“Earlier this week, the Argentine condom and sex toy company Tulipan came out with an ad for a “consent” condom pack. In order to use the condom, the condom package must be pressed on all four sides simultaneously, which means that it requires four hands to open.
Tulipan marketed the campaign with the hashtag, #PlacerConsentido, or “permitted pleasure.”It clearly wanted to make a creative and powerful statement about how the enthusiasm of both parties is necessary to create a positive sexual experience. It also clearly thought, as most companies do when they create such socially conscious campaigns, that it would be lauded for promoting this message. But that’s not exactly what happened.
Instead of being applauded for promoting the importance of consent, the Tulipan condom ad was excoriated on social media, for a fairly wide range of reasons. Some argued it was ableist, as it discounted the experience of amputees who would be unable to open the condom; others argued that it was discriminatory against polyamorous people, on the grounds that it assumed that only two people would be having sex. Some people even expressed concern that such condoms would be used as “evidence,” potentially in sexual assault cases, to protect those accused of sexual assault rather than the accusers, as a way to demonstrate that consent had been provided when it in fact had not.
Ultimately, these arguments were somewhat moot, as the Tulipan condom was never meant to actually be sold in stores, says Joaquin Campinas, executive creative director. “It was never intended for sale. It is a limited edition designed only to raise awareness about… consent and for that reason it can’t have commercial purposes,” Campinas said in an email to Rolling Stone.
But one argument that was legitimate — and that underlined a bigger issue with ad agencies and their recent approach to consent issues in general — was that the Tulipan ad fundamentally misunderstood the concept of consent. As one woman wrote, “putting on a condom does not equal automatic consent of all sexual activity.” The ad basically glosses over the fact that consent can be revoked midway through the act — if one partner does something that the other is uncomfortable with, for instance, or simply if one partner changes their mind for whatever reason. Agreeing to use a condom is a step in the ongoing process of obtaining sexual consent, but it is by no means the final one, and some argued that the campaign minimized the need for an ongoing and open dialogue about consent during and after sex, not just beforehand.”
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