[dropcap]A[/dropcap]rriving at Warwick, new students have ‘Freshers’ bags’ thrust into their hands, and they bumble off dizzy with excitement at the prospect of more flyers than they could ever put up on their noticeboards and an awful lot of something that calls itself “body spray”.
Memorable freebies of Freshers’ bags past include a boomerang, Nandos sauce, and something claiming to be a tampon case to hide all your mortifying lady equipment (I don’t have enough disdain in even my repertoire for this).
Every year without question, the Freshers’ bags will contain Boars’, and every year we send an unfortunate few of our team to go to help the SU with the mammoth task of packing all the flyers and freebies and fun into 3,000 bags.
Needless to say, every year we hope for some leftover body sprays or some surplus Nandos to pocket and take home for our troubles. Hell, in 2012 I think I even took a tampon case.
In just the same way that a Boar is always guaranteed in your bag, every year there are also the holy grail of the Freshers’ freebie: the condom.Normal, dotted, strawberry, ribbed, even one that claimed to be “tropical” flavour… Freshers’ bags were filled with them.
Both this year and last year, our rubbery little friends have been missing from the haul that Freshers can expect upon arrival.
While I am reliably informed that you can get condoms free from Nightline, and of course you can buy them at the campus pharmacy, the mental image of a queue of swaying Freshers post-Pop! stopping by Nightline before they get laid seems somewhat unlikely. I’ve never agreed with the pathetic argument that condoms ruin the mood (so does Chlamydia, kids), but in this case, I think I’ll concede. Telling your prospective lover they’ll have to wait by the laundrette while you pop in to grab some condoms off the counsellors is not the most seductive preparation for slipping between the sheets.
As much as all your sex lives concern me, this is not about bedroom vibes and setting the scene for some sizzle. The crucial thing about providing condoms in Freshers’ bags is about engaging in a responsibility we all share. Yes, people – most of the time – have good intentions. Yes people – most of the time – will have brought condoms up to uni with them. Yes, people – most of the time – have neighbours they can nick some off if they think they’re going to get some. But people are also forgetful, lazy, shy. People need to be handed condoms, spoonfed contraception until we can be 100 percent sure that our duty to ensure people are safe is complete.
Putting condoms in Freshers’ bags also sends out a message from both the SU and the Warwick community: these are important. These are not optional.
Have fun, but be safe.
In much the same vein, I am reliably informed there was a giant condom wandering round the Freshers’ Fair this weekend. This is absolutely brilliant, and sends out all the above messages, whilst also breaking the taboo of safe sex in a way that sneaking condoms in via Freshers’ bags could never do.
However, it doesn’t completely make up for it. While a man in a giant condom suit can relax us all and make us laugh about it, there will always be people too shy to stand within 10 metres of a giant condom. For every person who swaggers over and theatrically pockets their stash, for every person who is coaxed, giggling with embarrassment, to take a few, there will be many people who will maintain a facial expression that suggests they didn’t even know the three letters “s”, “e”, and “x” could be put together, let alone referenced an activity they might engage in.
When it comes to contraception, there is no such thing as too much promotion. Stats suggest that at LEAST 1 in 14 sexually active 16-24 year olds have Chlamydia, while Gonorrhoea rates rose by 20% recently, and, bonus, it’s developing antibiotic resistance.
Maybe one day there will be a day when people will always remember condoms themselves, and when we don’t need to force condoms onto people, but as Aragorn would have said if he had a background in sexual health: today is not that day.
Until that golden day, let’s live in a world where we give condoms out like hugs. And next year, let’s get them back in those Freshers’ bags.