So. It’s like 10 p.m. on a Saturday night and my boyfriend, Jack, had invited me over to his place for some tacos and a movie. Along the way, I made a quick stop at Walgreens to pick up some tortilla chips. As I’m making my way to the food aisle, I suddenly remember that we had used the last condom in the box two nights ago. Being the good girlfriend that I am, I decide to pick up a box of them so that we wouldn’t have to go out later and grab some. I grab the box and two things occur to me.

Firstly, why are condoms so fucking expensive?

A regular box of 6 Trojan 2Go condoms costs $9. A box of cigarettes costs around $5. This means that as of right now, sex costs more than my boyfriend’s nicotine habit. Gross. So, being the responsible couple we are, we use a condom every time we have sex, and for us, sex happens about 3 to 4 times a week. If there are 52 weeks in a year, 6 condoms to a pack, and each pack costs $9, how much money do you spend on condoms per year? You have sex 208 times in 1 year. Divide that by 6, the number of condoms in a box, and you get about 35 boxes of condoms you have to buy. Multiply that by 9, and the amount of money you spend on condoms per year is $315. That’s three hundred dollars, you guys. It’s pretty fucking expensive. Of course we can go to the Planned Parenthood clinic and get free ones, but because not everyone has access to a clinic (you can thank Rick Perry for that one) many of us are stuck buying them at a grocery store or pharmacy. Now, $315 doesn’t seem like a massive amount of money to a lot of us — it’s the price I’m willing to pay for safe sex. But what about those who cannot afford to spend this kind of money? If you have to choose between feeding your children or buying condoms so you don’t have more children, condoms become a luxury that you cannot afford. All of the conservatives are ranting about birth control right now, saying that condoms get the job done just as effectively. I’m not going to get started on how wrong this statement is but let’s just roll with it for now. If condoms are supposed to be the cheapest form of birth control, (I’m sorry, abstinence? Get the fuck out.) and some folks can’t even afford those, I can’t help but wonder what exactly we are supposed to do. Remember all of those times you heard conservatives rant about how most poor women have lots of children simply to collect welfare checks? How are these women not supposed to have children when they cannot even afford the cheapest form of birth control? I mean sure, a husband and wife can abstain from sex if they cannot afford to have children—but do we really want to deny people the right to have sex when they want simply because they cannot afford a $9 box of condoms?

But that’s not my only problem with buying condoms. As a woman, buying a box of condoms that day was a totally eye-opening experience. I was waiting in line with my chips and the good ol’ box of condoms clutched in my hand and for a moment, I felt a wave of embarrassment envelope me. I am a lady. Ladies don’t buy condoms. Ladies buy makeup and tampons and skin lotion and vitamins. They don’t buy a $9 pack of Trojan Mutual Pleasure ribbed condoms, and if they do, they are probably just sluts. My shame was multiplied when I caught two college freshman standing behind me pointing at my box and snickering to each other. As I stepped up to the register to check out, the cashier, a middle aged Martha Stewart lookalike, raised her eyebrow. 

"Is this really what you wanted to buy?" she asked, pointing at the box. 

Um, excuse me? What, did she think I came in looking for party balloons and accidentally picked these up instead? 

"Y-yes," I stammered. My cheeks were as red as my hair at this point. I wanted to throw the box down, smack the guys snickering behind me, and run out of the store crying. Thankfully, I came to my senses and finally realized that I had absolutely no reason to be ashamed. Firstly, why on earth was I letting the two snickering college freshman that stood behind me bother me so much? They were purchasing three bags of Cheetos, two liters of Mountain Dew, and a pack of Jell-o. Clearly, they were not going to be spending their Saturday night having mind-blowing sex. Secondly, the woman at the register had absolutely no right to judge me for what I was buying. I’m an adult in a committed relationship—if she wanted to frown upon me for buying condoms, so be it. I was using protection—who cares if I’m a girl? Did she have the same expression on her little pug face when men came in and bought condoms? Why should a woman be judged for wanting to buy protection? Whether she’s buying them to keep in her purse or picking them up for her boyfriend, she should not be judged for being pro-active about her sexual health.

A woman’s morals should not be determined by the number of condoms she has in her purse, and neither should a man’s. You should never feel ashamed about purchasing any method of birth control, regardless of what society tells you. In order to effectively reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies, STDs, and abortions that occur in the United States, condoms need to stop being seen as a taboo and instead as a necessary part of a healthy sexual relationship. So, ladies and gents, I present to you a challenge to help combat this condom controversy. The next time someone offers you a free condom, take it! If there are bunches of them, take 10, take 20! Put ‘em all in your purse and be proud of yourself because having a condom on you at all times means that you are taking responsibility for yourself and your sexual partner. Go you!


—By Lauren Burton

*You can buy the Spring 2012 issue that this piece originally appeared in right over here

*And/or you can support Vagina’s Summer 2012 issue right over here


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