Planned Parenthood has taken social media’s check-in technology to a whole new level. The ability to “check in” to establishments like restaurants, gyms, clubs, virtually anywhere, using Yelp, Foursquare, and other applications has now been applied to condoms. Before getting down and dirty, you can scan the QR code on these specially designed Planned Parenthood condoms to send information towheredidyouwearit.com. Your “story” will then be shared on a nationwide map that pinpoints the approximate location of your safe sex, your age, relationship status, and of course, how good the experience was.
In a campaign that started this past Valentine’s Day, Planned Parenthood sent over 50,000 condoms to college campuses across America. Though critics have been decrying the effort as encouraging sex, the organization views the situation differently. In a disclaimer on the page where you enter in details of the experience, Planned Parenthood writes, “But remember: Sex happens. We’re not encouraging you to have sex or not have sex. We’re just encouraging people to be safer in their activities. This site is intended to provide a visual representation that safe sex happens too. There is strength in numbers… leadership by example. Be part of the solution.”
As someone who checks in quite religiously on Yelp, I find this concept fascinating and disturbing. At first, I was shocked. I immediately thought of all the freshman boys out there who will proudly proclaim their sexual escapades on the site, probably inversely correlated with the actual amount of sex they’re having. Then I paused. Yes, the campaign essentially shares sex stories, but the whole effort is centered around condom usage and safety. This is not “let’s share crazy sexual experiences that are going to spread around STDs”. This is “let’s share how many people are having safe sex.” The two are very different – one glorifies the act itself with no public health message, whereas the other advocates for protecting your reproductive health.
I say go for it, Planned Parenthood, and all the more power to you for being creative.
People may argue that this concept is overshare of personal information, but the participants willingly upload their information. And you’re probably lying if you say you’re not the least bit curious in looking at the map. Which states practice safer sex than others? It seems that the coasts are using these condoms more, or perhaps they are more open to sharing their experiences. From an epidemiological standpoint, I think this site will generate a goldmine of demographic information about condom users and using social media for public health initiatives.
After the whole Susan G. Komen debacle, I’m glad the organization is still sticking strong to its beliefs and coming up with innovative, edgy, and slightly hilarious ways to keep the nation’s young people healthy.