Category Archives: contraception

in which emily gets mad.

This morning I googled “what the hell is wrong with people in colorado missouri and minnesota?”

I got no answer.

Fortunately this is a sex blog, because there is a LOT of sex talk happening in the election. And ALL of it pisses me off.

Because I am pissed off this morning, let me just vent a little:

Dick Santorum on Prop8: “7M Californians had their rights stripped away today by activist 9th Circuit judges.” Because Californians have a right to deny other citizens equal rights under the law – but wait, doesn’t that mean it was okay for these Californians to lose their rights? Wait, what?

And on contraception: “They said to people of faith, specifically the Catholic church… you will provide the morning-after pill, which is abortion drug…” So he’s got the facts straight, at least.

???

Side note: This was printed on ABC NEWS and went uncorrected by them. So let me correct, on my tiny scale: Emergency contraception will not impact an intact pregnancy. Tell everyone you know. It will, however, prevent pregnancy if taken up to 5 days after unprotected sex; the sooner you take it, the more effective it is. Tell everyone you know.

(SMITH STUDENTS: You can get emergency contraception without a prescription at Health Services for $15. Tell everyone in your house, and go get some just to have, just in case you or your friends need it.)

The man is a menace. He believes that if a women gets pregnant by a rape she should “accept what god is giving you.” He believes life begins “at conception” – i.e., when sperm meets egg. 50% of all fertilized eggs never implant in the first place. 1/3 of all implanted eggs spontaneously terminate within 6 weeks. Already, we’re up to two thirds of all “lives” ended without medical intervention (“god’s will, I suppose”) within the first 2 months. A further 8% miscarry in the following 32 weeks, a total of 3 out of 4 “innocent lives.” That’s triple the rate of induced abortions in the United States.

My point? The assertion that “life begins when egg meets sperm” is not only ignorant and wrong, but disrespectful to women who suffer the grief of a lost pregnancy.

On EVERY SINGLE ISSUE related to sexuality, reproductive health, and women’s rights, this dude is so far from what research has shown to be correct and supportive of positive health outcomes, that he actually almost counterbalances the weight of evidence with the mass of his own ignorance, bigotry, and outright lies. Almost.

And he has 44 delegates in the race to be named the Republican candidate.

WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE?

(I don’t need to tell any of you about Dan Savage’s redefinition of “santorum,” do I? You all know about that already, right?)

adventures in birth control, or: emily has a small uterus

This morning I got an IUD. And then I spent the rest of the day in bed with a heating pad over my abdomen and an ice pack at the small of my back, doped out on ibuprophen and acetaminophen. I decided I should write a blog post about the experience, as anecdotal reference for anyone else who’s thinking about it. It happened like this:

Step 0. Take 1,000mg of ibuprophen before arriving at the doctor’s office. Wear comfy, warm clothes. (I always get cold at the doctor’s.) The usual pee in a cup/ blood pressure and heartrate/naked from the waist down rigmarole. The doc comes in. Okay.

Step 1. Describe to the patient what is about to happen.

DR: The first step is I’m going to feel the position of your uterus. Then we measure the depth of your uterus. This is called sounding –

ME: LOLZ. Like a well?

DR: Yes! You know, most people don’t know that term. Are you familiar with Mark Twain?

ME: Uh, sure.

DR: Well “mark twain” was what you called when you were sounding the depth of the river, so he chose that as his pen name.

ME: And now I’m going to name my IUD Mark Twain. Or Mr T for short.

DR: Well, then the next step is to place the Mirena. This is what it looks like. (He shows me an IUD in its kit, identical to the one I keep in my office to show to students.)

ME: Uh-huh.

DR: Now, they did tell you that because you’ve never had children this is likely to be more a uncomfortable procedure for you?

ME: Yeah. Um, listen in 2000 I had a colposcopy and cervical biopsy and I experienced a lot of vasovagal sensations and nearly passed out.

DR: Oh I see. Well, we’ll make sure we’re set up for that.

(It transpires that “set up for that” consists of having smelling salts in the room. I kid you not.)

