Monday, April 12, 2010

What does YOUR country believe about condoms?

Did you know that in the U.S. approximately 4 in 10 women become pregnant at least once before turning 20 years old or that 1 in 4 sexually active teens become infected with an STD every year? These statistics are startlingly high, especially when compared to other countries throughout the world. Why in a country as progressive as ours are safe sexual practices not happening? Although there are many different reasons and factors, I think one important factor to look at is the acceptance of the condom. The male latex condom is one of the most popular forms of birth control used worldwide. However, in looking at condom advertisements from different countries you can clearly see the differences in social acceptance of the condom.

For example, the ads from both Sweden and France are very straight forward “slap in the face” type ads that use humor to show the importance of condom use. Whether it is to avoid STDs or unwanted children, they both blatantly imply “Use Condoms”. No ifs, ands or buts.

A few of the commercials even show the actual condom and how it is unrolled. For example, in the commercial from Kenya, a man is shown being chivalrous by supplying a condom when a women needs one to keep her umbrella closed. Even though this isn’t the obvious or advertised use for the condom, the meaning behind it shows that chivalry will make a women appreciate you. I also thought it was great that every onlooker in the background cheers and is smiling when the condom is taken out and used on the umbrella. Condoms in this commercial are encouraged and portrayed as helpful.

In my opinion, the condom ad from India was the best for many reasons. It provided information about the condoms, such as the fact that it can be made in different colors, or can be lubricated. It shows the actual condom, and provides information about where it can be bought, and what it does, such as prevent an STD.

Then we see the U.S. commercial. The condom is only shown once, when it is still in the package and coming out of the dispenser. Rather than focuses on the use of the condom, the ad focuses more on the message that most men are pigs (presumably because they won’t use condoms). The one man who buys a condom is seen as unusual. It sends the message that every women should try to be lucky enough to find a man who will use one. This message does not promote the idea that condoms should be generally accepted. Sadly, this ad is one of the best ads from the U.S. and was, in fact, banned on Fox and CBS when it came out in 2007 for being “inappropriate.”

It is startling that these ads are sometimes the only education teens receive about condoms. While proper condom use, sex positions and same-sex relationships are all part of the curriculum for students in Swedish high schools, U.S. high school students are often taught little or no information on basic condom use. Although it varies state to state, it is widely known that safer sex information is not widely publicized in the U.S. There are definitely very few schools teaching sex posititions or same- sex relationship information. Just by viewing these short condom commericials, we can see the basic beliefs about sex that each of these countries believe in. Is it any surprise that the U.S. has twice the teen pregnancy rate of Canda, four times the rate of Germany and France, and eight times the rate of Japan?

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