“It’s not a big deal,” I wrote, “But if you could pick some up while you’re in New York, I would greatly appreciate it.”
With a contented sigh I sent my request zooming to Ross’ e-mail inbox. “One more thing accomplished,” I thought. For a second after I clicked the send button, I felt a brief sense of unease–was it weird that I was asking someone else to procure condoms for me? I had always gotten my own in the past and although I certainly was not embarrassed by the issue, I certainly wasn’t proud of the fact that I was engaging in safer sex.
I remember that obtaining condoms in high school was quite a harrowing experience–I would go to the drug store and have to stand in front of the wall of condoms (mortifying enough) while deciding which kind to purchase and then actually face the check-out attendant on my way out. If I can recall correctly, not even the knowledge that having condoms meant that sex would happen shortly was enough to prevent a reconnaissance pass or two down the condom aisle.
New York, however, is attempting to change all of that.
A few years ago, on my first trip to New York, I noticed that the city had rolled out a public health campaign to introduce the New York City Condom–complete with a design the recalled the various subway lines that are a hallmark of the area. I admit that I was instantly drawn to the campaign because the condoms were like little practical souvenirs. And, let’s just go ahead and admit it: I’m cheap and the condoms were free. But, as I thought about what was happening, I began to realize that the city really did have a good thing going for it.
Condoms were available at hundreds of locations across the city, and not just at public health clinics or hospitals. Condom containers popped up at bars, clothing stores, and hair salons–places that people frequently went to. Now, instead of potentially having to agonize over buying condoms in a store, you could simply pick one up as you went about your daily routine. The ubiquitous nature of the condoms would also serve to dispel the stigma of being seen with a condom–they were everywhere, everyone had them, and they were normal.
Los Angeles has regrettably yet to see something similar pop up in our midst–there was the Proper Attire campaign that was put on by Planned Parenthood a while back but I have to say that, while I enjoyed the project, it didn’t work in the same way that the New York City Condom campaign has. As state and county budgets are slashed, the prospect looks bleaker, but I still hold out hope that we, as a community, will eventually realize that this endeavor is a worthwhile project, not to mention a lifesaver.
“It’s been a long night,” I thought to myself as I dragged my tired body into bed. Part of me knew that I should take off my shoes at the very least, but a voice inside my head argued that the removal of footwear would require me to move from the now all-too-perfect spot on my pillow.
“What is it now?” I glanced angrily at my cell. “Shut up and let me go to sleep!” Flipping over on my side, I hit buttons of my phone to discover a Tweet from Jay Brannan announcing a new music video. “I’ll check it out tomorrow,” I thought, dropping the phone back on to the headboard and settled back into the sheets.
I’ve been a fan of Jay ever since I saw him in the movie Shortbus (which itself is rich with blog topics). Performing in such a film is certainly admirable, but the film also exposed me to Jay’s music, which I have been listening to for a couple of years now.
While many of the songs on Jay’s album, “Goddamned,” are enjoyable, one song in particular strikes me when I put on my sex blogger hat: “Home.” While the track describes the certainly relatable experience of being a young person in a large city, it also contains the following lines, which are some of my favorite:
Why don’t the Gideons leave condoms in the drawer?
Bibles don’t save many people anymore.
Sure, there are many ways to argue this sentiment (declining condom usage is fodder for another article), but I do think that it’s an interesting point of view although I’m admittedly biased because safer sex is much more my religion than Christianity/Judaism ever would be. Why do hotels leave Bibles for their patrons and not condoms? Is saving one’s immortal life more important than potentially saving one’s mortal being? Is it practical to try to save both?
The interplay of religion and science has been around since the early stages of civilization and these forces are often pitted at odds against one another (even if not in direct conflict). As Emily Dickinson, one of my favorite poets, once wrote:
Faith is a fine invention
For gentlemen who see;
But microscopes are prudent
In an emergency.
Although there has been some recent conflict between the two camps, I can’t help but believe that the goal of both schools of thought is the development of guidelines to keep their believers safe. In my world, the original role of religion was to keep its members safe (from the world and each other), healthy, and to encourage propagation of the species. Science-based sexual health education, too, I would argue, aims to do many of the same things. I think that both ideologies have things to offer and that it is incredibly presumptuous to think that one side has all of the answers, or the only answers.