Men Limp To Saying Condoms

NEW DELHI, INDIA – Forty-year-old Rajesh Chauhan* is a successful adman. He’s single and has women friends. But he has a problem. He’s too embarrassed to buy condoms, especially from the local chemist.
“I go to chemists 8-10 kms away from my house. I know it’s funny, but that’s the way it is. Does the world actually believe that at 40, I’m living like a virgin?” he asks. Chauhan has no issues about using rubber, but he’s too embarrassed to buy it.
Interestingly, he’s not alone. There’re many men in India who face the same dilemma: How to buy a condom? Some are so embarrassed to ask that they end up buying digestive tablets instead. Others stock up yearly quota in one go “to avoid frequent embarrassments”.
These are the findings of a recent USAID study among sexually-active men across cities in North India. “We found that the key barrier to using condoms is the embarrassment of buying it. In fact, embarrassment levels increased from 26% in 2004 to 37% in 2005,” says Anand Sinha, director, USAID PSP-one.
These are what some of the respondents said. Rupa Mukherjee, a call centre professional, says, “I would never buy condoms myself, for I was sure guys at the shop would label me the sleeping around variety.” IT professional Sandeep Wadhwa says he once ended up with a pack of ‘long-lasting condoms’ simply because he was too embarrassed to ask for a replacement in front of others in the shop.
The study conducted earlier this year clearly suggests that the root of embarrassment lies with the sexual connotations attached to condoms.
Most said procuring condoms was problematic because it exposes their intention to have sex; may provoke suppliers to visualise their partner in a sexual context and stigmatise unmarried consumers who were sexually-active. Wadhwa adds, “When I say I need a condom, the chemist and people in the shop will start imagining me having sex. And it’s worse if they know my wife as they’ll think of us together.”
The study reveals that although condoms are more popular among unmarried men, they find it tough to buy it.
A married man can easily walk up to a neighbourhood chemist in his pyjamas at night and buy a pack, but the unmarried one prefers anonymity. Some even depend on their married friends to stock up for them as they don’t want anyone to know they’re sexually-active.
As marketing professional Ali Khan says, “One feels embarrassed asking for it in the neighbourhood one grew up in. You don’t want them to start thinking of your sex life.”
Interesting reasons are also given for not condoms. Some said people of bad repute used condoms, while others felt its use could raise suspicion in the partner’s mind.
And strangely, even shopkeepers wasn’t comfortable selling condoms. As mediaman Rajeev Saxena says, “Unlike other products where the salesman is dying to show you variety, here, he wants you to leave the shop as quickly as possible. Once I asked the chemist to show me a particular variety. He became offensive and asked me to go
elsewhere.”
NGO worker Varun was not even allowed to choose the brand he wanted. ‘‘The chemist just heard the word condom, took out a packet, put it in a polythene and gave it to me.’’
from The Times Of India

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