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Dublin: 13 °C Sunday 21 December, 2014

Column: Is it still taboo for a woman to carry condoms?

We have superficially become more ‘open’ about sex, but our core beliefs and attitudes haven’t really changed; female sexuality can induce a degree of fear in some people, writes Tony Moore.

Tony Moore

IF A FEMALE is carrying a condom in her bag does that make her a ‘slut’ or ‘easy’? If a male carries a condom does that make him a ‘stud’? Our negative and immature attitudes to sex and carrying condoms does demonstrate how little our attitudes have changed. For example, in New York women can be stopped by police if the officer believes she is a sex worker, and the contents of her bag are examined. If she is found carrying condoms she can be arrested. What is it about sex and sexual behaviour that so frightens and intimidates human beings?

We, on the one hand, congratulate ourselves on our so-called sophisticated and mature attitudes, yet scratch the surface and out pours our ‘stone age’ core beliefs. The HSE conducted a survey in 2008 and found that 24 per cent of males still believed if a woman was carrying a condom she was ‘easy’. Some 22 per cent of women think that other women carrying contraceptives are ‘looking for sex’ or are ‘easy’.

It’s the height of irresponsibility to have any sexual contact with another person without protection if you’re not in a stable, loving relationship with them. This is not just about preventing pregnancy; it is about preventing the spread of STIs and other unpleasant infections. This problem is rarely talked about in so-called ‘polite society’. I despair that this and other areas concerning sexual behaviour are still spoken about in hushed tones.

A female or male carrying a condom is responsible – they are not wrong. It does not mean that because a person is carrying a condom that are going to have sex, or that they are ‘easy’, or that they are a sex maniac.

Female sexuality can induce fear

The availability of condoms in Ireland, without a prescription, is fairly recent. It appears to me that we have, superficially, become more ‘open’ about sex, but our core beliefs and attitudes haven’t really changed; female sexuality can induce a degree of fear in some people.

The repression of female sexuality has a long history. That repression is still with us in the 21st century. A woman carrying a condom signifies to me that she is taking some control and responsibility for her body. Too many have allowed innocent females to suffer because of misplaced and discriminatory attitudes.

There is an erroneous belief that the more we talk about sex and condoms the deeper society will descend into the mire of depravity. Not true. Disgusting and depraved behaviour is not confined to the 21st century. There are many books on the fascinating subject of history and sex, as well as contraceptive practises – read them and you will discover that our attitudes to sex have hardly advanced at all. Unwanted pregnancies, syphilis, gonorrhoea and the other sexual transmitted diseases are not 21st century phenomenons.

We are surrounded by sexual imagery

A woman carrying a condom is a morally responsible act. Our European neighbours are decades ahead of us in their behaviour in this area. We should be looking to and copying the Scandinavian countries to understand best practice. Yes, there is more sexual imagery around and sexually explicit material available – but our core attitudes and beliefs about male and female sexual behaviour has hardly changed at all.

Sadly, parents still find it difficult to discuss these issues with their children. That we still are embarrassed to talk about these issues when every single one of us is a sexual being is, at best, disappointing and must change as a matter of urgency. That is why I am very encouraged to see many more female doctors in senior positions in our hospitals and health centres.

The change in attitudes has begun and will continue when the carrying of condoms by men and women will not be seen as a sign of sexual promiscuity but of sexual responsibility.

Tony Moore is a counsellor for Relationships Ireland. Relationships Ireland offers confidential counselling and currently has a special introductory offer for an initial consultation. For more information or to book a consultation you can contact 1890 380 380, email info@relationshipsireland.com or visit www.relationshipsireland.com.

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