In order to incorporate messages about consent into hook-up culture, a feminist group is launching a new line of condoms that “promote the usage of proper language when engaging in any intimate activity.” The condoms are packaged with sayings like “Consent is hot; assault is not,” “My dress does not mean yes,” and “Consent is asking every time.”
The group that developed the condoms, FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture, has a long history of using creative campaigns to get people taking about consent. In 2012, the group played a widely publicized prank on Victoria’s Secret, creating a fake site that suggested the company was launching a new line of lingerie with slogans about consent. Last fall, it carried out a similar prank on Playboy Magazine, developing another fake campaign that suggested the company was promoting consent on college campuses. Most recently, FORCE erected a temporary monument to rape survivors on the National Mall.
After people found out that the “consent panties” at Victoria’s Secret weren’t real, a lot of them were disappointed. In an interview with ThinkProgress last fall, the activists behind FORCE noted that they got a flood of messages from people who wanted to buy them.
Now, FORCE is following through and creating a real product for sale. Although it’s not lingerie, the new condoms display the same kind of messages about ensuring consensual sexual activity. The group partnered with Say It With A Condom, a company that designs custom condom packaging, to produce a line of five condoms. Twenty five percent of the profits will be donated back to FORCE.
“The goal here is to upset rape culture by making a conversation about consent an essential, sexy part of any hook-up,” Benjamin Sherman, the founder of Say It With A Condom, explained in a statement. “We knew FORCE was the right partner for this campaign because we have the same end goals. We’re both trying to encourage consent in unique, fun ways that are just crazy enough to make a real difference.”
Rebecca Nagle, one of the co-directors of FORCE, added that condoms are a good vehicle for this message because sexual partners need to be thinking about prevention more broadly.
“Condom use was promoted for sexually active people in response to the AIDS epidemic in the 90s in order to prevent the transmission of HIV. Today, communication needs to be promoted among sexually active people in response to the epidemic of rape, assault and sexual violence in order to prevent unwanted sexual experiences,” she noted. “Just like pausing to put on a condom prevents STIs, pausing to check in with your partner prevents unwanted sexual experiences.”
Even though FORCE isn’t producing any panties of its own, the group’s activism in this space did inspire a college student to develop a line of consent-themed underwear. Amulya Sanagavarapu, a college senior in Canada, successfully raised $25,000 to make her designs into reality. The panties display messages like, “Ask me what I like” and “Only yes means yes.”
One of the biggest criticisms Sanagavarapu received in response to her campaign — and one that will probably be deployed against FORCE’s condoms, too — is that messages to prevent rape are useless once a woman is down to her underwear. The attitude is essentially, well, if you’ve gotten that far, how could it be rape? But the whole point of promoting what activists call “a culture of consent” is that sexual partners need to be engaged in an ongoing conversation, every step of the way. Learning to proactively navigate sexual boundaries isn’t currently ingrained in our culture, and many kids grow up without a basic understanding of what consent is. That’s what these campaigns are looking to change.