Back-to-school season, time to learn good habits. It’s also high season for the condom industry:
“If you look at condom sales, there are different peaks,” said Jim Daniels, the vice president for marketing at Trojan, which dominates the United States condom market. He cited New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s Day and even the Fourth of July, but said the back-to-school season is a particularly good opportunity for recruiting young customers.
“A third of condoms are purchased by college-age students,” Mr. Daniels said. “Therefore it’s a very important target. Very often people become sexually active during those years.”
While some colleges prefer, for religious or other reasons, not to have condoms on campus, college administrators who endorse condom use agree that this is a significant time of year for getting students started on new habits. (New York Times, subscription)
I read this with the usual dismay I feel when I hear about the free and easy sex of today’s youth. Why was I born too early? In my college days (late 50s, early 60s) getting laid was like the Quest for the Holy Grail for horny college boys. Unfortunately, for the most part, I seemed to be insufficiently devout and my prayers usually went unanswered. The condom I carried around religiously only functioned to make that famous ring-shaped imprint on the outside of my wallet.
Now, apparently, all that is a thing of the past. All you have to do is stop in at freshman orientation:
So with condom manufacturers eager to mine a ready market, and with administrators happy to receive free or discounted products that will keep students healthy, condom distribution at many colleges around the country has become as fundamental to freshman orientation as buying textbooks and finding the dining hall.
At Oregon State, “safer sex” kits are filled with condoms, lubricant and Hershey’s Kisses; at Stanford, each student receives 12 free condoms from the student-run Sexual Health Peer Resource Center, which is also beginning its annual educational “field trips” on which freshmen are escorted from their dorms to the center for an introductory talk.
As far as I am concerned, this is just the way it should be. Sexual behavior evolved to encourage propagation of the species by providing pleasure. That kind of incentive sounds a lot like the entertainment industry. Contraception allows sex to be uncoupled from species propagation. So what? There are already too many of us. Eating is a biologically required activity, but most of us try to have some enjoyment and pleasure in eating. Uncoupling eating from base nutrition doesn’t sound wicked to me. No one recommends we only eat gruel because gruel is sufficient to maintain life.
Of course eating wrong can be a health hazard. We need to learn to eat safely. You know what’s coming next:
Doctors, family planning groups and health organizations are unambiguous in endorsing condoms as the most effective means of reducing the risk of sexually transmitted diseases and H.I.V. infection, as well as a way to reduce the risk of unintended pregnancy. “Condoms provide an enormously high protection rate,” said Dr. Jeff Waldman, the senior director of clinical services at Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
When my (now grown) kids went out on dates, we always said, Drive carefully. And then we added, Have fun.
Alas, I missed this welcome change in mores. Chalk it up to a misspent youth.