Joy Victory is Deputy Managing Editor of HealthNewsReview.org. She tweets as @thejoyvictory.
“Jade eggs can help cultivate sexual energy, increase orgasm, balance the cycle, stimulate key reflexology around vaginal walls, tighten and tone, prevent uterine prolapse, increase control of the whole perineum and bladder, develop and clear chi pathways in the body, intensify feminine energy, and invigorate our life force.”
These are just a few of the outlandish claims made in a recent Q&A on Goop.com, titled “Better Sex: Jade Eggs for Your Yoni” in which “beauty/health guru” Shiva Rosa essentially endorses inserting a rock into your (female) nether regions. But not just any rock! It must be the “jade egg,” formerly a “strictly guarded secret of Chinese royalty in antiquity” but now conveniently sold on Goop.com for $66 a pop.
Sure, this is fluffy stuff, with far lower stakes than, say, accurate coverage of cancer immunotherapy or statins to prevent heart disease. But keep in mind that goop.com, a lifestyle and shopping site started by actress Gwenyth Paltrow, has more than 1 million newsletter subscribers. That’s a lot of people being spoon-fed schlock, and it worked: The jade eggs are now sold out.
“This speaks to the power of her brand and, perhaps, the meaninglessness of ‘fact’ in this realm too,” said Tim Caulfield, health law policy researcher and author of “Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything?” (He then summarized things well by adding “ugh.”)
The Goop.com article also did not miss the scrutiny of Dr. Jen Gunter, a sharp-eyed ob/gyn with a big online following of her own, who wrote an open letter to Paltrow last week.
“I can tell you is it is the biggest load of garbage I have read on your site since vaginal steaming. It’s even worse than claiming bras cause cancer. But hey, you aren’t one to let facts get in the way of profiting from snake oil….The only thing your post got right is to check with your doctor before using one. So let me give you some free advice, don’t use vaginal jade eggs.”
Fortunately, Gunter’s essay was quickly picked up by news outlets, and unlike what we often see with celebrity health endorsements, many articles took Paltrow to task for promoting a highly questionable, completely unscientific idea:
Our favorite headline? “Let’s call Gwyneth Paltrow’s jade eggs for vaginas what they are: Goopshit,” from Vox.com.
When you crack this egg open, there’s a formula for success behind it, Caulfield mentioned.
“The jade egg fiasco is a good example of how Gwyneth and the goop team mix mysticism (‘strictly guarded secret of Chinese royalty in antiquity’), science-y sounding verbiage (‘hormonal balance’) and the straight-up wacky (‘feminine energy’),” he said.
“This is, in general, the formula for selling bunk. Add just enough ‘science’ to make it sound real, but make sure it remains rooted in loony pseudoscience as this gives the purveyor a critical-thinking pass.”
We hope this becomes a new trend in news framing, because there’s a big pile of polluted goopshit out there just waiting to be scrutinized, whether it be celebrity health claims, questionable TV doctors, or news releases that exaggerate research findings (to name just a few of the troublesome trends we keep an eye on).
Case in point, Caulfield said, is NFL player Tom Brady’s new diet book–ahem “nutritional manual.”
“He is using a science-free diet that is getting a ton of press, but the lack of evidence to support his approach is almost never mentioned,” said Caulfield.
And just like Paltrow, Brady is benefiting from his celebrity health halo: His $200 book is currently sold out, too.