Have you ever tried buying a box of condoms in a convenience store? I have.
Early on a Saturday morning, I had to buy eight boxes of condoms from a convenience store near campus for a midterm for one of our Advertising electives. The cashier looked at me, the eight boxes of Durex condoms I had laid out on the counter, looked back at me again, and lifted one of his eyebrows before processing my purchase. I saw him smirk and heard him hold back a chuckle. I wanted to explain that it was for an elective, but it was 6 am in the morning and I was stressing out on whether or not we can pull off our midterm exam.
Earlier this year, I took up Marketing and Advertising Creative Problem Solving (MADPROB). In that class, our final requirement was to come up with a campaign for any product under any industry. The objective was to create a campaign that would shatter preconceived notions of the chosen product. My group mates and I wanted to work on a product that would challenge us, and that is why we ended up creating a campaign for Durex condoms.
While we were trying to write and create our final requirement for MADPROB, we realized that we really did sign up for a challenge when we chose to work on Durex. One of the things we had to consider was that the Philippines is a predominantly Catholic country, with the Church influencing most sectors of the government. The mere mention of Durex whenever we tried to consult with our professor regarding our requirement would merit giggles from our classmates.
People don’t often talk about sex. I can understand why. Our society has been programmed to avoid talking about such things—people would say that we should keep these private. But the lack of conversation about sex and its implications have caused us a lot.
The Philippines is one of the few countries with a continuously high rate of sexually transmitted diseases. Not a lot of people know there are free testing centers and medications are offered all over the country. They don’t talk about it, but we should. Engaging in more conversations about reproductive health would remove the stigma that comes with it.
The Reproductive Health Law (R.A. 10354) was enacted in 2012, but not without debates and controversies. There was also a time when the Food and Drugs Administration had to pull out several brands and birth control methods off the market. We also found that there is little to no sex education at all in public schools. The number of teenage pregnancies rises every year and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases has become so prevalent. The latest I’ve heard is that the Reproductive Health Law might soon be fully implemented after fifteen years of debates, according to the Department of Health.
When my group and I presented our research and campaign, our class was quiet. It led to a discussion of personal experiences related to purchasing condoms and other contraceptives led by our professor herself. I then realized that topics like this aren’t really discussed often because of the preconceived notions regarding sexually active individuals. When my groupmate bought a box of condoms for the presentation, she also mentioned feeling judged as the cashier gave her a look as well.
The current generation of teenagers have become active in joining discussions and learning more about the topic at hand. It gives me hope for the future. Not only are we welcoming a new generation of people who are open-minded, but the more we talk about it, the more it gets normalized. The more we talk about it, the more attention it gets—leading to possible breakthroughs in research. We’ll get more people involved. We can debunk beliefs and misconceptions about sex that majority of the population still believes. But first, let’s talk about it.