Step 2. And so I set myself up in the stirrups. He inserts two fingers and palpates my abdomen – this is the “feeling the position of my uterus” part. No problems here.

DR: Relax that muscle just as much as you can. Good.

ME: (deep, slow breaths, relaxing pelvic floor muscle. I’m good at this.)

And then.

Oh and then.

I get “sounded.”

At first it was just a bit of pressure and a pinch, like a Pap smear, …but then.

I yelped like a kicked puppy and jolted my hips off the table.

DR: Try not to pull away like that.

WHAT?!?!

ME: Okay. I’ll do everything I can.

He coaches me to breathe slowly in through my nose and out through my mouth. “Slower than that,” he says. I teach that kind of thing; I’m working on it. But it FUCKING HURTS.

Step 3. Placing the Mirena.

Feels like stabbing my uterus. The assistant puts in ice pack behind my neck and I press my hands to it, desperately trying to shut the gate on the stabbing pain shuddering from my uterus to my toes and back up to my teeth.

Step 4. Cut the strings, while soothing at the patient who is shaking and crying, pale lipped and trying not to hyperventilate, pass out, or throw up. And it’s over.

DR: Roll over slowly on your left side for a minute or two. It’s not that hard for everyone. You’ve got a small uterus.

ME: (through slow, shallow breaths, lying in the recovery position) Well. It’s not the size that counts.

You learn something new about yourself every day. Me, I have a small uterus. Which has no consequences in my life until I decide to go for long-term contraception.

I lay on the table in the office for about an hour, sipping juice and rotating an ice pack from my forehead to my lower back, until I could sit up without feeling dizzy and the pain resembled really bad menstrual cramps. The doctor continued to soothe at me, telling me, “Make sure you tell your guy about this and get him to buy you something real nice.”

I swear to god he said that. I couldn’t have made that up if I tried.

All I could think to say was, “I’m going to have to cancel my meetings for this afternoon.”

Eventually I could put on my shoes and stand, at which point I drove home, got in bed, and have barely left it since. I played a lot of Angry Birds an listened to Ian Carmichael reading “Strong Poison.”

It’s been nearly 12 hours and the pain has subsided to the intensity of slightly bad cramps. I expect it’ll be tolerable without meds in the next 24 hours or so.

And after that, I’ve got 5 years of worry-free pregnancy prevention, for the cost of about two months of contraceptive pills.

Worth it? I expect it will be.

It doesn’t hurt for everyone – some women, and even some women who have never had children, have quite benign experience with getting an IUD.

But I do wish someone had let me know ahead of time how much it MIGHT hurt, so that I could have, for example, take more pain meds beforehand and brought someone with to drive me home.

My advice then: be prepared for the worst. Hope for the best. Take what comes. It’s an amazing piece of technology and I fully appreciate what it means for me and how privileged I am to live at a time when such effective and effortless birth control is readily available covered by my health insurance.

But prepare for the worst, just in case.

how a sex nerd copes with the primaries

A mildly sadistic friend of mine posted this on my Facebook wall:

It could piss me off if I let it. The idea that this dude might be taken seriously as a candidate for president is either laughable or COMPLETELY FUCKING TERRIFYING, and for my own mental health I simply MUST choose to laugh. I took the 2004 election very seriously and it nearly killed me. I’m not exaggerating. When Kerry conceded, my knees failed, I collapsed on the couch and started oozing fluids from every orifice on my face. It was exactly like that scene in “Transamerica” where Felicity Huffman loses her shit and sobs, gasping like she’s been socked in the gut, with drool hanging like stalactites from her wide-open mouth. I spent three weeks after the election unable to taste food or write complete sentences or sleep more than 4 hours in a row. I lost almost 15 pounds. (“Emily, you look great! How’d you do it?” “Stress and depression.” “…Oh.”)

So for my own wellbeing, I’m allowing myself to experience this video as I would a quiz show where I, a member of the viewing audience, know the answer, and the person on the show is fumbling and stumbling and guessing and flubbing. Meanwhile I’m shouting the answer* tauntingly at the screen and calculating how many washer-drier combos I would be winning if I were on the show.

