My project began with a clear idea in mind. I was to discuss the use of condoms (or lack thereof) in the UMBC community, as our National College Health Assessment tells us that over 50% of students are not using them regularly. This statistic surprised me, considering that condoms are free and very available on our campus. My goal was, and still is, to figure out what the roadblocks are to condom usage for young, college students. I had some ideas in mind, and those included:
- Negotiation Efficacy: the ability to persuade a partner to wear use a condom as a means of effectively preventing STIs and/or unwanted pregnancies
- Brand Stigma: stereotypes surrounding certain brands of condoms dissuade young people from using them, even if they are free and readily available
- Incorrect Use: many young people do not know how to put on a condom correctly; this may be due to a lack of practice or literature on how to use them
I learned through this project that is very hard to make condom use a ‘normal’ thing, even on a college campus. This semester, I won 500 Trojan condoms for University Health Services to distribute on campus. Due to brand stigma, I hoped that these new Trojans would encourage more students to protect themselves, as our Lifestyles sat there collecting dust. However, after tabling at various events on campus, we have ended the school year with at least half of the condoms left. No one would take them! This threw off one of my theories, and I have gone into more detail about that on my blog (cleverly titled ‘The Condom Blog‘). Nonetheless, the blog has become a place where I can share both my theories about condom use and information about the condom industry in one place. I consider this an accomplishment.
I also helped University Health Services earn a $1000 grant to do Female Condom (FC2) outreach on campus during Fall 2014. I am very excited about this advancement in my activism project, as I learned through research that more women are willing to use condoms than men (in reference to heterosexual couples). However, due to a lack of negotiation efficacy, they often go without protection as a means to please their partner. If more women felt empowered to wear condoms, and condoms that protect more of their body than male condoms do, maybe we could begin to see an decrease in STI rates and unwanted pregnancies.
A greater issue that comes up with FC2 outreach is that many women are not taught how to protect themselves. Birth control conversations have gotten easier, and now women everywhere can get hormonal contraceptives for little to no cost. However, these methods tend to overshadow the equally important barrier ones. Hormonal birth control cannot prevent STI transmission, but FC2 can. However, this sort of method requires a lot of comfort with our own bodies; many women won’t use them just because they don’t want to insert them into their vaginas. My goal this fall is to show other women that they have no reason to be fearful of their own bodies, and this could be the first step to having a safer, more fulfilling sex life overall. If you ask me, this is a prime example of Feminism in Activism. I cannot wait to see where this project goes!