On every other ‘normal day’, what I would have in my purse or handbag besides my cellphone is; vaseline, eyeliner (even when I hardly wear it), a pen, lotion, pad and a condom. Yes, a condom. This is not to say that I am always ready to have a quickie in the bathroom with a new hot guy on campus, no. I carry a condom because I can and I should, and ladies—you should too.
We live in a society full of contradictory ideals and things can get pretty frustrating for a woman who embraces casual sex. I recently had a conversation with a male friend of mine who said that women who carry their own condoms are easy targets. I could not understand why it would then become an issue. Men have been doing it for centuries and no one questioned their credibility. Yes, I understand that it is a foreign concept, but it cannot be that foreign for it to equate easiness. Another guy jumped into the conversation and said, ‘yes, I also find it weird when a woman buys condoms while I am with her’. To him, it shows that the lady wants to be superior.
When a woman carries a condom, it’s not just protective gear – it’s a tool of her sexual agency. So why are men lauded for being responsible when they carry a condom, while women are shamed for it? A study conducted by UCLA’s Division of Health Psychology concluded that ‘Overall, women are more positive toward condoms than men, but are more inhibited than men about buying and keeping condoms. This suggests that women’s positive attitudes failed to result in increased condom use because the women felt they had to rely on a male partner to buy, keep, and supply the condoms’. This would then also explain why women are ashamed of buying and carrying condoms because of society’s perception of condoms. When a woman has condoms, she is dubbed as someone who is always ready to get it on and is a whore. However, I believe that carrying your own condoms as a woman means that you are responsible and care about your health.
Carrying your own condoms means that you own your sexuality and it is not something to be ashamed of. In our society, when sex education is taught in school, girls are told about menses and handed pads. Meanwhile, young boys are often told about sex and handed condoms to protect themselves. Imagine a 15-year-old boy carrying around condoms like they are an accessory, dreaming of the day when he will finally make use of them. For a man, a condom in his wallet implies sexual subjugation, and he would get applauded for getting laid and playing it safe. Yet, women are called easy and sluts for being responsible.
How is someone who is being careful with her sexual activities and health dubbed easy because they are a woman? Wanting to shame someone for being responsible for something that has a consequence is a backsliding narrative we need to move away from. Women are supposed to be passive and never assertive, even when it comes to their health.
Because our culture associates condoms with masculinity and promiscuity, women are embarrassed to buy, carry and provide them even when their partner cannot or has not. The only way to change this culture that shames women for carrying condoms is to normalise it. Normalise it so that every girl at a house party or chill session has condoms in her purse. Make it such a norm that another girl would be comfortable asking another girl for condoms as she would a tampon or pad without feeling judged or easy. Normalising this will help to destigmatise the buying and carrying of condoms by women and would mean that more women will protect themselves instead of waiting for a knight to show up in all his lubricated, latex glory and save her. I am a proud condom-carrying woman. I buy, carry and provide condoms in hopes of changing this sexist condom culture. Safe sex is an undeniable right for everyone. Nobody wants to end up with a lifelong disease or an unwanted surprise and nobody should. Ladies, I hope you will join me. Gentlemen, I hope you will support us.
• Frieda Mukufa’s lifestyle section concentrates on women-related issues and parenting every Friday in the New Era newspaper. She also specialises in editing research proposals, proofreading as well as content creation. -firstname.lastname@example.org