If I viewed it as a Q&A with a guy who stood a chance at being President, I’d throw my computer out the window and then bash it to pieces with a sledgehammer. I’d rage and sob and scream. I would spend an awful lot of time with my computer away at tech support and an awful lot of money on therapy and antidepressants if I were paying serious attention to the primaries. So I’m ignoring them as best I can, and viewing what I can’t avoid with the detachment of a Buddhist.

And that is how a sex nerd copes with Republican primaries. Ignorance and detached humor.

I must add, if he had played this for the laughs it got:

“I’m just gonna tell you from my own personal life, abstinence works.”

I might have found myself actually liking Perry, if for nothing else, for his comfort with his own lack of sexual appeal. Self-awareness is a good trait in a candidate.

Alas, he failed to notice the humor. He probably also failed to note that he could very well be conflating “not having intercourse” with “not having a vagina.” Nothing beats being male for making sure you don’t get pregnant, so here’s a sex nerd top sex tip: if you’re going to choose abstinence as your pregnancy prevention strategy, choose a back-up method like not having a vagina and uterus, just in case you accidentally have sex.

*Teaching abstinence doesn’t work to prevent pregnancy and STIs for a large number of reasons, but one important and rarely appreciated reason is that abstinence as a harm reduction strategy has the highest failure rate of any method – very approximately 50%. People just SUCK at using abstinence. You think they’re bad at using condoms? You should see them try not to have sex!

abortion, also

Given the escalation of the political horrors around abortion (ahem, Indiana), I’ve had abortion on the brain.

People who want to make abortion illegal essentially believe that the fetus is alive, has a life, and therefore should be protected under the law as a person – protected, in this case, from murder.

Which is fair enough; when “life” begins might not even be open to empirical investigation, it truly may be a matter of moral opinion. And if you hold that opinion, that a fetus is alive, then abortion is murder.

And if a fetus is alive and should be protected under the law, then, just as it’s against the law to injure your child, why aren’t the anti-abortion folks also lobbying for laws against pregnant women smoking, which we know for sure damages the fetus? Or setting limits on drinking for pregnant women? Or not wearing a seatbelt? Because if it’s a life and we KNOW these things increase risk or do outright harm, ought they not to be against the law? Following the logic of prohibiting abortion, shouldn’t a woman be REQUIRED to make choices about her body that do no harm to the person inside her?

And if a fetus is NOT alive, well then. Well then I’ve got a couple of things for you to watch…

From Freakonomics: It’s Not Always a Wonderful Life:

This is the thing I mentioned yesterday – some nice person has isolated it and posted it on Youtube, bless their cotton socks. 11:28 that will give you something really interesting to talk about at the next party you go to.

And from the Guttmacher Institute, some crucial reality checks about who it is who gets abortions in the United States

the other problem with risk

I mentioned once that there was something important to say about risk and perception at the individual level versus the population level. Let’s try saying it this way:

Every time I put my shoes on, my dog gets excited.

“No, Mr Pants, I’m just going to work. What’s the matter with you?” I say.

Why does he get excited when I put my shoes on? I mean, he only gets to go out, oh, definitely less than half the time that I put my shoes on.

But.

Me putting my shoes on happens EVERY TIME he goes out. Only my touching the leash is a better predictor of getting to go out.

So from one perspective, my putting my shoes on only predicts his going out less than half the time. But from another perspective, going out is predicted 100% of the time by my putting my shoes on.

When you think about this concept in terms of sexual health, it’s kind of inside out. Like, suppose you use a condom maybe half the time, and yet you still don’t get an STI. What that teaches you is that NOT using a condom is just as predictive of getting an STI as using a condom is. Dig? You may know intellectually that condoms prevent lots of STIs, but as far as your direct experience goes, condom use isn’t associated with prevention.

