Update: an idea about carnivalesque, consenting, courtly condoms

(not a contradiction in terms)

(just an idea)

Now, what follows may be totally naff, puerile, silly, etc. Be ye warned. Apologies in advance.

(again: just an idea)

How the idea came to be: in revising this post, this happened:



This idea is based on approaches to safe sex used elsewhere; the first one was from way back when I was a lass in the dark ages of the fear of AIDS.

I’ve seen similar direct approaches later, grounded and on the ground, peer-to-peer; for example as run by the undergraduates at Princeton (SHARE) around ten years ago. They’re also one of the places that has a very immediate student pro-consent campaign, SpeakOut:

I would also recommend reading about what our fine neighbours SFU have been doing recently:

Consent Is Sexy is another neat phrase, though its campaign and site leave, well, something to be desired.

Why not use or adapt what’s already there? Why not join forces with our neighbours, emphasising local community? Rather than difference, distinction, exclusion, and competition… all which things, as seen in the previous post, are themselves part of the rape culture problem itself.

There is no need to spend money on external consultants and marketing campaigns and professional sloganeers. Not least because we have 50,000+ students, many of whom also happen to be clever and creative. Grass roots, radical rewriting of our “place of mind,” a “tuum est” that’s of, with, and by us.

Students will come up with a million things better and smarter than what follows. It’s an idea, spun out from “Medievalists Do It Courteously,” and hopefully might trigger further ideas… added to Radio-Canada interviews: notes (English version) and posted here too due to adding the introitus and excursus above (both which words sound way more sexy in Latin).

Here’s a practical idea that could be in place by the beginning (indeed, at the beginning) of next year. The model is something very discreet and subtle that happened at the Freshers’ Fair in Freshers’ Week when I was a student at Cambridge; I went to my first such fair in 1991 (during the “No Means No” campaign and close in time to my first “Take Back The Night” march), and went to others in later years. Our UBC equivalent would be a combination of the Orientation events, including the compulsory ones for incoming graduate and international students, in August; plus Imagine UBC, before the first day of actual classes.

What not to do (or, sure, do this as an extra, but what I’m going to suggest is an extra): having a fixed stand / booth about Sexual Harassment and Assault; or indeed, less po-faced flat-footedly, one just called “Sex!” At another university, they had a hilariously “Sex please, we’re British” variant. The combination of positivity and wit is always lethal.

What to do: have people, of all genders and orientations and of no obvious ones, people of all sorts, the more varied the better; maybe some in costumes; maybe team up with some local cosplayers and games societies? Anyway, get some people. Arm them with big smiles and positive attitude and baskets. Into those baskets, place condoms. They should have beautiful irridescent shiny glittery wrappers, in a rainbow range of colours and black. Maybe also some matte black because that’s very chic.

These condoms could have nothing on one side of the wrapper, or (if all things must be branded) “tuum est” which is a gift, being half-way to “tumescent” already; or “a place of mind,” which is an excellent below-the-belt pun.

On the other side, and printed on the condom: sex-positive phrases about consent. Some examples:

  • Got Consent? = a classic already in circulation
  • Condoms For Consent / Consenting Condom
  • This is a consenting condom (I’m thinking variations on Magritte’s “ceci n’est pas une pipe” which phrase has a whole other appropriate meaning in a condom context)
  • Medievalists Do It Courteously
  • similar groan-worthy phrases for all other areas of study and university activity and life: l’imagination au pouvoir (that itself would work too)
  • Latin phrases, especially if cross-lingually amusing so they also look like puns and innuendo in English: get our Classicists, Medievalists, and multi-linguists to work
  • and we can keep thinking of phrases that are, hopefully, amusing. Maybe even silly. And mix them up, like fortune-cookies.

Being able to giggle over a condom message is a pretty good sign that one is capable of giving and understanding consent; the phrases can be a talking-point which is in turn educational in a hands-on “experiential learning” way, a subtle and friendly way for peers to learn and teach each other about consent; that talking gives a reason to be talking consent, which otherwise can be tricky to broach; uncomfortable, or just plain practically, pragmatically problematic. Pausing in the condom moment, slowing down that being-in-the-moment, can only help.

I’m thinking condoms because let’s face the facts: most perpetrators of sexual assault are of the male persuasion. It’s a pragmatic start.

I’m thinking humour because it’s necessary, positive, leads to conversation, contributes to happy flirting, and keeps heavy things light.

The condoms must of course be free, and people should be able to take as many as they like (OK, within reason). They should be all over campus and unavoidable.

Bonus: some condoms could have winning messages printed on the inside of the wrapper, for appropriate prizes: a bottle of champagne, dinner for two, two tickets to Improv Comedy: interactive things, not necessarily things like movies.

The condom-distributing people should not say anything at all–no shouting slogans, no sales pitches, nothing–unless spoken to. No, not even “hello, would you like a condom?” Maybe we could add some mimes and living statues, along Main Mall? If ans when spoken to–and this is where training will be needed by the volunteers–responses should be neutral and friendly; simply encouraging sex-positive fun.

Volunteers should be from all parts of the university, and all ranks. Students, faculty, staff, members of the Board of Governors, and even the President, why not?

A less formal and formalised approach to sex education and to eradicating rape culture, conversational and interactive, peer to peer, and in a happy festive atmosphere. Very much not “Sexual Assault Awareness Month.”

Make the message unavoidable: a condom-shaped dirigible anchored to the UBC Central Campus Clock-Tower, with a “consent” message on the side, up to the end of the first week of term.

Fraternities and other venues for sexual violence and inappropriate inhuman misbehaviour: whenever they hold an event, they should have pro-consent messages in lights outside and projecting into the skies above; at their own expense. They could in exchange be provided with exclusive special luxe condoms, with the fraternity symbol on one side of the wrapper and with the phrase on the condom itself in glow-in-the-dark letters.

UPDATE: three months later, someone else has a similar idea, but for plain simple marketing and branding. UBC, if someone bigger and more serious than me is thinking along similar lines, independently; then maybe—ad auctoritatem fallacy notwithstanding, but we all know how pervasive it is—it’s time to listen up? Opportunity knocks. A potentially lucrative innovation.


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