Condoms on campus

Free condoms are becoming a staple of college life, but the testosterone-driven marketing tactics may overlook some students' needs.

Published September 26, 2006 9:17PM (EDT)

This just in: College kids are doing it! The New York Times reported this weekend that back-to-school is a prime marketing season for condom companies. According to Jim Daniels, vice president of marketing for Trojan, one-third of condoms purchased are by college students. "It's a very important target," said Daniels. "Very often people become sexually active during those years."

At first blush, this campus crusade for condoms seems like a win-win situation: Condom companies reach a new generation of customers, and "administrators [are] happy to receive free or discounted products that will keep students healthy," the Times reported. But in general, the promotions tend to be light on information and heavy on "Animal House"-style antics. Daniels told the Times, "students end up chanting the Trojan theme song, high-fiving Trojan representatives and taking posters to slap up on their dorm room walls"; rival manufacturer Durex promotes its Dickorations Web site, which serves as "the world's No. 1 source for penis outfits," including pint-size superhero costumes and tuxedos.

Which is fine for those who like to schmooze with condom salespeople or chat about sexual conquests. But despite stereotypes to the contrary, not all students relate to raunchy displays. Aggressively macho condom rallies may make sexual activity seem like a foregone conclusion; that's great for condom companies, but may not be so great for students. Stanford student-health educator Donnovan Somera Yisrael told the Times, "We want to be sex-positive, not sex-pressuring." A high-five to condom companies for reaching out to students, and here's hoping theyll reach out to wallflowers and young women as well.

By Adrienne So

Adrienne So is an editorial fellow at Salon.

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