Plaid! Polka dot! Leather! You'll buy it, right?
How do you get ladies to buy as many rubbers as men? Start designing them in frilly, colorful, polka-dotted, innocuous packaging! That's the tactic of many burgeoning condom manufacturers looking to corner a market that isn't known for picking up the tab on condoms.
Plan A — whose name's a spin on the divisive emergency contraceptive Plan B — is a "stylish feminist condom wallet" that just launched a Kickstarter this month. The designer claims the purpose of the cutesy, vibrant leather pouches wasn't to perpetuate taboos about women carrying condoms, but to make it a more fun, stylish, and less shaming experience. "Sex-positive women are in a catch-22," says the introductory video on the crowdfunding site. Similar products like boutique condom cases and ONE tins have been on the market for a few years. Now other lines branding themselves as condoms for the ladeez like Proper Attire, MINE, and L. Condoms have come with one notion in mind: If it looks pretty, women will buy it.
Most of these female-friendly condom campaigns come couched in euphemisms about ladies going out late at night, small purses, and secret makeup bag stashes. They're all designed for women tired of the judgment and inherent stigma of carrying around condoms (and in some places, the illegality) — and that in itself is an admirable aim. Surveys have shown that most women are embarrassed to purchase condoms and women think other women are promiscuous when they tote around a handbag of Trojans. Other casual surveys suggest men are more than twice as likely to be the purchasers of their lovegloves. The thing that isn't attractive about this wave of femme condoms is that it implies disguising the conversation about female sexuality in a plaid wrapper is the answer.
These girly condoms come with product pairings like condom and tampon packs, bedside table display trays, and discreet storage bins. It's a look that says, "You are a lady and you enjoy the finer things in life." Everything is displayed in pretty, delicate teabag packaging. Everything is next to an elegant bottle of hand lotion and backlit by soft IKEA lamps. It's sort of a clever marketing scheme. It's also incredibly pandering.
The problem with women not feeling comfortable enough to buy condoms is indeed a real problem. But I don't want to be told the solution is to put my sexual health in a shinier wrapper – a package (pun intended) more palatable for my delicate lady tastes. Female sexuality isn't any more delicate than men's, and assuming I'm a sexually active adult, I don't need my condoms to look nice to be buyable.
Women feeling confident enough to stroll up to buy regular Lifestyles, Durex, or whatever brand at the pharmacy counter comes with maturity and understanding. It comes with the common sense that the supposed shame of purchasing condoms is completely removed from the look of its packaging — the clerk still knows what you're buying. Our culture is the issue.
Anyway, have you seen what happens as the result of using a condom? It's not pretty. The opened polka dot wrapped on the bedside won't make it prettier. And not all of us are rushing out to get something because its pink and looks like a really cute lip gloss case you can buy at Anthropologie. Stop trying to sell me pretty, and give us all something we really want. If sex sells, then condoms should be a lot easier to market than this.
Images via Planned Parenthood, MINE, Plan A.