February 28, 2011

Condoms for your Grandma

In the wake of this whole (super-upsetting/disheartening/ridiculous/CALL YOUR REPRESENTATIVES EVERYONE) Planned Parenthood debacle, I've been thinking a lot about sex education and politics and this bizarre, puritanical outlook on sex that somehow still manages to thrive in America.

At school, I do layout editing for Vita Excolatur, a (totally bad-ass) student-run sex and erotica magazine. Thanks to a member of our editorial board who works with the Great American Condom Campaign, each quarter our publication gets 500 condoms to distribute at parties, events, and with the magazine itself. The other day I was tabling for new members in my school's equivalent to a student union. This task basically consists of bribing passersby with condoms in hopes of getting them to model or submit work for our next issue.

College students love free giveaways. College students love sex. By this logic, I'd think that giving away FREE condoms at a college wouldn't be terribly difficult. In reality, it was actually really hard. Lots of kids would get super awkward when I asked if they'd like some free condoms, and then just say "No." Kids who did take the condoms often prefaced the transaction with statements like, "They're for a joke" or "My roommate wants these."

Maybe I'm in the minority, but I think picking up condoms for your roommate is definitely weirder than getting condoms for yourself. This is beside the point though. What I'm trying to illustrate by telling this story is that people, even young people, are still "weird" about something as benign as condoms. We've made a lot of "progress" (in quotes because the forward-moving nature of this change is questionable) as a nation in becoming more comfortable with sex in the media. It seems like we've made smaller strides, though, on the front of de-stigmatizing sex itself, and the things like condoms that go with it.

Hence, a proposal. From the time you start carrying a purse or a wallet, you should start carrying a condom. This idea is good for a few reasons:
  1. If you carry a condom in your purse or wallet, you will always have a condom with you. This not only benefits you, should you choose to "do it" with someone, but it also benefits everyone around you. If everyone is carrying condoms, nobody will ever be able to use, "I don't have a condom" as an excuse for unprotected sex.
  2. Carrying condoms would help to de-stigmatize protection and the act of sex itself. First of all, if condoms were something that people had to see and touch on a regular basis when using their wallet, it would aid in de-stigmatizing them. Secondly, if everyone had to carry condoms, it wouldn't be weird, it would just be something that everyone did. If you knew that your grandma and your teacher at school and your bus driver all carried condoms, they wouldn't hold the distinction of being taboo or embarrassing anymore.
This advice should apply to everyone. Virgins, older folks, women with IUDs, people on birth control pills, gay ladies, pregnant women, priests who have taken vows of chastity, people who are waiting until marriage, middle schoolers, the tubally ligated-- everyone. Not having sex, or not needing barrier-method birth control, shouldn't exempt you from helping everyone stay healthy and safe.

I think working toward normalizing sex and protection is a HUGE step that we should be taking in trying to protect reproductive health rights. Abortion access IS a right, but I can't think of anyone who would be unhappy if less women needed to obtain abortions in the first place.

(I know this post might skew a little heteronormative, as everyone carrying only condoms ignores the sexual health of ladies who sleep with ladies. This idea is just one, in what would hopefully be a collection of many, techniques that we could use in the future to protect the health of everyone!)

(Someone brought up in the comments that carrying condoms in your wallet is bad for effectiveness of the condoms. This is true, to a degree. Condoms packaged like this exist though-- maybe all condoms should get this sort of packaging? What I'm really getting at in this post is that you should carry a condom on your person at all times.)

78 comments:

  1. This is a great idea but... carrying condoms in wallets is BAD. It wears them down and makes them very ineffective. I don't know the exact reasons or everything, I just know that you're not supposed to.

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  2. @Holly- Good point. Added an addendum to the post....

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  3. You can cut condoms to make dental dams and also cover up sex toys with condoms, so carrying a condom isn't necessarily heteronormative.

    Also, it's true that carrying condoms in a wallet might be a bad idea depending on how much abuse you put your wallet through.

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  4. Same as what Holly said – while condoms are fine to carry in a wallet for one night, it's bad to keep them there for much longer than a night.

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  5. where i go to school (university of pittsburgh), everyone LOVES free condoms. when student health is tabling at the union, there is literally a rush for free condoms, and they run out very quickly. i'm not sure if this is just a difference in school culture (state school vs private university) or what, but it is definitely interesting and i was surprised to hear that people at uchicago behave differently.
    about the carrying condoms thing-
    1. i was told that it wasn't good to carry condoms in wallets or pockets because they can rub against other things and get holes and tears in them. also sometimes people end up using expired condoms when they are in their wallet for a long period of time (as the condoms that virgins lesbians, priests, or people on birth control in monogamous sexual relationships would probably be). this is just a logistical problem though, and people definitely need to be educated in the fact that not any condom is a "functional" condom, which leads to my next point
    2. just because people are carrying a condom doesn't mean they know how to use it! in my high school, we were briefly told to "use protection" if we have sex. i don't even think the word condom was mentioned, let alone where one can get condoms or how to put them on. this is a HUGE flaw in a lot of the sex-ed programs. i was even told that health teachers were specifically prohibited from showing condoms, or how to use them.

