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Contra-Freedom: Two Insightful Contraception Ads (That Teach Way More about the Human Heart than Intended)

September 13th, 2012by Brad Bursa

Over the last few months, two contraceptive advertisements have really made me stop and think, though this was probably not the intention of the companies.  Let me explain…

Exhibit A – Nuvaring

This female contraceptive method involves the once-per-month placement of a plastic ring in the vagina, which releases low amounts of hormones to prevent pregnancy.  Of particular interest is the fact that Nuvaring’s marketing strategy points out the bondage of the pill.  The company uses lines like:

-Monthly birth control that’s easy to use?
-Break free from the pack.
-Let freedom ring.
-Birth control every day?  Not now, no way.

The allusions are obvious.  Taking the pill everyday creates some sense of fear-driven bondage – eg. “If I mess up and forget one day, I will get pregnant.”  Though it pins itself up as the savior, I’m not so convinced by Nuvaring’s scheme.  I see it presenting something like an invisible fence to a dog, one who is elated to no longer be chained around the tree – even though he can travel the same limited amount of space with the fence as with the chain.  He just can’t see the chain anymore.  By this point, the dog’s idea of freedom has been entirely reduced. 

Is the bondage women experience (according to Nuvaring and their marketing specialists) a pure result of the pill, thus solved with the awkward insertion of a 5cm in diameter plastic ring?  Or, does the slavery run deeper?  We can ask further questions – What is freedom?  Is it merely the ability to choose, or does it also touch on my situation after a decision has been made?  If freedom touches on the whole situation, what does that imply?

These are queries for the human person to grapple with, and ones demand answers.  

I just didn’t expect a contraceptive outfit to raise them so clearly.

Exhibit B – Durex Performax Condoms

These claim to “Speed her up.  Slow him down.”

The aim is mutual climax.  Durex “accomplishes” the task by coating the inside of the condom with some chemical agent to cool him down, and putting ridges on the outside for her sake.  Fortunately, for the masses, Durex has apparently found the answer to the problem of prematurity so that everyone can now achieve mutual climax mechanically through some cooling lube and ridges – all while staying free of pregnancy.  This is their message.

Again, pushing past the surface, I’m wondering why mutual climax matters so much that it serves as the launching point for a marketing effort.

It seems to me that even Durex realizes that mutual climax has a concrete unitive value.  It means that the female is not merely an object for use, and that the male has something to give, though the means to this end of mutual climax is unnatural and mechanistic.  I would put forth that perhaps mutual climax is more satisfying and unifying when it stems from a spousal relationship (a relationship rooted in love and knowledge of the other that transcends “sex life”) and communication.

Yet even deeper, human questions can stem from the Durex ad.

What does mutual climax mean for the two people involved?  Is it the sum total of sex, or does it stand for something greater?  Why is unity between persons so important?

Final Note

Every question raised in this post stems from secular marketing; I simply followed its thinking to consequential questions.  These questions (however uncomfortable and laborious) demand answers from persons involved in such human actions, and they are answers that won’t be found in a condom package or inscribed on a plastic ring.  

Brad Bursa

Brad Bursa is the Director of Youth Ministry at St. Gertrude Parish in Cincinnati, Ohio.