“Follow the money,” was the memorable quote from All the President’s Men. Deep Throat advised Bob Woodward that the key to understanding the Watergate mystery was the money.
May 6, 2013
Sex is a big industry in America. Forget pornography. Don’t even consider prostitution.
Leaving them aside, the sex industry permeates every detail of our life in America. If you want to understand much of the cultural war dealing with issues between the sexes, you will do well to understand the influence business has…and wants to have…in helping to shape our sexual ethics…and actions.
We can each make a short list of the more obvious and visible business profit motives:
- Cher, Madonna and Lady Gaga, their music, their dress, and their public behaviors.
- Abercrombie and Fitch advertising campaigns featuring groups of half-dressed teens suggestively staged together in group hugs.
- Abercrombie for Kids and its line of underwear for young girls with the sayings “Wink Wink” and “Eye Candy” screenprinted on them.
- Publishers who fight for the right to publish Fifty Shades of Grey as a trilogy. One story, three opportunities to profit. Anyone want to predict Son of Fifty Shades?
But the most pernicious profits made in shaping the sexual ethics of our culture are made in industries you would not immediately think of. These profits are pernicious because of the lies needed to cultivate and protect sexual products and habits that hurt men and women.
Consider the world of medicine. In the purest sense, doctors, hospitals and drugs are supposed to serve the needs of people. They are supposed to preserve and restore health. For the most part, they do this job well.
But when health is tied to sexual behaviors, we enter a new realm where free sex becomes a direct path to free money. As sexual behavior has exploded in our culture, so have profits.
The first wave of profits washed up on America’s shore with the introduction in 1960 of “the Pill”. The key to liberation of human sexual behavior, Enovid manufactured by G.D.Searle was first introduced “for the benefit of married women” to help them “plan their pregnancies.” By the end of 1961, 132 reports of thrombosis and embolism were filed, reports that included 11 deaths.
Approved as “safe and effective,” Enovid sales continued, as evidence of its dangers was shelved. Barbara Seaman dedicated her career as a reporter to finding the evidence…by following the money…digging into reports, interviewing doctors and women, and attending hearings.
Evidence existed to indict the pill. But, as Seaman remembers, “[it] was scattered in the international medical literature, was difficult to interpret, and was obscured by a mantle of ‘diplomatic immunity’ granted the pill in response to fears of unchecked population growth.” Seaman dogged the industry and compiled her evidence into an expose, The Doctors’ Case Against the Pill.
In the 25th Anniversary Edition, Updated, feminist Gloria Steinem puts Seaman on a well-deserved pedestal. “Barbara Seaman is the first prophet of the women’s health movement and The Doctors’ Case Against the Pill is a prophecy that is still coming true. By alerting us to the dangers of the high dose contraceptive pill, Seaman won drug labeling for all health consumers. This 25th anniversary edition takes that model of empowerment into the future.”
That was just what Seaman had wanted. “My goal was to pull together all the evidence on side effects, dramatize (or melodramatize) it as much as possible, and issue a plea for women’s informed consent.” With her book, women would finally get the truth they deserved: their “safe and effective” pill had ”over 50 potential side effects…linked to infertility, breast cancer, menstrual irregularities, and emotional disturbances.”
Money…lies…profits…this is a recipe for the kind of success some people think is fair game. In his book Adverse Reactions, author Thomas Maeder, reveals the philosophy of Harry Loynd, once a president of Parke-Davis. Loynd’s motto, loudly touted, was, “Pills are to sell, not to take.” At sales meetings he boasted, “If we put horse manure in a capsule, we could sell it to 95 percent of these doctors.”
After 25 years, Seaman got praise from Gloria Steinem. But in 1969, when The Doctors’ Case Against the Pill was published, Seaman suffered severe financial and legal attacks. Planned Parenthood, in conjunction with drug industry companies, raised $100,000 for an injunction, attempting to kill publication of the book.
When Seaman’s book did hit the shelves, drug companies then killed her magazine connections. Drug ad executives approached publishers with a do-or-die offer. “Corporation X is launching a seven-and-a half-million-dollar campaign for its new diaper-rash ointment.” Your magazine is our first choice for these ad dollars…except… “on the editorial side you have an individual [Seaman] who is hurting sales of our most important prescription drug.”
What was at stake? For the women of America, their lives were at risk. For drug companies, it was profits. By 1969, an estimated 12 to 15 million women were taking the pill. At a time when teacher salaries were less than ten thousand, profits from the annual sale of more than 15 million pill bottles was a lot of money. It still is.
The Doctors’ Case Against the Pill remains a riveting story about the David and Goliath size battle. One fiercely determined woman wins against multi-million dollar corporations and their greed, lies and deceit.
In the 60’s, the contraceptive pill was an entirely new product. Since then, the pill has spawned a whole arsenal of drugs and practices that promise us “free sex”: Norplant, Depo Provera, emergency contraception, Plan B, abortion, Gardasil, and more…much more.
Think Seaman’s book has ended the stream of lies that conceal dangers to women and men related to our sexual practices? Hardly. The lies…and truth…are out there. Just look for the money…and follow it.
April 29, 2013: Lies, Lies and Damned Lies
From the Home Front is committed to shining the light on truth,exposing lies and deceit. Future columns will address the full extent of the profiteering by companies promoting the “safe sex” message and culture.