Maybe the dog isn’t a helpful example. Taking drinking. Now, on my campus 80% of the drinking that happens is beer and wine, but 100% of the medical emergencies related to alcohol are related to liquor. So at the population level, you vastly increase your chances of having things go seriously wrong if you drink liquor.

But look at it from the individual perspective. If something like 500 students each weekend consume liquor (these are imaginary but realistic numbers). And about two students per month end up at the hospital (fictional but realistic). So you’ve got 8 nights, 500 students each night and maybe two emergencies. That’s a VERY low correlation, right, so from the individual point of view it’s easy to think that the risk is very low. Which it is – except in comparison to not drinking or drinking only beer or wine. This other group is much larger and has zero emergencies.

It’s about perspective, and we humans are deeply irrational when we’re deciding how to assess risk. Somehow we believe we will never be struck by lightening but, you never know, we might win the lottery, even though the odds are similar.

The odds of getting an STI from any individual sexual event aren’t terrifically high – something like .004% for HIV, if I remember correctly (which I might not). But when you add a condom, the odds go way, way, way, way down. And the thing is, once you have HIV, you, like, have HIV. Which changes your life.

But it’s not compelling for me to stand in front of students and say, “You’ve got a minute fraction of a percent of chance of getting HIV, if you have intercourse, so use a condom every time in order to make it a vastly smaller minute fraction of a percent.”

It’s a problem, friends, this deep inability we have to understand the nature of risk.

the morning after

I am not, in the general run of things, a joiner. But the National Institute for Reproductive Health asked people to blog about emergency contraception. I think it’s important. So.

There’s all kinds of political hullabaloo I could write about, a buncha mythbusting I could do, and a lot of basic, necessary education I could provide. But instead, here’s this:

More than 10 years ago, I took Plan B.

On Valentine’s Day, as it happens.

We (that is, the boy and I – he had waist-length curly blond hair, liberal politics, and a nerdy way of laughing with a snort and pushing his glasses up his nose; I was In Lurve) walked into Planned Parenthood shortly after they opened and told the girl at the desk we wanted emergency contraception. She gave me a clipboard with some paperwork to fill out, and we took it to the waiting area, where we sat in murmuring anxiety while I checked off boxes and wrote in numbers to describe my sexual and reproductive history.

Sex partner in the past year: 2. (“Depending what you call ‘sex partner,’” I thought.)
Number of sex partners in my lifetime: 7 (“Again…”)
Number of pregnancies: 0
Number of abortions: 0
Method of contraception: condoms
STIs: HPV

“God, do they need to know all this?” I thought. “I’m not even certain HE knows all this.”

Soon, another girl led us into a room not more than 6 feet square, with little more than three plastic chairs and an industrial carpet in it. We sat like guilty children trying to behave while she asked us questions.

“When did you have intercourse?”

“About 12 hours ago.”

“What form of contraception did you use?”

“A condom. It… failed due to user error.” (I couldn’t quite bring myself to describe to this stranger the way the boy had, half-laughing, half-abashed, fished the condom out of my vagina with two fingers and the way I had, sticky, flushed, and mussed, put a hand on my forehead and said, “Well, hell.”)

“When did your last period start?”

“14 days ago. So pretty much I’m fertile now. Which is why we’re here.” (I had in fact started doing the math before the condom had even been retrieved.)

And we walked out with a little cardboard packet with two pills in it.

“Take one this morning,” the girl explained carefully, not knowing I was a sex educator and had written all about it for the website I worked on, “And take the second one 12 hours later.”

“12 hours later, got it,” I repeated, obedient, repentant.

She did her spiel about potential side effects, about how it’s more effective if you use it sooner, about how it won’t affect an intact pregnancy. I nodded, reminding myself that almost none of the people she counseled already knew all this stuff. But inside I wanted to scream, “I KNOW!! JUST FUCKING GIVE IT TO ME!!”

We paid cash. I think it was $60?

Our next stop was a nearby shopping plaza, where we rented some movies and bought a bunch of junk food. We spent Valentine’s Day on the futon in my living room, tentative and apologetic, watching romantic comedies. 12 hours after the first dose, I took the second dose, and we went to bed. We did not have sex that night.

