Gwyneth Finally Gets It for Goop
It has finally happened, the day we've all been waiting for! The website 'Goop', owned and operated by actress Gwyneth Paltrow, has settled a lawsuit filed against it for making unsubstantiated health claims about the products it promotes.
Goop has been the bane of my, and several other sexual health educators, existence for several years now. Paltrow's site positions itself as an authority on products and services that will improve your health and happiness. It regularly features articles about sexual health but they are just thinly veiled ads for products sold on the site. Most of the articles are rife with misinformation and many of the products are actually dangerous. If you follow my blog, you'll know that I've commented on this many times including her bad information about lube, her hugely popular and downright dangerous jade eggs, and her completely questionable recommendation that we steam our vaginas.
Well, it finally happened. The Santa Clara District Attorney and nine other state prosecutors got together and sued the site for making medical claims without evidence. While the suit references the issue in general, it focuses on those awful jade eggs and a floral essence blend of oil that Goop writers claimed can prevent depression.
Rather than go to court, which Paltrow must have realized would have gone poorly for them, the company agreed to three things:
- they must refund the purchase price back to any customer who bought the egg or the floral essence blend
- they must pay $145,000 in legal costs
- they must refrain from making any claims "regarding the efficacy or effects of any of its products without possessing competent and reliable scientific evidence that substantiates the claims."
This last one is the most important. This site preys on people who are just looking to make their lives better. It presents information that, on the face of it, looks convincing (after all, the site quotes 'experts' with lots of letters behind their names who vouch for these products), but rarely contains any credible research.
The company's CFO issued a statement saying that Goop "provides a forum for practitioners to present their views and experiences with various products like the jade egg. The law, though, sometimes views statements like this as advertising claims, which are subject to various legal requirements." Paltrow and the CFO have stated that agreeing to this settlement is not an admission of any wrong-doing on their part, but rather they simply wanted to get this all out of the way and move on.
This is all complete bullshit. Goop is not just a forum to present views and experiences. I've read the articles on Goop. They specifically state that products are good for your health and why. They specifically encourage readers to use the products and they sell most of them directly on their site or provide links to them. If anyone is confused, it's not the law, it's Goop. The law views them as advertising statements because they are advertising statements.
The reason they agreed to the settlement is not just to get it over with and move on. They are aware of sanctions against other high-profile media personalities - most notably Dr. Oz.- and they knew that the battle would be long and costly and they would likely not win.
I'm thrilled that someone has finally come down on Paltrow and her site. I cannot tell you how many people have asked me for products they've seen on her site. I've had to do my best to explain that while it all sounds like it's based in fact, the actual science and evidence behind it is faulty or non-existent. I've had to explain why my store, which prides itself on promoting good sexual health, doesn't have a product that this very well known site says is the very best.
I hope this example will help people take a more discerning approach to sexual health claims they see on the internet - help them to understand that many people who claim to be experts are actually just being paid to promote a product. Furthermore, I hope it will make personalities like Paltrow and the owners of other sites take more responsibility for the health claims that they make and the products they choose to promote and sell.
And I hope that it will decrease the number of people who call asking me for things they saw on Goop.