I write a lot about reproductive health care here at Vox. Every now and then, I need to find photographs of birth control for these articles. So I turn to stock art site called Shutterstock that Vox subscribes to — and time and time again, I find photographs that definitely do not illustrate how birth control works.
Let's start with birth control pills. There's this photograph of a woman storing birth control in her underpants. This is weird, because it's pretty easy to learn on the internet that birth control pills are taken orally.
But it turns out, this happens a lot among stock photography models. Sometimes they wear different-colored underpants to store their birth control.
The practice appears to be widespread. Women of different races store birth control in their underpants.
Sometimes women use leggings to hold their birth control in place, fashionably paired with a belt and a pair of jorts.
Most women stand up when they do this. But some, understandably, get tired and lie down. It is a lot of work carrying birth control in your underpants.
Women also appear to do this with racier underwear that is a bit too NSFW to post on a family-friendly site like Vox, but which you can view on the Shutterstock site.
One other method of birth control use that appears to be popular among stock photography models is holding a packet of birth control to their stomach.
It happens a lot, apparently, albeit with different hand placements.
This, again, will not work: birth control pills must be taken orally (and, ideally, at the same time each day) to be effective in preventing pregnancy.
Now, to be fair, it's not just stock art women who are bad at understanding birth control. When you move over to condoms, stock art men are equally clueless. Seriously, what is this guy doing?
I would hope it's decently widespread knowledge that condoms do not go on one's eye in the style of the Monopoly man. They should go on the penis, as a barrier to prevent pregnancy and disease during sex.
This message, however, does not appear to have permeated in Stock-art-landia. There are tons of guys, like this one, who put condoms on their fingers.
I guess that is just slightly better than putting a condom on a banana — something that happens a lot in the world of stock art.
Last, we come to the two most bizarre forms of birth control that show up on Shutterstock. One is an IUD inserted into a flower.
IUDs are a fantastic contraceptive! They have a very low failure rate — but that's only true when they are inserted into a uterus, not a flower.
The other is a sperm wrapped in tinfoil, resulting in something that one of my colleagues described as a "pavé sperm."
This will not work either, and, quite honestly, the logistics of wrapping a sperm in tinfoil seem a bit mind-boggling to begin with.
Stock art turns out to be a relatively terrible way to learn about preventing pregnancy. If you are looking for better resources, I would suggest checking out seven facts that anyone taking birth control pills should know. There is also Planned Parenthood's site on birth control (as well as the organization's Tumblr). Last, Princeton University also runs an excellent site specific to emergency contraceptives.