I know I’m late with this, but I was resisting writing about a Sunday Styles feature because I have this thing about the Sunday Styles section of the New York Times. Actually, it’s a thing about the Times: Why do they need TWO style sections. There’s the Sunday one and the Thursday one. Isn’t that rather a lot of emphasis on style? (Disclosure: I do like the Modern Love feature.) But really, how many Labor sections does the paper have? How many Working Parent sections? Let alone that most of the products and lifestyle habits that are featured are way beyond reach for most New Yorkers, let alone most Americans. The median household income in New York is $49,480 and it’s a few thousand dollars less than that in the US as a whole. (That means half of households have incomes less than that!)
So I have to thank Viviane for reminding me about what is a nearly unique event: a feature in the Style section about a product that is inexpensive and that is useful for people regardless of socioeconomic status: the condom!
Now, of course it was about condoms on university campuses, not condoms being distributed on the street, but hey, it was condoms, and they were being given away for free. (And to make the Styles folks happy, there was a photo not of a condom, which, once opened has nothing to distinguish one brand from another, but of a Durex magazine ad with a cut out “penis outfit” free to anyone lucky enough to get their hands on one of the ads and a pair of scissors. (Note: Scissors are for use with penis outfits only, not for use with condoms.)
Then, I talked with my mom. I have a really cool mom. My mom, who reads my blog and often argues with parts of my posts, still encourages me to write whatever I want. Anyway, my mom pointed me in the direction of this article in the Daily Pennsylvanian (the newspaper of the University of Pennsylvania). Apparently, Penn buys 50,000 condoms per year (Lifestyles). What do you suppose that budget line looks like? (I’m sure they get a discount.) My mom’s first take was “Penn Students can buy their own condoms! Imagine if those condoms could be given out on the street!” (It’s no wonder where I get my social justice sensibility.) But then she talked to a resident adviser there who said, essentially, “Yeah, they can buy them, but then they forget where they put them, or leave them in their room. We leave them out all over the place so there’s no excuse not to have one.” Hmm. In any case, Penn isn’t talking about how much it spends on condoms. I suspect it gets some donated, and the rest at a discount as the Times piece indicates.
And I thought back to the New York Times piece, which also said that some condom makers, like Trojan, hire market research firms to rate colleges’ in their Sexual Health Report Card, which is a very unscientific survey of college sexual health programs and ease of access to — guess what — condoms. Yale ranked number one, with Princeton and Stanford in the top 10. Penn was not in the top 10.
An Ivy League Condom Competition, perhaps?
Postscript: I included links to the condom brand web sites because I had no idea how complex they’d become. They’re certainly not just about condoms! For one thing, they all sell vibrating cock rings. The rings are battery powered and will vibrate for 20 minutes and include a condom. They also sell other “performance enhancing” products, lubes, and offer sex and relationship advice. They have games and trivia. I had no idea the marketing of condoms had become so sophisticated! I would love to hear from people about how they choose their condom brand.