear or ambivalence toward sex education and a medical establishment that hasn’t always prioritized female sexuality or reproductive health, and you’ve got a perfect storm of cultural ignorance about some very basic bodily functions.
Media makers and famous ladies in general are taking notice. Lenny, Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner’s new newsletter whose first installment dropped today, has introduced a recurring women’s-health column written by former Double Xer editor Jessica Grose called “Rumors I Heard About My Body.” (The first question tackled: “How do I know if my period is weird?”) Jessica Biel realized her own gaps in self-knowledge when she and husband Justin Timberlake began trying to get pregnant two years ago and wasn’t sure how her previous birth-control use would affect her chances. “Suddenly I realized I really didn’t know what’s going on inside my own body,” she told Glamour. “It was shocking.”
Today, Biel and WomanCare Global, an international nonprofit that works to improve access to products such as contraception and menstrual cups, released a series of videos on Funny or Die called “If You Don’t Tell Them, Then Who Will?” Named to encourage parents and other informed adults to speak honestly with the kids in their lives about reproductive health, the three clips feature Biel kibitzing with fellow actresses Joy Bryant and Whitney Cummings about hetero sex, birth control, dudes, and periods in someone’s kitchen.
The three women cite some messed-up ideas of how female bodies work—e.g., if a condom gets stuck in your vagina, it cannot travel up and out your mouth, contrary to the anatomical fantasies of one Idaho lawmaker—which work as straw men for on-screen text to bat down. “We thought the best way to encourage women to get educated and start the conversation around our bodies was to make it comically clear that people like me, and other non-experts, should not be the source for this information,” said Biel in a statement.
While the Internet has made information on women’s health far more accessible than it was in the olden days, a girl who schools herself on STI prevention from WebMD and message boards is bound to come away with some misconceptions, which will spread like scabies to her friends at slumber parties and lunchroom chitchats. American Girl’s cutesy books on puberty are great for noobs, but for adult women who get most of their honest sex talk from anecdotal sources, a comedy website just might offer a necessary nudge toward sounder advice.