How Conservative Media's Slut-Shaming Helped Inspire A Scientific Study

For Immediate Release

How Conservative Media's Slut-Shaming Helped Inspire A Scientific Study

WASHINGTON - Today, Media Matters released “How Conservative Media's Slut-Shaming Helped Inspire A Scientific Study,” by Hannah Groch-Begley, which reveals a stigmatization of sexuality by conservative outlets.

The study's senior author, Dr. Jeffrey Peipert, told Media Matters that the researchers decided to examine the supposed link between birth control and sexual behavior in part because "Conservative critics, like Rush Limbaugh, argue that no-cost contraception will result in promiscuity and increased high-risk behavior ... The point of the analysis is to provide data and evidence, rather than to make claims based on opinion or personal points of view or BELIEFS. Our study provides evidence." 

Examples of conservative media stigmatizing women’s sexuality include:

  • Limbaugh famously distorted Sandra Fluke's congressional testimony on the benefits of safe and affordable contraceptive coverage to call Fluke a "slut" and a "prostitute," claiming she was asking "to be paid to have sex." Limbaugh went on to demand that women with contraceptive coverage post sex videos online "so we can all watch."
  • chorus of right-wing media figures repeated his attacks, including then-CNN contributor Erick Erickson and National Review's Mark Steyn, agreed that Fluke was demanding someone "pay for her sex life." Then-CNN contributor Dana Loesch wrote that Fluke was acting like a "nympho" and that she "simply cannot stop getting it on and her inability to control her urges constitutes infringing upon everyone else for a bailout."
  • More recently, Fox host Sean Hannity said that a government website that gave girls health information, including details about access to birth control, was encouraging sex among teens, while multiple right-wing media figures -- including Fox News' Laura Ingraham, Fox News' Katie Pavlich, Washington Times' Emily Miller, and Fox News' Michelle Malkin -- jumped on provocative ads for Obamacare, which included an image of a woman holding birth control, to claim the ad depicted "cheap sluts," a "whore," a "prostitute," and encouraged "promiscuity."
  • In January, Fox News host Mike Huckabee not only accused Democrats of telling women "they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of government," but fundraised off of the comments.

Moreover, it's not just long-term contraceptives (such as intrauterine devices) or birth control pills, which were the focus of the Washington University study. Conservative media have also been active in spreading the baseless rumor that emergency contraceptives like Plan B encourage sex among teenagers -- a falsehood debunked by multiple peer-reviewed studies, which found that not only did access to emergency contraceptives not increase sexual activity, but they also had no effect on sexual risk-taking or the use of standard contraceptives.

As Duberman noted, 99.1 percent of sexually experienced American women ages 15 to 44 have used some form of contraception, with roughly four out of every five women using birth control pills. Conservatives claim they want to appeal to female voters -- they may want to start by asking their media figures to stop calling at least 80 percent of women sluts and whores.

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Media Matters for America is a Web-based, not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) progressive research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media.

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