“Happy Valentine’s Day,” I said into the dark.

Next to me, the boy laughed with a snort.

I had no side effects at all at the time, which was unexpected given the catalog of potential problems our counselor had listed. My next period, two weeks later, was VERY intense – nausea, cramps, and fatigue so powerful I had to take days off work – but otherwise normal. I didn’t mention it to the boy.

And so that was my experience. I’m glad I took it and the boy was glad I took it.

Things have changed in the past 10 years, they’ve gotten better. You can get EC over the counter, without explaining your entire sexual history to someone you’ve never seen before and will never see again. You can take both doses of Plan B simultaneously, or get a 1-pill version. There are other, more effective forms of EC available.. And maybe, maybe, maybe, there’s less stigma and condescension about Plan A not quite working out the way you expected. Things have gotten better.

The moral here: condoms fail. Even for sex educators who have read the research on condom use errors and who teach others how to use them correctly. It’s not a moral failing or even a product of ignorance; it’s just life. Sometimes things go wrong. That’s why you have a back up plan.

If you can manage to accompany the backup plan with romantic comedies and half price Valentine’s Day candy, I say go for it.

stupid ass bullshit in the NYT

This may well be the dumbest thing I’ve ever read in the New York Times.

There’s too much specific stuff to deal with, so I’ll just skip to the end. He writes:

Liberals argue, not unreasonably, that Planned Parenthood’s approach is tailored to the gritty realities of teenage sexuality. But realism can blur into cynicism, and a jaded attitude can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Social conservatives look at the contemporary sexual landscape and remember that it wasn’t always thus, and they look at current trends and hope that it doesn’t have to be this way forever.

Let me just rewrite that as it SHOULD be:

Planned Parenthood’s approach is tailored to the gritty realities of the politics of teenage sexuality. They emphasize condoms and contraception because social conservatives fear the possibility that teenage sexuality could be beautiful, meaningful, pleasurable, and self-actualizing, and that fear means PP couldn’t get funding for education that talked about self-pleasuring, talking with your partner about pleasure, or understanding the role of pleasure in a sexual relationship. Social conservatives look at the contemporary sexual landscape and fear that teenagers having sex is inherently dangerous, emotionally and morally.

And social conservatives are afraid of women, especially women’s sexuality. They fear the change and that would come if girls measured their own worth by something other than their ability to sustain relationships with boys, so PP could never get funding for programs that taught women about how to say yes, how to know what they want in bed and in life, how to be women and agents of their own sexuality; and PP could never get funding for programs that teach boys about the context-dependence of women’s sexual response or the importance of the clitoris or the vital, crucial importance of listening to a girl’s words.

Finally, there is a correlation between depression and earlier “sexual debut” in girls. That’s true. There is also a a correlation between sexual abuse and depression in girls and sexual abuse and earlier consensual sex, and between insecure attachment style and depression in girls and between insecure attachment style and more sex partners. … But… obviously the early sex is what’s causing them to be depressed, not the poor parenting, the abuse of their bodies, or, let’s be real, the unequal access to educational and economic opportunities that create an environment where a girl’s only way to judge her value is in her relationships to boys.

The best “abstinence-based” sex education in the world? Girls’ sports. Give girls something to do, a way to gauge their own worth, other than having sex with boys.

You want teenagers to start having sex later and have fewer partners? So do I. You want the sex they have to be in the context of emotionally engaged relationships with a commitment to honesty and monogamy? So do I!

But you conservatives are creating the sickness, creating the disease of “teenage promiscuity,” the way footbinding shapes a foot. If you allow it to grow, if you give it space, it will become beautiful, natural, healthy.

The new sex, the sex of the twenty-first century, is about pleasure. Even for teenagers. And that’s a revolution.

by request: to the teenage boy in your life

Dear Heterosexual Teenage Boy,

I’ve never been a teenage boy myself, yet I have a lot of sympathy for the difficulties inherent in being flooded with testosterone and not having any idea what to do with it. I can appreciate the bafflement you must experience when confronted with girls, who seem strangely alien.

