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Concerned about condoms

| Wednesday, October 15, 2014

When I first arrived in Oxford, England, I found myself walking through hurricane-grade rain with 100+ pounds of luggage. Though I enjoyed the help of a fellow Notre Dame student, the luggage-based workout and torrential downpour combination was not the best way to start my year abroad.

After discovering that the student with whom I arrived lived 12 flights of (albeit small) stairs up a tower at New College Oxford, the ascension of which required three sets of purple roller bag tricep curls at 12 reps each, I scuttled back to my own room at Oriel College in the rain. Luckily, my room was only a mere two stories up a rickety staircase.

On the desk in my room, I was at first delighted to find a small bag of what were ostensibly “goodies,” what I assumed would be English baked goods or postage stamps or maybe a WiFi password. Instead, I found the following: promotional material for a nearby burrito restaurant (likely the endorser of the whole “goodie bag” deal), a stamp-on tattoo for a baguette shop (likely a co-sponsor), two information cards with relevant phone numbers, two balloons and a stick of fudge.

And something else which, naively, I thought were just two connected teabags. But, to my predicted dread, they were actually two Durex natural rubber latex condoms.

I am concerned.

Why am I concerned over two silly little condoms, no more perilous per se than the two similarly elastic balloons? I am upset because I, a college student in the twenty-first century, am presumed through stereotype and dangerous  assumption to want access to these two “natural”  rubber condoms. That is, I am presumed to be entirely interested in fornication and that, apparently, is more important to address  in a “goodie bag” than, say, a WiFi password or a decent snack item.

Now, am I just another sexually prude ND Catholic peeved about birth control? Maybe, but I don’t think so. I think that I’m deeply worried and frankly offended by the stereotypes directed at me as young man. Imagine, if you will, the following scenario:

Young men like to relax, right? Have some down time? Well, what better way to relax than with a Camel cigarette? Sure, not everyone smokes, but I’m sure a lot of British college students would want access to two free Camel cigarettes. Hey, why don’t we encourage them to smoke by placing the two delectable death sticks in their welcome bags?

Too strong of a metaphor? What if I, the hedonistic, morally misguided male college student, received a commemorative Oriel College shot class, complete with graduated markings for each ‘standard drink,’ in my “goodie bag” along with directions to the nearest bar? Would that be a welcome option?

The point, quite simply, is this: we should not allow stereotypes that describe some individuals in a particular demographic dictate our expectations for all people of that demographic. Giving Oriel College students condoms in their welcome bags simply reinforces stereotypes of young collegiate men as lady-slaying sexual conquistadors. As the Oriel College guide naively states: “University is a time to explore your body, including your sexuality.” But is collegiate sex really as calm, tame and limited in its range of consequences as an ‘exploratory’ walk in the park?

Why else are they giving me condoms? So I can blow them up along with the balloons for festive decoration? If the “goodie bag” on my desk was meant to be any indicator of who I am expected to be as a college student, then I really ought to tattoo myself, eat Baguettes and low-quality Mexican food, blow up balloons, engage in casual socially-endorsed protected sex and cleanse my pallet with a stick of fudge.

The standards that we as a college, as a society, set for people, especially young people, can powerfully affect who those people become. Research concerning self-fulfilling prophecies in education is unfortunately clear: the expectations we place on youth greatly influence their outcomes, as seen specifically in a 1983 Journal of Educational Psychology study by Jere Brophy, among countless others. Supplying young people with condoms without them even asking communicates quite simply that they are expected to have casual sex with contraception as a failsafe.

Is it too much to ask to hold college students to a higher standard, or at the very least, trust them to have the responsibility to go to a clinic or welfare office to endorse some prepaid voucher for contraceptive products?

I know that the “goodie bag” was probably not a conscious attempt to define me, but it would be nice if we exercised a greater deal of caution in how we apply stereotypical expectations to young people.

Charlie Ducey is a junior studying the languages of Ezra Pound (English) and Gottfried Benn (German). For the next academic year, he is residing on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean in Oxford, UK. He welcomes your words. He can be contacted at cducey@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

About Charlie Ducey

Charlie Ducey is a senior who studies English at Notre Dame. He is currently a big fan of alternative German rock music.

Contact Charlie
  • Heh

    “Now, am I just another sexually prude ND Catholic peeved about birth control?”


    • Doubting Thomas

      Haha, substantiate that claim, Heh. At least the writer knows how to argue. And even if he were “just another sexually prude ND Catholic” that wouldn’t render his well-laid argument void in any respect.

      • Heh

        His well-laid argument that rests on the assumption that people who are sexually active and desire to ensure that the risk of an unplanned pregnancy or STI transmission as low as possible are holding themselves to a lower standard than the purportedly morally superior celibate? That’s the claim that needs to be substantiated.

