I think I was 15 or 16 years old when I first bought a box of condoms. (Cover your eyes, Mom and Dad.) It was at the local grocery store, and my high school boyfriend had asked me to grab them on my way over for the 2009 version of "Netflix and Chill."
Hindsight may be 20/20, but I don't remember feeling particularly shameful about buying them. If anything, my age was the only concern. (Could you imagine running into a friends' parents with condoms in hand, when I could barely legally drive? Awk.) I do remember being annoyed that I had to buy them because I was particularly short on cash. But forgoing a shirt from Forever 21 to avoid being a teenage pregnancy story? #Worthit.
Even at that ripe young age, the very last thing going through my head standing in the condom aisle was, "Which box looks least offensive?" Coating the "Her Pleasure" pack in rainbows and butterflies wouldn't have made me any more likely to buy them (and, in fact, would probably deter me, despite the claim on the front). The little latex rings inside were going to do their job regardless of what the box looked like.
And I'm not the only one who doesn't give a damn about being seen with condoms at the CVS self-checkout; 96 percent of people think a woman is being "responsible, smart, or don't find it to be any of their business" if they see her purchasing condoms, according to the Indiana University Center for Sexual Health and Promotion, as shared by Trojan. Plus, the survey found that 68 percent of women either "strongly disagreed" or "disagreed" that it was a man's "responsibility" to provide condoms for heterosexual sex—it takes two to tango, which is exactly why condoms shouldn't have a gender.
What's puzzling is that Trojan (the number-one condom retailer in the U.S.) just released a new type of condom—called XOXO, naturally—specifically tailored to women in order to encourage them to "take responsibility of their sexual health." The package—a ladylike lilac purple with pretty scroll detailing and chic black-and-white lettering—is designed to "inspire women to trust their inner confidence and own their sexual health through buying, carrying, talking about, and using condoms." (Which, BTW, pretty much everyone should be doing, considering we're in the midst of an STD epidemic.) They also come with a mini carrying case "designed to be discreet... so you can carry them with you and no one will know." Because, apparently, even though we shouldn't feel ashamed of buying and carrying condoms, we also shouldn't want anyone to see us with them. Finally, they're made with an extra-soft feel, low latex odor, and aloe-infused lube (I mean, I guess ladies like aloe?).
While I'm all for women taking responsibility for their health (and the packaging definitely could be worse), I still couldn't help but feel annoyed. I mean, why do condoms need to be gendered in the first place?
Trojan's new release did have the right sentiment; the whole point of the XOXO line is to encourage "consumers—especially women—to engage in a mindful dialogue when it comes to sexual health and to ultimately drive cultural change when it comes to traditional gender roles around condoms, sexual health, and pleasure." Placing this box in the condom aisle next to the abrasive black-and-gold MAGNUM box might make a statement to the world that, "yeah, women can buy condoms too." But if you want to make a statement about the gender-irrelevant purchase of condoms, why not just make the boxes gender neutral? Doesn't providing a girl-ified option suggest that women should think twice about carrying those other condom boxes around the store, rather than empower them to choose safe sex without anyone batting an eye?
I don't want to totally hate on Trojan, because they're not the only retailer amping up the glitz and glitter to market toward females. (Does anyone remember the BIC for Her backlash of 2012?) But that still doesn't make it OK. It's not like we're talking about aftershave (typically used by guys) and tampons (ladies only). Both men and women benefit from condoms in a very major way, so there really shouldn't be a need to market some condoms to men and others to women. I guess you could argue that condoms come in different types, sizes, and flavors—and companies could technically market them all differently—but the reality is that both sexes will be using (and hopefully enjoying) the same product (at least when it comes to hetero sex). The aloe-infused lube gets on his genitals just as much as it gets on yours.
Plus, what happens if a guy decides the Trojan XOXOs are his fave condoms? Should he feel like he's not allowed to purchase them because they're specifically meant for lady shoppers? And don't even get me started on the fact that not every lady even likes lilac purple in the first place.
The good news is that, for the most part, society is chill with women buying condoms. (Baby steps.) Now, if everyone would just let us go about our business doing so (and giving us the option to get birth control and see the gynecologist as we please) then that would be great, thanks.
To be fair, if the goal was to get people talking about sexual health, these condoms definitely did that. But the next time I head to the store to stock up pre-hookup, you can bet I'll buy whichever package I please—purple boxes be damned.