Monday, November 15, 2010

Breaking the rubber barrier

Have you ever asked yourself why we don't see more condom ads on TV? Well, apparently the big American television networks are afraid to air ads that encourage safer sex — creating a de facto "ban" on promoting one of the most important health products for sexually active people.

That is changing, apparently, just today as the AIDS Healthcare Foundation "breaks the rubber barrier" on daytime and primetime television with this horribly awkward PSA to be run during Oprah and Family Guy (now THERE's an odd pairing):

As the Make The Logo Bigger blog noted, "This is Real Talk feels anything but. The only connection with her show may be the markets the spot will run in (Los Angeles and Washington, DC), but it sure feels like something she would produce. Campy, awkward and full of the type of acting at home in a PSA from the 1950s."

It's like safer sex filtered through The Cosby Show — except that old Bill consistently railed against premarital sex whenever one of his kids was suspected of it. The writing is stiff, the acting forced, and the timing is obtuse.

And yet even this sappy approach to safer sex, as a bonafide PSA, is too much for some U.S. broadcasters. According to the AHF:

"AHF’s ‘This is Real Talk,’ PSA was also submitted for approval for airing on a number of other primetime and daytime programs in Los Angeles. All stations agreed the spot was suitable to air, although some stations stipulated that the spot could only run in certain dayparts, such as after 9pm or 10pm."

At least they're trying. Just earlier this month, the NY Times Parenting blog, Motherlode, looked at the way American culture views sexuality with fear and disgust when dealing with issues such as condoms.

"Rachel Phelps (who works at Planned Parenthood in the United States) concludes that while American parents, advertisers and public-service announcements aim to scare teens, those in Europe are matter of fact and humorous.

'The idea is that sex is like a big industrial fire — dangerous, scary and bad,' Phelps writes. 'And having sex without a condom is like fighting a big industrial fire naked — very bad. But does that mean that having sex with a condom is like fighting a big industrial fire in a spacesuit? Not very appealing. Why would this image motivate teenagers to use condoms?'"

You think she's joking? Check this out:

This is from a slideshow on Slate that contrasts European condom ads — which playfully celebrate sexual pleasure — with American sexophobia.

Let's hope that the "Real Talk" PSA's awkward first steps into mainstreaming the safer sex conversation in America are the beginning of a slippery slope. I'd love to see the faces of the abstinence-only education parents when they see spots like these crop up during Dancing with the Stars:

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