        • heh

          ..I should add that this is similar to complaining about a pack of skittles being in a gift bag when you don’t eat skittles. Needless hand-wringing. Just one man’s opinion though.

        • James

          Well-laid. Hehe

      • No

        Hmm, your writing style (and the fact that you’re patronizing the author) is very similar to “Chuck,” “Chip,” “Chaz,” and the author Charlie. Is this your fake account #4? Give it up, man.

        • Nathan

          Considering that DT was the first one to respond I think that that’s unlikely. Additionally it’s be account #1 in that case. Plus, as weird as this may seem, a few people might actually agree with the author (or at least find “got’em” one liners to be a bit of a disappointment in a debate)

  • Colin

    I would be offended that they only gave me two…

    • Nathan

      Baby steps first, good sir. This isn’t supposed to last you all semester :#

  • Rachel Kiley

    Yo, dude. The condom is for safety in case you DO engage in sexual activities. Comparing that to cigarettes or a shot glass for alcohol, which themselves, one could argue, are dangerous activities, is idiocy. Find something more useful to be outraged about.

    • Chuck

      Ok. . . But what is safer, using condoms that could break, or being smart and abstaining from activities which have consequences with which you are not prepared to deal? We’re talking mindsets, here. Expectations. Why not expect more from young adults?

      • Heh

        Expecting abstinence is not “expecting more.”

        • Chuck

          Um. . . Sure it is. It’s expecting responsibility and self-control. Virtues. What would you expect?

          • Rachel Kiley

            That’s YOUR idea of virtues, dude. You can’t force your beliefs on everyone else. All activities have potential negative consequences. Every single one. Should people abstain from driving just because you might get in a car wreck? Or would it be better to provide them with training and a car that’s in good shape to make sure they’re well-equipped for the activity? Some people still may not want to drive, and that’s their choice, but the options for safe driving are available for those who do.

            At the end of the day, the idea that expecting abstinence is “expecting more” of people, as previously noted, is very much limited to your values and your religious outlook. It isn’t something the rest of the world is required to share.

        • Nathan

          Not sure I understand this point either. Are you saying it’s a fair expectation, or a silly one?

      • speakeezy

        You don’t get it! People are going to do it ANYWAY. So the choices are not between using condoms and abstinence… The choices are using condoms or not using protection at all!

        • Chaz

          “people are GOiNG to do it anyway.”? That’s the whole point about expectations! Doesn’t mean they have to be in the goodie bag

      • ok

        Condoms are less about birth control and more about disease prevention. There are various other options that are more useful for preventing pregnancy, other than abstinence, including the pill.
        Additionally, I do not understand the heteronormative assumption you make here – a male Oriel student receiving a goodie bag could be gay and sexually active.

    • Nathan

      Wouldn’t it be just as effective to just have them free at the school clinic?

  • Frog

    You’re ridiculous. Don’t write another viewpoint until you’re ready to grow up and join the real world.

    • Chuck

      Your name is Frog. You forward no argument. Thanks for playing :/

      • No

        Your name is Chuck, the author is Charlie, and the other commenters agreeing with the author are Chip and Chaz. You’re just the author making fake supporters to defend your piece because no one else will support this ridiculous and self-righteous Viewpoint. Thanks for playing :/

        • Nathan

          Eh, not entirely true. I agree that he’s definitely overblowing it, but try to look for the diamond in the rough so to speak. His point about condom inclusion reinforcing stereotypes is worth discussing even if you disagree with it. Dismissing the whole article like that is a bit short-sighted

        • Charlie

          Of course “Chaz,” “Chip,” and “Chuck” are pseudonyms for the author. I changed my name because my comments weren’t showing up under my own name. Just trying to respond to people’s questions. And, to this point, you haven’t demonstrating anything about the validity or soundness or the article, which is actually a quite simple point about expectations. Thanks,

  • Pat

    -_________________- I can’t!

  • Jeremy

    Were you equally offended by the presence of the restaurant coupons and fudge? Where is that editorial? After all, those were clearly based on the dangerous presumption that you, as an American, are obese and therefore desire access to local fast-fooderies. Of course, you could easily decide to abstain from those indulgences and practice virtuous calorie consumption – and maybe you did just that. If that IS the case, then I fail to understand how those “goodies” aren’t just as offensive to you.

    Either way, it doesn’t matter a great deal. I don’t understand how this is an issue.

    • Nathan

      I think he’s overblowing it as well (though I get that impression from most viewpoint articles). That said, I think his strongest point is the bit about the inclusion of condoms setting a standard/stereotype of sorts, and I definitely feel that that’s worth considering*.