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  6. I get what you are saying, but I disagree. If you are interested in casual sex, then yes, you should always carry a condom, but if you are not and you carry one, then you are sending the message that you are. That may turn off others who are not interested in casual sex, which are the very people who - in this example - you'd probably be most interested in. Seems like it would be a little counter-productive in that case. Furthermore, if you are in a monogamous relationship, as I am, carrying a condom at all times would be a rather suspicious behavior.

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  7. @ Anon 1:50pm- This is the very sort of attitude I am looking to combat. If EVERYONE was carrying a condom, then it would cease to be an indicator of "interest in casual sex," and instead just an aspect of health like carrying advil or a bandaid in your purse.

    also, carrying a condom doesn't indicate cheating or intent to have sex, just a consciousness of safety. if my boyfriend carried a condom, i'd be happy that he took an interest in the sexual health of others.

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  8. I'm a virgin, but I kept the safe sex kit I got at university orientation in my bag until the kit expired, in case any of my friends (or myself) needed a condom. I think it's a great idea (as long as it's being stored properly).

    I also work at a health unit, in a youth advocacy group. One of the things we've done is try to normalize condoms, take away the "ick" or "weird"n factor that you were talking about. We've made balloon animals out of them (it's difficult though!), promoted condom art, and held condom "races" (where youth try to properly put a condom on a "condom fence" or wood replica"). The race part makes it more fun and there are prizes. Teens were challenging their friends and it really caught on at our event we held it at. Just some ideas!

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  9. I totally agree with you, but from my experience here at the U of C, I feel awkward publicly getting free condoms (especially from the condom czar) because it tends to end with a, "ooooooh, who are you having sex with?" And that's just none of their damn business.

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  10. I carry Advil if I am prone to headaches. I carry Band-aids in case I accidentally cut myself. If you are not prone to have unprotected sex or accidental sex, I don't see how that analogy really fits. I don't really have anything against carrying a condom if there is a greater than zero chance I'll need one, but I don't see the point in an asexual married woman carrying one. I have taken the free ones before and passed them along to a friend who I know should be using them more often than she does, but that's different from spending my coffee money to fund her lifestyle. So, yeah, I'll keep taking the free ones as an example to those that may be watching and passing them along to someone that will use them, but to keep it on my person at all times would be a waste of a perfectly good free condom. :)

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  11. I like the idea of making it a normal grownup precaution, but making it happen probably requires defeating the overall sex negativity. There also needs to be education in how to put condoms on and use them safely, deal with a recalcitrant partner, and making it part of sex instead of an interruption. This is trickier than it sounds even when everyone involved is a well-meaning responsible adult -- it is SO easy to mess this up if you don't put the supplies in arm's reach before you start.

    I suggest upgrading from one condom to a date night kit that has 2-3 condoms, latex gloves or finger cots, and a small bottle or several packets of your favourite condom-safe lube. Between these you should be prepared for a pretty wide variety of activities. Said kit is about fist-sized so I just leave it in my purse.

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  12. i think the problem is that people are just awkward about sex. not contraceptives, but sex.you know, we have weird words like "doing IT" ... etc. just a point i'd like to make. people aren't as open about PDA in america compared to other parts of the world, and the same goes for sex

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  13. I'd say everyone carrying would be good. One night I was going to have sex with this very nice boy for the first time, but we had no condoms. I ran across the street to the gas station, but they had closed. I ran across the street to the Ethiopian dance club and started asking everyone in line for a condom. So many people didn't have one, but finally a nice guy gave me one when the woman he was with urged him to saying, "you aren't going to use it with me tonight." Hooray for random strangers with condoms!

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  14. I work with GACC, too--still got half the box in my room right now. I too have found that it's really difficult to get students to take condoms when it's a person-to-person interaction. However, I have had tremendous luck with a condom bowl in my hall bathroom (I'm an RA). It gets emptied every few days. It seems like people aren't embarrassed to use them, but they're embarrassed to admit it. It's unhealthy.

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  15. Who doesn't take free stuff?! What kind of a college are you at? Don't all students know free condoms also equal free balloons?! But I digress.

    I definitely take your point. My former roommate and I were both in monogomous relationships, but featured a condom bowl whenever we hosted parties. Some people would take some, some people would leave some extras they had in the pockets, so we got quite a mix. Glow in the dark, different colours - Jagermeister flavour! It became a bit of a legend, and every guest had to take one out to the bar with them. House rules!

