A Conversation with Say It With A Condom Founder Benjamin Sherman
Can you define the term Consent Condoms™? Then, can you tell us what the term means to you?
The Consent Condoms™, to me, are a tool that can be used to start a conversation about the importance of asking for consent before engaging in any sexual activity. We don’t fool ourselves into thinking that just because a condom has a message pertaining to consent that it would stop an assault from happening. But we do believe that because of the uniqueness and because of the message it carries, it is an alternative conversation-starter that will enable the recipient– whether in the heat of the moment or when receiving it as a handout in the health office, or in an orientation kit– to think about the importance that consent carries. It can also assist in helping the recipient to respect themselves and to understand what consent actually means. They might not be aware themselves of what consent is, and this product, this tool, this condom, this Consent Condom can help them question what it means to ask for Consent. Boom.
Why consent? Of all the various causes to stand behind, why did you choose to commit to consent as the cause your company backs?
Just about two years ago, when looking for a way to grow Say It With A Condom with a limited marketing budget, we recognized that many groups, often with suppressed voices, were coming to us to create awareness for a message. Whether that message be about LGBT rights, consent, or HIV awareness, we realized that these organizations had a limited budget and believed that they could get more bang for their buck by promoting their message with a condom, and giving their message the attention it deserves. Upon further research in January of 2014, we became aware of the issues that students were facing on college campuses pertaining to sexual assault. This was before the media got hold of the federal investigation into how colleges were mishandling sex assaults. Through a brainstorming session, we came up with the 5 taglines that we thought would bring the most attention to this challenge. In March of 2014, we launched the Consent Condoms™.
“The Consent Condoms™ that we created can help start a narrative in the community about the importance of asking for consent before engaging in any sexual activity.”
What was the goal of creating this type of line?
It was to increase awareness for Say It With A Condom as an alternative platform for creating awareness for a brand, product, service, or event. In time, asking for consent became a part of the mantra that all employees of our company hold close their heart. Since we embarked on Consent Condoms™ two years ago, the majority of our office staff feels that they are more understanding of the need to ask for Consent before engaging in any sexual activity. And, we were looking for ways to extend the business. This line helped to build this company by helping others share a message, that message being consent.
Do you feel that a condom bearing a message will help stop an assault from happening?
I won’t begin to fool myself into thinking that a condom will stop an assault from happening. I believe that if an assault is gonna happen, it’s gonna happen. What I do believe is that the Consent Condoms™ that we created can help start a narrative in the community about the importance of asking for consent before engaging in any sexual activity. The majority of assaults that happen on campus occur by someone the victim knows, not by someone hiding in the bushes. These condoms are meant to be a tool, a weapon, a part of the arsenal that students and organizations and community leaders can use to help start a conversation about consent. If this product stops just one rape, one assault, one attack from happening, then they’ve done their job. We believe that this product has the power to do that. This is what I believe, and this is why we created them.
Who can benefit from this type of product and how?
Since launching the initial Consent Condoms™ in 2014, universities, domestic violence shelter, student groups and dozens of other organizations from around the world have purchased these products. However, I think anyone can benefit from this product because it’s meant to start a conversation about how to ask for consent. Whether you’re 15, 35, or 95, consent is mandatory before engaging in any sexual activity. The Consent Condoms™ are a clever reminder as to the importance of asking first. Any organization that is looking to create awareness for consent can acquire these condoms at a reasonable price point when budgets are as thin as they are.
What have your experiences been or what lessons have you learned since launching Consent Condoms™?
By far I think one of the most important things that I’ve learned is that you need to pause and check in with the person that you’re looking to engage with. We oftentimes forget that. I mean– let’s just be real. You’re not asking your boyfriend if you can kiss him, you just go in and kiss him! While we promote a culture of asking first, the importance of asking when engaging in a new relationship, a brief moment of intimacy with someone at the club, someone that you met on a Tinder date, may get lost and you might not be reading their body language properly. And the importance of making sure that they’re on the same page as you is critical to ensuring that everyone has a good time, even if that person rejects your attempt at moving the relationship forward in a more intimate way.
The line has grown significantly since its inception a year ago. How do you imagine it will evolve in the next year or so?
I think we’ve seen that organizations have been coming to us to create their own designs because they understand the importance of engaging their community in the importance of asking for Consent. We as a company will continue to create our own designs but believe the future of the Consent Condoms™ is one in which we’re tasking others with the ways that they want to ask for consent. Because in this exercise you’re engaging them on how to answer a question and they have to think critically about it, therefore having a conversation about Consent.
Consent Condoms™ can be purchased at sayitwithacondom.com/consentcondoms