Making Safe Sex Sexy: Condoms Go Designer

by | February 21, 2011
filed under Sex-Ed

If you think about barriers to safe sex, the fear that safe sex is uncool or unsexy is right up there with problems accessing birth control and sex education. One trend I’m noticing recently is a move to brand condoms and safe sex as sexier in order to  empower people to negotiate safe sex. The examples range from the awesome to the slightly absurd, but overall I think any initiative that encourages people to use condoms is a good thing.

On the awesome side of the spectrum we have a new “That’s So Sexy” campaign from HelloCoolWorld, in partnership with Options for Sexual Health BC. As part of the campaign, they’ve released 2 TV ads – one targeted at young straight couples and the other at young gay couples – in which a couple at a club talk about what they want each other to wear, with one of them pulling out a condom underneath the tagline: “Put on something sexy!” Opt has their own sexy-branded “ready for pleasure”  condoms that fit in nicely with the ad campaign.

Marvin Humes’ Just Love Safe Durex Box

Across the pond, the British Boy Band JLS has started a “Just Love Safe” campaign that includes a new line of Durex condoms with boxes featuring pictures of the band members. Interviewed in The Mail Online, band member Marvin Humes commented, “We used to get underwear thrown at us on stage, now we expect flying condom boxes! But it’s important to put your love in a glove.” With Justin Bieber under feminist fire this past week for sharing his anti-abortion and pro-abstinence views, it’s good to see some pop stars a bit more realistic about sex.

Vena Cava’s Proper Attire Condom

Also using the love/glove language is the Proper Attire line, featuring condom wrappers from a host of well-known designers like Vena Cava, Alexander Wang, Brian Reyes, Charolette Ronson, Jeremy Scott, Keith Haring, Opening Ceremony, and Yigal Azrouël. Vena Cava’s design (less) repeats the phrase, “No love, no glove” over and over on the wrapper. But what’s really cool about the line is that proceeds go to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, which is under attack by the Republican Congress, who voted last Friday to de-fund the organization.

Another example is the new line: b condoms, started by a group of male students at Morehouse looking to increase condom use among African-Americans. One founder, Ashanti Johnson, says that b condoms will aim to connect emotionally with the African-American community, an area where major condom brands like Durex and Trojan have failed. b condoms launched their product line at a New York Gala event which they also used to highlight and promote the work of VillageCare, a New York HIV/AIDS group, which is a pretty cool thing to do to show you’re serious about making social change, not just money.

On the slightly absurd side of things, I’m thinking particularly about the Royal Wedding souvenir condoms being rolled out by London’s Crown Jewels Condoms of Distinction. The box for these boasts they’re “lavishly lubed…regally ribbed.”

“Like a Royal Wedding, intercourse with a loved ones is an unforgettable occasion,” reads the slogan on the packs. Some folks are arguing the condoms are in poor taste, but as anyone who’s a fan of British comedy will know, talking about the Royal Family and sex in the same sentence is not exactly a new invention. If anything, I love how it draws attention to how over-the-top the whole wedding hype is, and if this or any of the other marketing campaigns increase condom use, I’m all for it.

-Jarrah


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  • Interesting post! We’ve taken a pleasure-centered approach at Condom Monologues when talking about the how-to’s of condom use. But to look at it from a wider commercial perspective is quite interesting. I would agree with your observation that there is a move towards branding safe sex as sexy, which is a great way to counter the great lack of protective sex in media representations of sex.