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  16. I really think the most important thing here is that everyone needs to just deal with the fact that mostly, you need to use condoms to have safe sex. I have recently been really surprised by folks in my age group (late 30's early 40's) who think that they don't need to use them when sleeping with other folks their age or older. If you've been in a monogamous relationship and plan to stay that way for several years, well then you can have a real conversation about not using them (including testing for STDs AIDs and options for birth control). Otherwise be safe. Age is not a safe guard!

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  17. I live in a very conservative valley. To get to Planned Parenthood, you literally have to drive about an hour on the free way. Health teachers are banned from bringing condoms to class. (If they do, they get fired on the spot)I'm almost nineteen and I have no clue how to properly use a condom. (This is pretty common around my parts) If you have any suggestions of how I can make my area a little more aware of it's ass-backwards ways, please let me know.

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  18. Haha, this post reminded me to check on the state of the backup condom I carry in my wallet.
    I've heard the things about storing them in there being bad for quality of the condom but mine seems fine and expires in 2012 so I'm good to go. Like anything else one stores in one's wallet I think it depends on how much abuse those items have to endure.

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  19. @Michelle- I will think about that.... it is a good question! For now, read this! http://www.goaskalice.columbia.edu/0150.html

    goaskalice.com, as well as scarleteen.com are both super awesome non-biased sex-ed websites everyone should check out

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  20. I am a little irked that this post apologizes for being hetero-normative but unabashedly encourages people who are intentionally abstinent to carry condoms. Trusting Heina, it seems that lesbians have more use for them. I don't disagree that our society's stigmatization of sex is unhealthy, but I mostly feel that way due to the hierarchical gender roles it perpetuates (male experienced/female innocent) rather than an overwhelming desire for my peers to go out and have pre-marital sex. I also feel that there is an unhealthy stigmatization of virginity in our society, and I think that this proposal is slightly indifferent to that problem.

    However, as always, enjoyed the post!

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  21. I am carrying around a condom or two for a few years now in my man-purse. Not having it when you need it is way worse than having one when you don't need it. It's mostly stigmatized with "are you planning to have sex NOW?", and since I am in a relationship, it's gotten even weirder. But I will not budge!

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  22. I’m British and I live in Paris, where condoms can be purchased 24/7 from vending machines outside the pharmacies that are on pretty much every street corner, so I’m perfectly willing to concede that my response is biased towards the fact that I’ve never lived in a country with as hysterical an attitude to sex as America. However, your proposal seems a little silly to me.
    Is there really a stigma surrounding contraception rather than e.g. casual sex, one night stands, STDs etc.? This is a genuine question; I’ve never found it to be the case in Europe. If there is, then I’m not sure it can all be put down to a sex-negative stigma, so much as the fact that sex is always going to be an intimate, private experience and most people who are mature enough to have it won’t want to broadcast about it. I’d say that a much larger proportion of women carry sanitary products around with them all the time than they do condoms, but I’d be reluctant to ask every woman queuing outside a club if she could lend me a tampon, nor would do I think it’s our collective responsibility to ensure all sisters can get hold of one as and when needed, and a tampon is something that you actually do NEED right away, a condom isn’t
    Even as things currently stand, no one should be able to use “I don’t have a condom” as an excuse for having impromptu sex without a condom. There are a very long list of things you should discuss before you start sleeping with someone, and that conversation will definitely take up the waiting time while you sober up and before the drugstores open (if you’re caught short on a night out, which is realistically the most likely scenario for our age group) or the romantic drive into the nearest village if you meet the love of your life while hiking alone in the Himalayas.
    The bit about the Priests is disrespectful and needlessly inflammatory.

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  23. Kathleen: How is the bit about the priests disrespectful and inflammatory, exactly?

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  24. elondon: Shit. wrote the longest response ever, internet died, and it vanished. I love getting drunk and flirting in French even more than I love doing apologetics for the sex negativity inherent in abrahamic religions (that might be a joke, i'm not sure yet) so i'll be back when my saturday night has been fulfilled.

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  25. Thank you so much for being you, and having a big blog to share your thoughts and ideas. I'm 34, and in this generation of Jersey Shore, The Bachelor, and people just being famous for being their Uggs-wearing selves rather than for doing something actually impressive etc., you've given me home there are people your age who are not like that.

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  26. At the university my boyfriend attends, they also use the "bowl in the bathroom" method to distribute condoms to the students. What troubles me is that in the male bathrooms the weekly supply is gone on the first day, but in the female bathroom they barely move. I'd assume it's the old problem of guys who engage in casual sex getting praised for it (by their peers at least) while women are admonished. It's a little scary though, considering the ridiculously high HIV/AIDS infection rate here (I'm from South Africa).

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  27. I realize this post is pretty old, but I have two things to say anyway.

    Jessica--It might have less to do with that than the idea that the man is responsible for providing the condom. If you figure most of the guys taking condoms are probably having sex with girls, there's no reason for both of them to grab one, right?