I’m here to help.

Here are some things you need to know.

IMPORTANT FACTS ABOUT GIRLS

Important Fact #1: Girls are Like Boys, Minus the Penises
An important thing to remember is that girls are not from a different planet, nor are they even a different species. They’re just people, they’re just like boys, except with vulvas instead of penises.

Mainly you need to remember this when you’re trying to figure out what a girl is thinking. See, if you didn’t know what a BOY was thinking, how would you go about finding out? You might ask him, right? The same goes for girls. There is no decoder ring, because there is no need for one. Girls are like boys, only female, ya know. They’re people.

All that stuff you see in movies and TV about how girls don’t like it if a guy has to ask? That’s bullshit. She would LOVE for you to ask what she’s thinking.

Important Fact #2: “No” means No. “Maybe” means No. Silence means No. “YES” means Yes.
You should believe what girls say. When they say “No” or “Stop” or “I’m not ready” or “I’m not sure” or “This doesn’t feel right” or “Um…” or nothing at all, that means NO. STOP. Anything other than “YES” or “That feels good” means NO. She might say it quietly or gently because she wants to be nice and not hurt your feelings because she LIKES you but just isn’t ready for whatever you’re doing. Listen to her WORDS.

I can tell you from a position of great authority that good sex only happens when BOTH people are into it. You want her to be into it, right? You want her to enjoy being sexual with you? Of course you do!

How can you tell if she’s enjoying it? Only her WORDS can tell you that. So listen to them and only do stuff she says YES to. Not sure she’s into it? See Important Fact #1, and also: doubt means don’t.

Important Fact #3: Girls Might Be Even More Confused about Sex Than You Are
Girls get really conflicting messages about sex from society. On the one hand they’re supposed to be really sexually desirable and attractive and they’re supposed to want sex, but on the other hand they’re supposed to stay virgins until they get married and be Good Girls. On top of that, girls’ bodies are less straightforward than boys’ in terms of sexual response.

I mean, you’ve got this handy barometer to tell you when you’re turned on. You’re familiar with your genitals. You’ve probably already had an orgasm. None of those things are necessarily true for girls. Their genitals are tucked away, hidden, and they don’t make a tent in their pants when a cute guy walks by. Not having a penis makes things different for girls. More complicated.

Look I’m gonna use a stereotype here, but maybe it’sll get the point across:

You know how sometimes you might feel like she knows all this stuff about emotions and relationships and you’re like, “When did she LEARN all this?” Sex is kind of like that for her. She’s still learning a bunch of stuff that you’ve already figured out because you have a penis.

So be patient with your girlfriend, as she is patient with you learning the emotional stuff. Arrite.

IMPORTANT FACTS ABOUT CONDOMS

Important Fact #1: Condoms work – if you use them.
Condoms are the most effective way to prevent STDs for people who are sexually active. They’re also the most effective male-controlled contraceptive method. Don’t want to have a baby? Use condoms. Use them correctly and consistently.

Put the condom on BEFORE you ever put your penis in her vagina, and keep it on until after you ejaculate and withdraw. Never deviate from this.

Important Fact #2: Be Nice to Your Condoms
Latex degrades in heat and cold, and when latex degrades, your condom fails. And a condom can LOOK intact when it actually isn’t, so be NICE to your condoms and they’ll be nice to you.

How?

Don’t keep your condoms in a glove compartment in the car, and don’t keep a condom in your wallet for more than a few weeks.

Be sure it’s in good shape before you use it – there should be an air bubble in the packet.

Pinch the tip of the condom when you roll it on, to leave a space at the top for your cum to land in.

Never open a condom packet with your teeth. You can use scissors ONLY if you scooch the condom down to the bottom half of the packet with one hand while you cut with the other. (HINT: hold your hand out the way you would hold a cigarette, with your index and middle fingers extended. Insert the condom packet between your fingers so that the foil wrapper go through, but the condom scrunches up under your fingers. Now turn your palm over and cut across the top of the foil.)

