Even the boldest among us can be shy when buying condoms. It’s not the act of sex — it’s the looks and slut-shaming that come along with it. Sometimes it’s sexual harassment and people making assumptions about your proclivities. Other times it’s disgust or sexual objectification.
Taiwanese brand Oops is fighting the stigma of condoms by making them cute as fuck. In an article from Broadly, writer Clarissa Wei describes her experience in a gynecological office.
“At the gynecologist’s office here in Taiwan, the nurse calls my number. I go to the counter and, without eye contact, she proceeds to ask me a string of questions: Do you have any allergies? What are you in here for today? Suddenly, her voice falls to a soft whisper and she mutters something completely incomprehensible.
“What? I can’t understand you,” I say, leaning in.
She scribbles down a word at the bottom of a piece of paper：性
“Xing?” I shake my head, still confused. She writes it in English.
“Oh! Are you asking me if I’m sexually active?” I say, quite loudly.
She blushes and nods. She looks like she wants to crawl into a hole. I’ve clearly embarrassed her — a nurse in the gynecologist’s office.”
Discussing sex is stigmatized in a country that has one of the highest abortion rates — and hence one of the lowest birth rates — in the world per capita. In 1951, the average Taiwanese woman would have a whopping seven children. Since then, fertility rates have dropped to 0.89 percent (in 2010). It has gotten to the point that the Taiwanese government is giving out subsidies to couples who decide to have children.
Taiwanese folks often don’t receive proper sex education or feel comfortable discussing sex, which has contributed to the high abortion rate — because not everyone knows how to use a condom properly.
A group of college students decided to make sexual protection more accessible to shy Taiwanese women by making condoms cuter and therefore less embarrassing to purchase. The group of young women created the adorable prophylactics as part of their senior college thesis for Tainan University of Technology.
From sushi, to cupcakes, to fruit shapes, the condoms come packaged as the actual food would be packaged.
“This way, girls will have an incentive to carry condoms with them,” Yayin Xu says in the Broadly article. “As women, we need to be responsible for our own protection. We can’t rely on men.”
“After all, the most important things in life are sex and food,” Moju Sun says. “We need sex, and Taiwanese people really like to eat. Like food, condoms are a necessity.”
“Our [thesis] advisor was extremely opposed to this idea,” Sun explains of their experience in male-dominated academia. “He said it would ruin our reputation.”
By making the condoms cute and familiar, the students hope that their products released under the Oops label will catch on and be less stressful to purchase.
“We don’t talk about sex openly here in Taiwan,” 22-year-old Jiang says. “It’s changing, but it’s still a source of awkwardness.”