July 2007: The storm over a vibrating condom.
Have you seen this Crezendo thing? It’s the condom that comes with a vibrating ring attached, aka the ‘vibrating condom’ that seems to have shaken up a little storm. Like everyone in the country who reads the newspapers, I’ve followed this little contraption’s course from mere contraception to infamy; observed the MP government sway over its sale in the state; sniggered about the collective gasps of horror at the realisation that it is being marketed by a government agency; watched the agency, Hindustan Latex Ltd (HLL) go red in the face denying its use for ‘self pleasure’; and applauded Union Health Minister Ramadoss’s stand in the vibrating condom’s support.
Perhaps no dialogue in India about sex, sexuality and related paraphernalia can be conducted without the mention of the Kama Sutra and Khajuraho. So, predictably, after the controversy hit, there were the usual articles about the Kama Sutra’s take on sex toys—how they are both mentioned and advocated; what materials it is recommended they be made from; what shapes are best; and how they should be used. But I say, forget all that. Stop harping back to ancient Indian culture. There is no point explaining to the Sangh Parivar (the generator of this vibrating condom controversy) that the Indian culture they defend evolved as a way to protect our women against invaders and is also a hand-me-down from Victorian morality. Forget the origins of our prudery. It is now a part—and perhaps the definition—of our culture today. What I ask is this: in principle, why do we have a problem with sex and sexual pleasure?
I use the words ‘in principle’ because it’s not like no one’s having sex or masturbating. Sex is the cheapest—and arguably best—form of pleasure. Ask our masses. Ask our billion-strong population how it came into being.
As I see it, there are only a few ways to prevent our billion strong from becoming two billion strong—abstinence, a neutered population or widespread use of effective contraception. And as the first two are, well, absurd, the only way we can prevent HIV/AIDS and control the population explosion is by advocating, no, pushing, the use of the humble condom.
So, what’s the harm? This ring makes the condom—arguably not the most conducive to sexual pleasure—more fun and popular. It was launched when market surveys indicated that condom use was declining and it has generated interest and demand throughout the country. This, in spite of the fact that, at Rs 125 for three condoms and a vibrating ring, Crezendo is expensive. And while it is not—as HLL has gone ballistic reiterating—intended or marketed as a sex toy, so what if it was? People would just have more fun masturbating, wouldn’t they?
I wonder whether the Mister Minister who stirred up this whole controversy anticipated hordes of men rushing to the local pharmacies to purchase this marvellous new product, only to walk around everyday with this device attached to their you-know-whats for an all-day solo buzz. This could only lead to drops in levels of morality and self-control. What an abomination! Or maybe he was afraid that the women would discover that the vibrator works much better than the wiener and would turn off sex completely. Whatever his reasoning, it’s ridiculous that he be allowed to generate so much noise about something so innocuous.
The fortunate thing is that Mr Ramadoss sees nothing wrong with the vibrating condom. He’s clarified that the condom along with the pleasure-enhancing ring “has been developed to entice men into using it both for family planning and protection against infections like HIV." He not only plans not to ban it but to promote it countrywide as popularising condom use is one of his missions.
All this being as it is, I don’t see why the government must get involved in people’s interpersonal relationships and sex lives. I mean, aren’t there more important things to keep it gainfully occupied? And even if there aren’t, and the government must make sex lives their business, it should deal with child sex abuse, incest, rape etc. Not with a measure that’s positives are being overlooked because of its—gasp!—horrible, immoral and illegal propensity to provide pleasure! I truly hope that the vibrating condom gets the support it deserves as an innovative technique to promote the use of contraception.
An edited version of this article appeared in Man's World in July 2007.