Sunday, October 17, 2021

Women are still shy to openly buy condoms though ‘they are sex hungry’

Why are some of us, especially women, still embarrassed to buy condoms in public? Even when they are easily available in supermarkets and chemists it is still awkward having them in the shopping basket. 

Buying condoms means that you want sex and many are not comfortable showing it, when in our modern society it really should be as easy as buying toothpaste.

As grown-ups, few actively want the world to think that there are not having any sex at all. Even though it is considered socially strange to be a virgin after a certain age, and stranger if you have not been able to get lucky in a while. 

For the condom-buyer, it is a way to publicly admit that they might be having casual sex, loose or indulging in uncommitted sex (because if you are in a long-term relationship, you will likely be on long-term contraception to match).

And for women, that is still considered taboo while it should not be, but it is.

That is an issue, because many of women feel like buying condoms is something that can be left to the man, that it is their responsibility to carry the contraception.

“It is their penis, they should make sure it is protected if they do not want a baby. Then it is the woman’s choice if she still wants to have sex with him if he does not have it,” says Rebecca*.

Men carrying condoms in their wallets is considered the norm, whereas women who carry condoms in their bags feel like they might be judged.

But if condom-buying is left to men, and men are just as embarrassed to pick up contraception, then sometimes the condoms just do not get bought. Then people end up taking risks.

The contraception embarrassment is not just leaving them a bit red-faced. It is actively leading them to have risky, unsafe sex ÔÇô purely because there are all too cringed out to suck it up and pop to boots.

Rebecca says she has “taken risks’ she should not have as a result of feeling embarrassed, having sex without a condom and then feeling too ashamed to take the morning after pill.

“It does not help that when people do brave buying contraception from a pharmacy, their fears of judgment are often proven to be justified.

“It is a weird conflict for me because I’m an advocate of talking about contraception and sex and all those things and it is fine with friends, or even strangers outside of a collecting contraception scenario, but I still feel there is a lot of judgment when you are in that situation itself.

“I once tried to buy lube and condoms and tried to be all blas├® about it. The guy in boots though avoided all eye contact with me and wouldn’t even speak to me, and it was just so f***ing awkward.

“But really, we should not have to make an effort just to avoid condom awkwardness because buying or picking up contraception should not be anything to be ashamed of.

“It is not okay that we are being made to feel so embarrassed about buying contraception and that we are skipping it entirely.

So let us take action, let us stop feeling shame for getting contraception and let us reframe the act, so it is not a declaration that we are having sex, but a declaration that we are smart enough to have safe sex. Because there’s nothing wrong with that.”

It is 2017. We are allowed to have safe, protected sex outside of a committed relationship.

But also, shops need to train their staff to not be so awkward when they are scanning condoms or handing over contraception.

For every till worker that does not bat an eyelid, there is the one that goes bright red, refuses to make eye contact, or makes an uncomfortable comment. And that is not okay, because just one bad contraception buying experience is enough to put people off ever trying it again.

Let us stop awkwardly shuffling up to the counter with our baskets filled with one box of condoms covered with multiple shower gels we do not actually need. Let us stop letting our embarrassment take control. Let us buy our condoms and pick up our contraception with confidence.

The more comfortable we all act when picking up contraception, the faster we will take down our culture of embarrassment around sex. Which if it means more people are having better, safer, happier sex ÔÇô can only be a good thing.

Young people in Botswana face an overwhelming health challenge posed by HIV infection. HIV prevalence among youth ages between 10 to 19 years is 3.5 percent. Forty-five percent of the population in Botswana is below 19 years. Almost 70 percent of these young people are enrolled in primary and secondary schools. 

This creates a unique opportunity for health education among students to promote behaviours that reduce the risk of HIV infection and other causes of morbidity and mortality. Therefore, understanding and monitoring risk behaviours among this population is essential for designing prevention programmes and monitoring their effectiveness.

Botswana Youth Risk Behavioural Surveillance System (BYRBSS) was developed to assess awareness of the health risk behaviours among students in Botswana at district and national level, establish baseline data for trend monitoring, and assess student exposure to health prevention in schools to provide information to the Ministry of Education and Skills Development (MoESD) and its partners for better planning and implementation of effective programs. 

The BYRBSS monitors key categories of knowledge, attitudes, and health risk behaviours among students, including nutrition, hygiene, mental health, tobacco use, drug and alcohol use, sexual behaviour, condom use, sexually transmitted infections, HIV testing, HIV knowledge and attitudes, and knowledge of prevention interventions in Botswana.

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