Yesterday, former gynaecologist Christiane Northrup took to Instagram to broadcast paranoid disinformation about the impacts of COVID-19 vaccines on women’s reproductive health. In addition to falsely suggesting that the mRNA vaccine secretes poison through the sweat glands of a vaccinated person, Northrup advised her followers to tell their partners that their sexual relationships would end if the partner were to be vaccinated.
With some fellow members of the Disinformation Dozen — together responsible for almost two-thirds of anti-vaccine scaremongering online — Northrup has been capitalizing on anecdotal reports that the new COVID-19 vaccines are disrupting women’s menstrual cycles. Dr. Jennifer Gunter addresses the emerging science on these reports here.
Northrup spoke from the Tulsa OK airport en route from a “Health and Freedom Conference”, hosted at Rhema Bible College. At the event — a delta of QAnon, pseudoscience, and MAGA influencers — she spoke alongside sex-assaulting cult leader Jeffrey Prather, and Lin Wood, who resurrected Q in a speech in which he called for the execution of political enemies.
Last May, Northrup was the primary social media vector for the spread of Mikki Willis’s COVID denialism film “Plandemic”. Her rhetoric has escalated. She posted an interview with QAnon booster Sean Morgan. She has been consistently using the QAnon phrase The Great Awakening in her almost-daily sermons. She’s posted about “red-pilling the right people” (see header image.) She has tweeted and posted about pedophiles with photos that feature QAnon imagery.
Yesterday’s Instagram video marked an escalation in the socially manipulative aspect of Northrup’s content. Previously I noted how Mikki Willis deployed the technique of fostering disorganized attachment in relation to his viewers, by terrifying them with his propaganda film and then lovebombing them with a selfie-sermon. Northrup deploys a different cultic technique — attacking primary care relationships— by falsely suggesting that a person who is vaccinated will infect their partner. In the comments to the post, she advises:
In the same comment thread, Northrup asserts that the poisonous incompatibility will be “forever”.
As with my analysis of Mikki Willis, my argument here is not that Northrup is running an in-real-life cult (I have no evidence for this) but that she, like Willis, is using techniques of social isolation and coercion that are well known to cult researchers. In Northrup’s case, her false fear-mongering about vaccinated partners may have the impact of controlling her followers’ sex lives.
Dr. Janja Lalich carefully lays out the basic principles of cultic sex control in this paper, describing how high-demand group leaders regularly use ideology to intervene in the domestic and marital lives of followers. Some groups mandate free sex or polyamory. Others force or rearrange marriages, or demand celibacy. The point isn’t to support the ideology per se, but to degrade intimate relationships that might pose a challenge to the supremacy of the relationship to the organization or the leader. Cult psychologist Alexandra Stein describes something similar in the groups she’s researched: intervening in the sex lives of group members prevents alternative attachments to form.
Currently, there are 152K members on the QAnon Casualties subreddit. A brief scroll through the heart-rending posts reveals the enormous interpersonal and social costs of the cultic conspiracies that ripped 2020 apart. Countless stories of broken marriages and families, written with the knowledge that QAnon influencers, following the cultic playbook, specifically instructed members to disown family members they could not recruit.
Northrup’s anti-vax propaganda is no longer just about a false choice between vaccine-free “sovereignty” and the supposed dangers of vaccination. Now, it’s also about her influence over what happens in the bedrooms of her followers.