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Cultural reticence should not prevent us from talking about condoms

We should look at condoms as life-saving equipment, and not reduce it to as a culture-eroding invention. Advertising is the first form of authentic public information that would help children to get closer to a healthier understanding of their nature and their bodies

opinion Updated: Dec 14, 2017 12:22 IST
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In a country likes ours where abortions, premature pregnancies, pre-teenage sex, sexually transmitted diseases, and ignorance of the birds and the bees are rampant, the effectiveness, simplicity, and role of condoms should be pushed more fearlessly (Shutterstock)

Recently, a sweeping ban was placed on television advertisements for condoms between 6 am to 10 pm, citing that some commercials are “indecent and can impact children”.

I thought condom advertising would always be about titillation and procreation. What else can it be about? I don’t think prophylactic advertising can by in the area of insurance, fashion, recipes, or construction equipment.

Well, you could employ your imagination to connect condoms to even more lateral areas, but the first stop for this category will always be smack in the middle of bedrooms. However, I guess there must have been some evidence to suggest that sexual awareness shouldn’t be in public domain, and children are getting influenced.

If I look at the innards of the ban, there’s been an obvious trigger. That one that went over the cliff and spoilt the soup for everyone. I have no qualms in agreeing that the culprit commercial too blatant in its temptation quotient. It’s not that this sunny one is alone in its attempted conquest of testosterone. There have been others too. Some condom ads have been playing at the edge of soft pornography, and often end up turning living rooms into inelegant theatres of embarrassing looks and pauses.

The offending spot could have pressed all kinds of buttons, but what was the need for a blanket ban? The ad could have been thrown out and chastised, and slapped for errant behaviour. Why reprimand the whole category and ostracise it during daylight hours. You don’t home in on the overt behaviour of a single entity and use that to criminalise the whole category. By that latent potential argument, all of us are brutal criminals as much as we are divine saviours. The rotten egg alone needs to be thrown out.

A teacher who touched a child improperly was sent to jail — not all teachers were hauled up and punished. The cop who fudged the FIR was dismissed — not all cops. The politician who slapped an airline employee was put on a no-fly list — not all politicians were given the same treatment.

Then again, one could always argue that condoms are generally all about sex, and therefore the entire lot is taboo and not for the eyes and the ears of children.

Children have an efficient filter and don’t infer things. They don’t add two and two to make it five. They cannot draw analogies. I am yet to come across children who can connect the dots. Children don’t understand the context of sex and its latitude of play, and therefore are not likely to be harmed.

It’s a pointless and irrelevant cry. It’s a very adult way of looking at what affects us and applying that logic to children’s minds. By that count, we should stop all advertisement that borders around sex or implies sex or connects to sex. From colognes, perfumes, clothes, cars, phones, and, oh yes, mango drinks.

Extending the premise that the minds of children must not get corroded, we should stop all books, movies, stories, mythology, and even the Internet. And of course, yelling on television. We should stop music from blaring suggestive lyrics.

Ideally, in a country likes ours where abortions, premature pregnancies, pre-teenage sex, sexually transmitted diseases, and ignorance of the birds and the bees are rampant, the effectiveness, simplicity, and role of condoms should be pushed more fearlessly.

People, starting with children, should first look at condoms as life-saving equipment, before reducing it to a culture-eroding invention. Advertising is the first form of authentic public information that would help children to get closer to a healthier understanding of their nature and their bodies.

Besides, the more you keep things away from children, the more they would get drawn to it, especially the seamy side of it. Worldwide, there’s enough push from governments to open up this taboo-land.

It shouldn’t be that in one of the most populated countries in the world, the mechanism to bring in more light into the darkness is sterilised on the basis of an almost cultural shyness to boldly accept pleasure and procreation to be the two sides of the coin.

Little wonder we still have grown up men and some women mumbling and fumbling outside medical shops when it comes to buying condoms. Even after 10 pm.

Prathap Suthan is chief creative officer and managing partner, Bang in the Middle

The views expressed are personal

First Published: Dec 13, 2017 18:32 IST