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Durex gets it right. Here's why we could really use a condom emoji

Durga M Sengupta | Updated on: Fri, 10 Feb 2017 01:39:00 IST

Welfare-oriented marketing. It may sound like an oxymoron but that's exactly what Durex, the international sexual health brand, is doing. The company has time and again initiated campaigns that are not only super fun, but also very relevant.

Durex, as a part of their #CondomEmoji campaign, has announced an unofficial representative: the 'Umbrella with Raindrops' emoji will step in for the missing condom emoji, the brand has announced. This, in light of the upcoming World AIDS Day on 1 December.

Also read -IIM Indore students attempt to create world's largest condom mosaic with 4964 packets

"We believe the naming of 'Umbrella with Raindrops' as the unofficial safe sex emoji will be a significant step towards helping young people put safe sex back on the agenda," said Volker Sydow, Global Director, Durex.

The social media campaign for #CondomEmoji has been on for a while, though. A few months ago, Durex 'introduced' Aubergine and Sausage flavoured condoms as a way to point out the phallic emojis that do exist in place of the necessary one. While the condoms were obviously not for real, it got people talking about the campaign.

After all, replacing penises with vegetables reeks of terrible high school sex-ed.

#CondomEmoji

There's a paw print emoji, a spiderweb emoji, a coffin, a cactus, a fish on a pole, a person in a bathtub, an 8 ball... there's almost nothing that hasn't been represented in emoji form. Heck, there are even gender neutral emojis now, with diverse families, but still no sign of a condom emoji.

Given its wide use (one hopes) and need for wide use, it only makes sense to have a cute alternative to typing out a message about a condom. Besides, according to a Durex survey, more than 75% people (16-35 years) admitted to using emojis to discuss subjects difficult to broach.

Photo courtesy Durex

To not allow for a condom emoji then, is to say that conversations about sexual health are not important. And we know how problematic that is.

The introduction of an emoji would ensure that some get talking about sexual health. And it would also help those too shy to ask. Durex has managed to make #CondomEmoji fun enough for people to proactively use it, should it ever be introduced.

Sex for dummies

The Durex survey was rather telling. Fifty percent of those in the 16-35 age bracket were convinced that HIV couldn't affect them. Over 60% confessed to being uncomfortable talking about it.

"While more than sixty percent of young people surveyed admitted to being uncomfortable discussing safe sex, seventy two per cent of respondents admitted that they found it easier to express emotions using emojis and more than three quarters admitted that they use emojis to discuss sex and relationships," the survey reads.

While it is easy to reject Durex on the premise that they benefit from people buying more condoms, to argue against condom purchase would be stupidity of epic proportions.

Closer to home, data from the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) also supports the need to make condoms cool again.

A 2016 report showed a sharp decline in the use of contraceptives in 10 out of the 14 Indian states surveyed.

According to latest NFHS data (released in September 2016), there has been a sharp decline in the use of contraceptives in 10 out of the 14 Indian states surveyed. The problem, the data highlights, is not due to lack of awareness, but because condoms have become unpopular.

"Only one in 20 married women aged between 15-49 were using condoms in the year 2005-06 for family planning, according to the older survey, NFHS-3. Though the whole data for the latest survey hasn't been released, NFHS-4 shows that even though awareness among women has gone up about effectiveness of condoms, the usage is still lukewarm in most states," a report reads.

This despite the fact that condoms are possibly the most comfortable method against birth control. Besides, they're the only protection against STDs.

Also read - With door-step delivery of condoms, SMS Contraceptive comes to the rescue of Delhiites

That women have no say in their own sexual health in large parts of India wouldn't be a sweeping statement to make. Oral contraceptives have recently been proven to cause depression and cause other side effects. Intra Uterine Devices (IUDs) and PPIUDs (post partum) are intrusive to the female body. And yet, Indians prefer these to condoms. Because who cares about AIDS anyway, right?

Emojis to the rescue

With smartphones on the rise, the introduction of a condom emoji could help remind many of the need to cap their penises. Besides, it would probably make condoms cool again.

To introduce an emoji means to bring condoms back into popular culture and our everyday consciousness. The reason so many emojis were invented in the first place was to avoid awkward conversation, especially in an increasingly non-verbal world.

Also read -Durex joked about eggplant-flavoured condoms, Twitter obliged by hyperventilating

People don't like to read. Chances are, most won't even reach this point in the article you're currently reading. Sending an emoji saves the hassle of checking whether they read and figured out your message. It is also fun and informal, perhaps even sexy.

If hands, aubergines, sausages, cherries, and as an incrediby imaginative if weird friend pointed out, milk bottles, can be used to insinuate sex, a condom emoji would really make things easy.

Middle finger > Condom?

The only counter-argument to introducing one could be that it's NSFW and NSF children. To that, we raise the middle finger emoji.

If a middle finger emoji can exist across platforms, it's downright absurd that a condom emoji cannot.

That's right. If a middle finger emoji can exist across platforms, it's downright absurd that a sexually educative emoji such as the #CondomEmoji would be a problem.

To make that argument against it would be to say that expletives are more acceptable than sexual health. That kids should be exposed to sexual jokes, abusive language and gestures, but don't you dare show them what a condom is.

Sex is an integral part of life, and lately, so is technology. The latter is filled with sex, most of it damaging rather than educative. If an #CondomEmoji can help bridge that gap, why are we still debating it?

First published: 29 November 2016, 8:40 IST
 
Durga M Sengupta @the_bongrel

Feminist and culturally displaced, Durga tries her best to live up to her overpowering name. She speaks four languages, by default, and has an unhealthy love for cheesy foods. Assistant Editor at Catch, Durga hopes to bring in a focus on gender politics and the role in plays in all our interactions.

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