We’ve made massive strides in the last few decades surrounding the topic of sexuality. If we’re so comfortable with our sexuality now, why do we still get so awkward and uncomfortable about buying condoms or tampons? What can we do to end the stigma surrounding sexual health products and make them just as normal as buying toilet paper or a gallon of milk?
Send a man to buy a pack of condoms and the response is frequently the same — the cashier might nod knowingly, grinning and possibly making comments about how someone is getting lucky tonight. We live in a culture where getting laid is jokingly seen as a point of pride. Never mind the fact you’re being responsible about something that is so commonplace and should be normalized by now. You’re having sex. Well done, you.
Send a woman to buy the same pack of condoms and she may even be greeted with cold stares and judgment. A point of pride for men can actually become a source of shame when in the hands of a woman. The same problem presents itself when you buy your birth control — regardless of why you might be taking it, birth control is still surrounded by a ridiculous negative stigma.
If the stigma surrounding things like condoms and birth control is bad, the negativity surrounding periods, pads and tampons is even worse. For women, or really for anyone with a uterus, it’s a normal part of life. For anyone looking in from the outside, it’s this taboo subject, and as such, we’re all supposed to talk about in our hush-hush voices.
We’ve just started getting campaigns that are normalizing periods — BodyForm’s #BloodNormal campaign is trying to normalize the idea of period blood. They feature things like a pad commercial using red liquid instead of blue. It’s designed to show that this is, indeed, a normal part of life and it doesn’t deserve the stigma that is surrounding it.
Think about it. Why do women feel like they have to hide their tampon as they walk to the bathroom? Why would we walk to the same bathroom with a tube of lipstick in clear view, but not a tampon? What’s really the big deal?
Ending the stigma
What can we do to end this stigma and normalize purchasing and using sexual health products? First, we, as women, can stop acting embarrassed. If you need a pack of condoms or a box of tampons, just buy them. You don’t have to bury them under a bunch of random junk that you don’t actually need. Feel free to look the cashier in the eye while you’re at it, if you want to. The less embarrassed we act, the more normal the behavior becomes.
On a broader playing field, we need to improve sex education and health education from a very young age. Teens who are too embarrassed to go get condoms aren’t going to stop having sex because of this condom shame — they’re just going to have sex without protection.
Girls shouldn’t be mortified if a tampon falls out of their bag. They should simply be able to pick it up like anything else and go on with their day.
There is literally nothing wrong with sex or periods. They’re both totally normal things and once we quit acting like they’re taboo, it will become easier for people to get the sanitary products and contraception that they need, contributing to safer sex and more healthy and happy individuals.