Important Fact #3: Keep Your Fluids to Yourself
The point of condoms is to keep one person’s sexual fluids and skin from touching the other person’s sexual fluids and skin.

If you’ve been touching your own or your partner’s genitals, you should wash your hands before you put the condom on. Otherwise you get all the sex juice on your hands on the outside of the condom, and that defeats the purpose.

After you ejaculate, hold the base of the condom as you withdraw, so it doesn’t fall off. Tie a knot in the top and throw it in the trash. DON’T flush it.

So there you have it. I hope some of that is useful.

a morning with condom commercials

Someone sent me a link, which led to an entire morning spent watching condom commercials on youtube.

Thankfully I have the kind of job where I can call this “productive.” Honestly!

I also happen to have just returned from a conference about prevention strategies and I’m kinda surprised at how… well… I mean… what are these commercials supposed to DO? Are they really gonna make people more likely to buy and use condoms?

Behavior change generally categorizes the consequences of behavior according to three characteristics: time, certainty, and valence. Consequences that are soon, certain, and positive are the most strongly rewarding, and consequences that are soon, certain, and negative are extinguishing, whereas things that are delayed, uncertain, and neutral have the least impact on behavior.

“Should I buy or use a condom?” asks the TV viewer. “Are there soon and certain rewards for using condoms? Does condom use prevent soon, certain punishments?” The commercial attempts to say, “Yes! Yes! And… um, Yes!”

“Condoms aren’t sexy,” says the TV viewer, so the commercial attempts to change the emotional/sexual valence around condom use, like this one:

The above aims to increase the positive valence associated with condom use. Alternatively, you can attempt to increase the negative valence associated with NOT using condoms.

“After all, the negative consequences of condom use are delayed and uncertain,” says the TV viewer. “I’ve had unprotected sex without causing unwanted pregnancy or STI transmission, so why would I bother?”

“But if they DO happen eventually, they’re REALLY REALLY A HASSLE,” says the commercial:

(This is probably a simpler and less stigmatizing consequence compared to, say, HIV infection…)

But the general theme of the funny condom commercials on youtube seems to be just making condoms accessible, friendly, sexy, and cute. A sort of generic, “Yay, condoms!” message. After all, how hard a sell can it be? Condoms = getting laid, and isn’t the inherent excellence of getting laid the point of, well, every other commercial on television?

But reasons not to use condoms are real and often both soon and certain – stigma, embarrassment, shame, not wanting to seem like a slut or like you don’t trust your partner or your partner shouldn’t trust you, not wanting to concretize the potential consequences of sex (“can’t happen to me!”)…. And because the not-so-good consequences of failing to use condoms (pregnancy, STI, HIV) are delayed and uncertain, they are less salient than the not-so-good consequences of USING condoms.

I see that the funny commercials are working at the large-scale stigma around condom use. Like:

And :

(Emily is a sucker for cheezee dance toonz.)

Condoms are for oral sex too!

But what I would LOVE to see – and maybe someone has done it; send me a link if you’ve seen it somewhere! – is a commercial that turns the PURCHASE of condoms into a celebration. While in real life people may feel embarrassed or awkward buying their latex, how about a commercial of a kid putting their condoms on the counter and the grandma-lookin’ person behind the counter calls for a price check on condoms, resulting in an explosion of confetti, dance music, sexy smiling people offering congratulations, etc.

After all. If you’re using a condom, it means you’re having seeeeeeeeeeex. And lower-risk sex at that!

And lower-risk sex between consenting adults is undeniably something to celebrate.

now *I* want a “condomlabra”

On Twitter, the fabulous Marty Klein shared this video from the (also fabulous) Paul Joannides:

And I liked it so much I just had to post it for ya’ll. It’s just exactly the right combination of simple, frank information, silly humor, nerdy gadgetry, approachable dopiness, and unshockable comfort with all things sexual that makes The Guide to Getting It On the classic that it is.

“It doesn’t matter what you’ve got in your pants if there’s nothing in your brain to connect it to.”