This is about, uh, well, you know - and saving your life

January 07, 1994|By MIKE LITTWIN

Our word for today, boys and girls, is condom. That's c-o-n-d-o-m. But don't tell the folks.

Grown-ups don't like that word.

It's a bad word. Well, not bad like stuff Beavis and Butt-head say. Bad like, if you say c-o-n-d-o-m, the next thing you might say is s-e-x.

You see, somehow they think you don't know about s-e-x.

They have this idea you go through life with your eyes closed, when, actually, that's just when you're driving.

They think you don't watch naked cops on "NYPD Blue" or Janet Jackson posing with some man's hands on her breasts in Rolling Stone or see Roseanne, for God's sakes, posing in her skimpies on the cover of Vanity Fair. (Once again, Roseanne is pushing the envelope, not to mention the skimpies.)

You know what? Grown-ups really think you and the guys didn't see the tape your friend snuck from his parents of the Howard Stern New Year's Eve pay-per-view extravaganza. The highlight, the way, was when the woman smeared her naked body with peanut butter and then had men throw pieces of bread at her.

Grown-ups believe the 1990s ought to be like the 1950s, as if the 1950s really existed.

And so, the word they tend to throw around a lot is abstinence. That's a-b- s-t-i-n-e-n-c-e. Like anybody is abstaining these days. Like the grown-ups have a clue.

Like the really important statistic isn't that, by the age of 20, 86 percent of men and 77 percent of women have had s-e-x.

Here's another: Each year, there are 12 million new cases of sexually transmitted diseases. Of those, two-thirds occur in people under the age of 25.

Bill Clinton, who seems to know something about the subject of s-e-x, wants to do something about it, and this time without the help of Arkansas state troopers. His administration has enlisted an advertising firm to make commercials about condoms. They're being aired on the four major networks -- only at night and aimed at the 18- to 25-year-old set.

This, of course, has caused a fuss, particularly in conservative circles. That's because certain grown-ups like just everything about s-e-x except admitting that young people like it, too.

Young people like it, and often they don't protect themselves when they're having it, and so they have babies, or, far worse, they get the virus that causes AIDS.

Latex condoms can help prevent both problems.

And so, the government is out there selling safe s-e-x. You must have seen the ads by now.

My favorite has this little animated condom package -- it needs a name; maybe, Connie Condom -- who jumps from a chest of drawers, streaks by a startled cat and leaps under the covers with a pair of lovers. Then the voice-over: "It would be nice if latex condoms were automatic. But since they're not, using them should be."

There's another with a woman, who is pulling off her earrings and kicking off her shoes while falling into bed, asking the guy, "Did you bring it?"

He says, "I forgot it."

She says, "Then, forget it."

It's pretty timid stuff, really. You've seen as much s-e-x on Taster's Choice commercials. Nowhere in any of the ads do you see a condom, only the package. There are no homosexual lovers. Most of the ads wouldn't draw even a PG-13 rating.

AIDS activists don't think the ads go far enough. Conservatives think they go too far. That means that they're probably just about right for mainstream America, which remains squeamish about, well, you know.

But the ads are getting attention. They are being talked about. And that's probably the best thing that could happen, if you want condoms to be used.

Everyone of a certain age can remember the embarrassment of asking Doc at the pharmacy for a package of condoms. Today, on some campuses, they have them in big bowls where anyone can grab one.

You see, at some point, we have to understand that people, even young people, have s-e-x. Abstinence, particularly in teens, is a wonderful concept. And, in fact, some of the ads preach abstinence as the safest way to avoid disease.

But it's time to get into the real world. And, in the real world, where s-e-x is everywhere, you have to sell safe s-e-x like you do diet soda. You've got the right one, baby, uh huh.

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