      Is college level sexual activity something that we want condoned on an institutional level?

      *While you could argue the same thing with regards to the coupons and such, the condoms are particuarly ironic given the university’s stance on birth control, and thus predictably more attention.

  • josh

    My Dad sometimes makes me wear those when we shower

  • James

    Who wears condoms? I raw dog every time. It feels better AND you’re not acting against God’s will yo. Worst case you pull out and have fun with seeing where you can land your money shot

  • ND Student

    If ND started handing out free cigarettes, shot glasses, and condoms I’d gladly take all three

  • Hugo Munoz

    You’re so closed-minded and prude that it is hard to believe. I am ashamed to be part of the same institution that you.

    • Chip

      Hugo. I am ashamed that you don’t present a real argument. What’s wrong with being prude? What’s wrong with having higher expectations for young people’s sexual conduct?

    • Nathan

      God forbid (pun sort of intended) that a university contain contrary points of view :S

    • McLovin

      Hugo this comment is close-minded. “Prude” is not an insult unless you view people as sexual objects. This is shameful to all of Knott.

  • Lincoln Osirus

    The goodie bag would have offended me because I’m on a diet and am cutting out snacks. How inconsiderate of them!

  • McLovin

    Wow I love all these ad hominem attacks against you, I thought you provided an argument for your views, and the people here are the ignorant ones for attacking you rather than what you said.

    • No

      There is no “argument” for his views; it’s flawed to the point of being worthless. It’s based in pretentious, vain, and unfounded assumptions about sexuality, the metaphor isn’t accurate, and the author draws unfounded and dramatized conclusions about the impact of 2 condoms. This argument is riddled with logical errors and the author’s biases, so it’s just a terrible article. It does not deserve to be debated and treated as a valid argument.

      • McLovin

        The words “does not deserve to be debated” means your views are not informed enough to elaborate itself. Everyone has biases, including you and me, that should not stop discussion. A republican and a democrat debating will not lead to people changing their views and biases, but it helps each of them feel more informed about their views. These are not unfounded, they are the product of a cultural shift about what are considered societal norms, something that is clearly implied by the article. I do not agree with him because Oxford is a secular institution, and the condoms are a reflection of the UK’s moral values. I was simply saying that simply calling his ideas worthless is not as ignorant as you think him to be.

      • Nathan

        My eyes hurt when they roll this much. At least humor us with WHAT assumptions are unfounded, WHY the metaphor isn’t accurate, WHERE these logical fallacies are at play. A poor article does not excuse an intellectually lazy response.

      • Max

        Of course there is an argument! To be clear, I’ll present it in premise-conclusion form.

        Premise 1: Stereotypes that describe some individuals in a particular demographic should not dictate our expectations for all people of that demographic.
        Premise 2: Giving condoms to all Oriel College students is setting an expectation for all people in a demographic based on stereotypes that describe some individuals in the demographic .
        Conclusion: Condoms should not be given to all Oriel College students.
        Modus ponens 🙂

        I hope you are just being facetious. If not, you are intellectually disappointing. No logical errors here.

  • Lynn

    It’s interesting that the author is unable to respect other people’s opinions in the comment section. You’re attacking people under cute variations of your name (“Chip”, “Chuck”, and “Chaz”) and frankly it shows how immature you are, although this article was a fairly clear indication of your maturity level as you were uncomfortable with receiving condoms.

    • No

      LOL! Good call.

  • Andrew Smith

    I’m transferring

  • E

    Is it your first time being out of the catholic bubble? Welcome to Europe, and the real world, kid

  • Nathan

    I do actually enjoy disagreeing with everyone, but I think you’re misunderstanding my point.

    I’m not saying that condoms shouldn’t be easily available. You can very easily have condoms be free of charge at the campus clinic or the office of whatever program runs the London program and achieve the same effect. I’m not even saying (per se) that his claim about the potential stereotypes being reinforced is correct. I’m saying that it’s at least worth discussing, and that won’t happen if people knee-jerk dismiss his article off hand. Humor the idea that even a position you disagree with can have some valuable insight to offer.

  • Nathan

    Technically the same claim could be made: that the inclusion indicates a perpetuation of college student stereotypes

  • Nathan

    I do actually enjoy disagreeing with everyone, but I think you’re misunderstanding my point.

    I’m not saying that condoms shouldn’t be easily available. You can very easily have condoms be free of charge at the campus clinic or the office of whatever program runs the London program and achieve the same effect. I’m not even saying (per se) that his claim about the potential stereotypes being reinforced is correct. I’m saying that it’s at least worth discussing, and that won’t happen if people knee-jerk dismiss his article off hand. Humor the idea that even a position you disagree with can have some valuable insight to offer.