I love watching PSAs about sex. The medium communicates much more than just the message. Let’s check out my favorite condom use/HIV/AIDS Awareness campaign from France.
The Pub AIDES campaign created three animated PSAs, each centering around a protagonist’s love/sex life: a straight man, a straight woman and a gay man. (View all ads at this Wired.com post. Due to mature content Daily Motion disabled embedding.)
Straight Man PSA: he likes to fuck. And fuck some more. Twins, a Fidel Castro vagina, deep sea creatures, whatever. He’s going to have fun sticking his willy wherever he pleases because he uses condoms.
Straight Woman PSA: She stumbles from one broken heart to the next, drowns in her own tears, misunderstands condom use and endures some pretty boring sex. In the end, she finds her true love an gets married.
Gay Man PSA: Same story as the straight woman, but with a hate crime thrown in for good measure. He also finds his true love in the end.
I love the ads. They’re eye-catching, engaging and work well to push the pro-condom message. (Messages about HIV/AIDS are absent. These ads really are about condom use.) What bugs me I find interesting is the way gendered messages about sexuality play out for each character. Straight men want sex, sex, sex, sex. Love is not a concern. Straight women (and gay men) have sex but their trysts only exist as part of their true goal: a long-term relationship and love.
I am always interested in cultural expectations of sexual behavior, especially those tied to gender. I see the message of “men want sex, women want romance” far too much. The ideas hinder sexual/emotional expression for everyone. I read a study on masculine GRC (gender role conflict) that found men tend to “conform to a false norm” of masculinity. Meaning, men see messages that their only desire should be sex and they tend to conform to that norm.
When I think back on male friends and boyfriends in love, I understand why they get so freaked out about the feeling: real men should not fall in love. But, they do. We all fall in love, we all experience heartbreak. In a strange way I think straight women fare slightly better in this double standard. We can allow ourselves to feel love and feel sexual pleasure within the parameters of a relationship. Real men should only have sex, no love for them. Poor guys 😦