In a new ad campaign by BBDO Argentina for Tulipán (Tulip) ― a company that sells adult toys and condoms ― we’re introduced to the “Consent Pack,” which requires four hands to click on four buttons at the same time before it opens.
“If it’s not a yes, it’s a no,” the tagline in a promo video says. The caption for one promotional tweet reads: “With sex, anything goes if a rule is respected: both people’s consent to do it.”
But while the product may be well-intended, critics, including sex therapists, say it promotes some misguided ideas about consensual sex: True consent is not a one-time transaction ― press the magic buttons or hear “yes” once and you’re in the clear. Consent is an ongoing conversation.
“This product seems to misunderstand that consent does not begin and end at the point when a condom enters the equation,” said Luke Knanishu, a therapist at The Gender & Sexuality Therapy Collective in New York City.
“In every sexual encounter, either party can indicate at any time that they are no longer interested in engaging in sexual activity and with this indication, they withdraw their consent,” he told HuffPost.
Plus, as many noted on Twitter, a would-be sexual assaulter isn’t very likely to pause and think, “Oh, hey, let me grab my consent condom first.”
“The biggest issue here is that it negates what we should be teaching [people] about rape, sexual assault and why ‘no’ means ‘no’,” said George M. Johnsson, a journalist and activist who tweeted about the condom.
The consent condom, even if it’s just a marketing ploy at this point, treats the symptom rather than the root cause of the problem, Johnson said.
“The root cause is that a lot of sexual ideology is built on dominance and patriarchal beliefs of body ownership,” he told HuffPost.
“Furthermore, rape and sexual assault can happen even after sex is initially agreed to,” he said. “A person saying ‘no’ during intercourse still means ‘no,’ so this condom does nothing to address the actual problem.”
Some have also raised concerns that the product appears designed to protect men from rape accusations rather than protecting women from sexual violence.
It’s already difficult to prove sexual assault in court; with the consent condom, someone who took a sexual encounter too far could claim, “But I got her to open the condom with me, so technically it wasn’t rape.” (Plus, as Mashable mentioned, it may actually be possible for one person to open it.)
Others on Twitter remarked on the package’s design, calling it a bit abelist on top of all the other problems.
In a statement to CNN, executive creative directors of BBDO Argentina, Joaquín Campins and Christian Rosli, said, “Tulipan has always spoken of safe pleasure, but for this campaign we understood that we had to talk about the most important thing in every sexual relationship: pleasure is possible only if you both give your consent first.”
BBDO did not respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.
Regardless, you’re not likely to see the condom in a bedroom near you anytime soon. Tulipán recently launched a limited-edition run in Buenos Aires, with samples available at bars and events. The company told CNN that it eventually plans to sell the condom online.
If nothing else, the ad campaign has started a decent conversation about consent, however clumsy its makers were in its execution.
“I suppose it’s been successful in getting people to talk, so there’s that,” said Kelly Shibari, an adult industry publicist and entertainer. “But the reality is, condoms need to be easy to open, comfortable to wear, easy to tell if it’s broken, and inexpensive.”
“We need to be making condoms, and information about condoms, easier to access, and definitely not locked in a box,” she said.