Posted on September 21, 2009.

Gender Masala has been dealing with serious topics seriously …it’s time for a fun break!  Check out these hilarious condom ads from several continents. They make safe sex fun.

Make safe sex fun. By M. Sayagues

Make safe sex fun. By M. Sayagues

Ranging  from sassy dialogue to black humour, these are one-minute comedies with a smart punchline. The Mother from Hell and the Spoiled Brat skits have a Borat-like humour.  And who would have thought a condom ad from India would depict anal sex?

Click on the ad from Argentina even if you don’t speak Spanish.  Everybody who has been a teenager will chuckle about these teens, their parents and their predicament. (Watch it here)

Laughing got me thinking about how seldom one sees humorous ads about condoms in English-speaking Southern Africa. I have seen some cool ads in Mozambique, though – I think there were Brazilian advisors involved. Where is the fun?

Most ads about condoms in Southern Africa are earnest, even boring, stressing safe sex, HIV prevention, responsibility. Few treat sex as an activity filled with desire, romance, anticipation, indecision, ambiguity, and pleasure.

Yes, for man, sex may be forced, violent, unwanted, unpleasant, too quick, too slow, or too risky.

A pretty condom-carying box. By M. Sayagues

A pretty condom carrying box. By M. Sayagues

But for many others, it is not. Ads should target different segments. If we want to attract the attention of the young instead of totally turning them off, ads must be cool.

It is a fine balancing act. About three years ago, the South African anti-AIDS campaign LoveLife published a monthly insert in major newspapers, called Uncut that tried so hard to be blasé it was borderline pornographic.

There is a distance from acknowledging that young people have sex to portraying teens dressed like hookers in positions suggesting group oral sex.  Many parents threw Uncut straight away. My daughter, aged 14 then and no prude, thought it cheapened girls.

After many complaints and public debate, Uncut changed. It went overboard. Now it reads like a church teen newsletter, wholesome and boring.

It may be that the terrifying scale of the AIDS pandemic in Southern Africa inhibits ad campaign planners and donors from portraying safe sex as fun. Maybe it is fear of offending churches, politicians and parents. And talking about sex has traditionally been taboo.

Yet, to get young people to practice safe sex, condoms must become part of their sexual paraphernalia and discourse. A bit of humour helps.

So have a laugh and tell us which is your favourite!

Ad selection courtesy of Chris Well, a designer and sexual rights activist at Conversations for a Better World. Check out  his website for teens and reproductive health:  www.15andcounting