    I actually had a friend who ADAMANTLY believed it was SOLELY the guy's responsibility to get condoms and actually lectured my roommate for buying her own.

    elondon--I would guess the idea of priests, who have pledged to remain abstinent for life, carrying condoms could be offensive given the huge amount of controversy around their perceived inability to uphold said pledge. A responsible and upstanding priest would never, ever be in a position to even consider using one (and, in all reality, a truly rule-abiding Catholic priest would never advocate anyone else using one either...they're against those, remember?)

    As for the original post, I have one issue to point out that hasn't been mentioned. Your proposition says people should start carrying condoms when they start carrying a purse or a wallet. I don't know when guys normally start carrying a wallet, but most girls start carrying a purse around the time they get their period (for obvious practical reasons), putting them at about 10-12. Do you really want to suggest that 11 year old girls should carry around condoms?

    ReplyDelete
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  31. تعد المدينة المنورة من ارقى مناطق المملكة و تتميز بالطابع الدافئ والتواصل بين سكانها واجتماعهم في المناسبات المختلفه من هنا جاءت اهمية شركة تنظيف منازل بالمدينة المنورة لتقديم خدمات التنظيف للبيوت والمنازل والفلل والقصور والشقق والمدارس
    ولاننا ندرك بان الفلل تحتاج الى عمالة مدربة على تنظيف الاماكن الواسعة ولديها القدر فالاول لمهارة عمالها تعد افضل افضل شركة تنظيف فلل بالمدينة المنورة تتميز بسرعة اداء عمالها في تقديم خدمة شركات تنظيف فلل بالمدينة المنورة نتميز باننا افضل شركات تنظيف الفلل بالمدينة المنورة
    وكثيرا ما تحتوى الفلل على عدة خزانات فلابد من الاستعانة بافضل افضل شركة تنظيف خزانات بالمدينة المنورة فهى تستخدم افضل منظفات الخزانات والمطهرات
    ولاننا افضل شركة غسيل شقق بالمدينة المنورة نقدم افضل خدمة تنظيف شقق بالمدينة المنورة بالاعتماد على افضل منظفات الكنب والستائر بالبخار
    افضل شركة تنظيف شقق بالمدينة المنورة
    ____________________________________
    افضل شركة مكافحة حشرات بالمدينة المنورة تقوم بمكافحة كافة انواع الحشرات والآفات
    وكثيرا ما يحتاج سكان المدينة المنورة الى شركة نقل اثاث لنقل الاثاث من المدينة المنورة الى اى مكان داخل او خارج المملكة من هنا جاءت اهمية افضل شركة نقل عفش بالمدينة المنورة تستخدم افضل سيارات نقل العفش المخصصة
    شركة تنظيف كنب بالقطيف

    شركة نقل عفش بينبع -
    ______________________________________

    تعتبر تسربات المياه من احد المشكلات التى لابد ان نقوم بحلها على الفور لان تسربات المياه تؤدى الى عدد كبير من المشكلات نحن فى غنى عنها فالاول شركة كشف تسربات بالمدينة المنورة تعتمد على افضل الاجهزه والالات المخصصه باعمال الكشف عن تسربات المياه فلا داعى للقلق من شان التسربات على الاطلاق فتذكر عزيزى العميل ان افضل شركة كشف تسربات المياه بالمدينة المنورةعلى اتم استعداد للوصول الى اى مكان بالمدينة

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  32. شركة تخزين اثاث بالرياض
    عند انتقالك عميلنا الكريم من مكان لمكان قد تحتاج الى شركة تخزين اثاث بالرياض فكثيرا عندما نتقل من مكان لاخر او من منزل لاخر نحتاج الى مكان تخزين اثاث بالرياض لنقوم بتخزين الاثاث الزائد عن الحد واحيانا نقوم بالانتقال الى خارج المملكة لفترة خصوصا الاخوة المغتربون فيحتاجون لخدمة تخزين عفش بالرياض فشركة الشمس توفر افضل مستودعات تخزين اثاث بالرياض وافضل مستودعات تخزين اثاث بالرياض فلا تردد في الاتصال بالشمس افضل شركة تخزين اثاث بالرياض وبالمملكة فنحن الافضل دائما




    وان كنت تريد الاستغناء وبيع بعض الاثاث القديم فشركة الشمس تقدم خدمة شراء اثاث مستعمل بالرياض بافضل الاسعار لانها افضل شركة شراء اثاث مستعمل بالرياض تتميز بتوفيرها عدة ارقام محلات شراء اثاث مستعمل بالرياض وخدماتها تغطى جميع احياء ومناطق الرياض وتوفر حقين شراء اثاث مستعمل بالرياض

    شركة شراء اثاث مستعمل شمال الرياض
    شركة شراء اثاث مستعمل شرق الرياض


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