Fitting the Condoms into the Romance

The mood was perfect: The dark sky dotted with points of light, the milky-way gathering extra stardust just above the horizon. Empty fields putting miles between the young couple and everyone else. The pick-up truck bed, covered with a blanket, plus another one on top to stave off the chilly night air…

So could begin a romantic encounter written by a student in this fun lesson plan from Positive Images.
Describing the main characters, their relationship, and their feelings about each other and sexual intercourse come next. But then: how to integrate a dialogue about contraception into that moment under the stars?
Participants will:
1. Realize that popular images of romantic encounters rarely include discussion of, or use of, condoms and other contraception.
2. Practice incorporating discussion of contraception and condoms into a variety of romantic scenes.
Although participants see hundreds of romantic scenes in television and movies and they read about others in books and magazines, they rarely witness any discussion or any of contraception and “safer sex.” Popular ideas of romance provide no examples of protecting oneself from possible negative consequences of sexual intercourse. This lesson helps participants imagine how couples can talk about contraception and include it as part of the language of romance.
Romance can include forthright conversations about contraception – and it should! Showing care and concern and love by addressing sexual health is no small thing, but it’s not common for us to see these conversations going hand-in-hand in our cultural portrayals of the topic. “Sexuality,Contraception, and the Media,” a 2010 article from Pediatrics, gives a fitting description of the problems associated with media representations of sexuality:

From a health viewpoint, early sexual activity among US adolescents is a potential problem because of the risk of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. New evidence points to the media adolescents use frequently (television, music, movies, magazines, and the Internet) as important factors in the initiation of sexual intercourse. There is a major disconnect between what mainstream media portray—casual sex and sexuality with no consequences—and what children and teenagers need—straightforward information about human sexuality and the need for contraception when having sex. Television, film, music, and the Internet are all becoming increasingly sexually explicit, yet information on abstinence, sexual responsibility, and birth control remains rare.

So what better way to combat these broad strokes issues than by having participants experiment with language on their own terms? What could one person say to another under the stars, full of romance? What would it be like to ask about contraception? How would it feel if your partner noted that they brought contraception along with them?