By the way, guys, I'm covered.
I use condoms. My partners use condoms. I'm not ashamed of it. Condoms have done me well for many years (no babies, no rashes, no errant warts), but does that mean I should become a walking advertisement for them? One handbag designer, Maggie Kervick, thinks so.
Kervick's collection of vinyl handbags are uniquely designed to look like Lifestyles SKYN condom wrappers. Bags by Mags, Kervick's line, launched the "I'm Covered" campaign not only an interesting fashion statement (the bags are bold and metallic), but as a way to celebrate women who carry their own protection. The purses, besides causing a stir on the subway, are supposed to empower them for making safe choices. Each of Kervick's products features a lining containing women's handwriting spelling out "I'm covered," a special condom pocket, and a sample pack of condoms with each purchase. For every bag sold, one dollar is donated to ANSWERS, an organization dedicated to providing comprehensive sexual education to youth.
By carrying the bag, Kervick hopes it will display to other people around you that you are responsible and have respect for your body. Kervick tells Nerve that she also sees the "I'm Covered" line as a way to "have conversations with partners." Part of that conversation might be about the skewed gender dynamics of even carrying around condoms in the first place. Some surveys have pegged men as twice as likely as women to actually buy rubbers, and with carrying around condoms comes attendant assumptions about the person who is packing the Lifestyles (or whatever your preferred brand is). "If a man carries a condom he is considered prepared and if a women carries condoms she is considered promiscuous," Kervick explains of the stereotypes.
What it means to carry around a pack of condoms means a lot more than just the arbitrary assumptions me make in our relationships. For some women, toting condoms around could be grounds for an arrest, and so Kervick's handbags now come with a weightier message — what's it mean to put our sexuality out there? When it was announced earlier this month that New York City Police Department will limit their practice of confiscating condoms on the street to use as evidence in prostitution cases, sex health advocates were very relieved. Aligning sexual health with sex work deters people from wanting to carry around the protection they need. Three condom laws, though perhaps a practical way of curbing illegal activity, also arbitrarily punish the folks that paid the most attention in sex ed class.
Which is why the "I'm Covered" campaign is just as outrageous as it is brilliant, it's women (but I suppose men could rock a murse) laughing in the face of regressive laws and customs. After all, women should be just as prepared for sex and just as shameless as men strolling up to a 7-11 counter looking for their favorite Trojan Pleasures Fire & Ice. But would I actually wear a flashy purse that sort of looks like a Duane Reade shelf with handles? Even as a pretty sexually liberated individual, I'm not so sure. I'm not ashamed of wrapping it up, but it's not anyone's business how I protect myself. But if this is the next iteration in safe sex campaigns, if this is the latest upped ante for the ever-increasing line of female-friendly condom lines, there have been worse walking billboards than a woman proudly saying, "Yeah, I'm getting laid, so what?"