The latest chapter of Utah’s weird history with sex has just been written by Gov. Gary Herbert when he shut down a Utah Health Department marketing campaign to distribute tens of thousands of branded condoms.
The “H is for Human” campaign was a joint venture between the Utah Department of Health and Love Communications, a local advertising and PR agency.
The branded condoms used innuendos tying sex and local Utah culture together. They featured such slogans as “Greatest Sex on Earth,” “Enjoy Your Mountin’,” “Toss the Jello Salad,” “SL, UT” and “Explore Utah’s Caves,” among others.
My personal favorite was “Uintah sex.”
That was a nice touch, or a bad one if you’re into that sort of thing.
The campaign was modeled after similar campaigns that came out of the states of Wyoming and Alaska.
Now you might be wondering, what’s the point of having fancy condoms? Why spend money on creating fancy packaging? What’s wrong with regular-looking condoms?
And the answer is, “Nothing really.”
But there’s an extra element to the condom wrapper.
It included a link to the website, HIVAndMe.com, which has since been taken down. It’s a website that was designed to help raise awareness for HIV and point those who may be affected by this terrible disease.
The idea is, that people are going to see the funny slogans and the eye-catching design on their government rubbers and that would make them notice the link to the awareness campaign.
Which, if you ask me, the guy who works full-time in content marketing, is a pretty smart idea. The people who need to know about sexual health resources and how to protect themselves the most are those who feel the need to pick up free condoms in the first place.
I’d argue that the campaign could even be considered a success even though it was shut down because so many people are talking about it. If anything, it could have been even more successful getting shut down since that gives the campaign more notoriety and gossip power.
Except for one thing.
Not only has Gov. Herbert shut down the condom campaign, but the state has now shut down the associated website.
So even though we could talk about the campaign all day long and I could mention the website’s URL, it doesn’t matter. That website, which provided valuable information to Utah’s sexually active population, is gone.
All because a Utah marketing campaign about sex found a way to do exactly what it was supposed to do, get people’s attention.
And to top it all off, Utah health officials are now trying to recover some 40,000 condoms which they have already distributed to local health departments, the Utah AIDS Foundation, bars and other community centers.
I didn’t know this until recently, but according to KJZZ, this campaign was funded by “federal grants from the CDC Integrated HIV Surveillance & Protection Program for Health Departments and HRSA’s Ryan White Care Act Title II grant.”
It’s worth noting that those funds were paid a year ago.
So why exactly did the governor shut down a condemn distribution program? Especially because condom distribution is a regular Health Department activity. Why did we shut down a website that pointed people to possibly lifesaving information? Why are we now spending money collecting condoms that we bought a year ago so we can replace them with new condoms?
According to Fox 13, the governor’s office basically said it was because they don’t like sex jokes.
“The Governor understands the importance of the Utah Department of Health conducting a campaign to educate Utahns about HIV prevention,” said the governor’s spokeswoman, Anna Lehnardt, in a statement, as reported by FOX 13. “He does not, however, approve the use of sexual innuendo as part of a taxpayer-funded campaign, and our office has asked the department to rework the campaign’s branding.”
And look, I get it. Everyone’s sense of humor is different.
I have friends who I can play Cards Against Humanity with, and friends who I cannot even mention that I own the game.
The governor is no different.
But these jokes are still pretty tame.
It’s not like they read “I love Cox,” “Glove your Gary,” or “Ribbed for your wives’ pleasure.”
The most egregious one is “SL,UT,” but that edgy acronym has been around for at least as long as I’ve lived here, and probably for longer. And considering the fact that the sex-positivity movement has been trying to reclaim the word “slut” for years now, even this catchphrase is barely eyebrow-raising in comparison to what the messaging could have been.
The fact is, sex is fun. Anyone who’s ever had sex knows this. Even half-decent sex isn’t that bad. And the audience, who this campaign was targeted to, is probably not pearl-clutching because of a light-hearted sex joke.
And there’s no reason to throw out fiscal responsibility to keep some people from snickering.
Sexual relations were built into the theology of the pioneers who settled this land and helped make it the place it is today. There’s no reason to ignore that history.
And besides, we don’t need to be bigger prudes than Alaska and Wyoming.