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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

September 19, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

News

Public display of protection

You may not be Sarah Jessica Parker, but thanks to Quick Response code technology the whole world can now know if you are having sex in the city.

Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest has combined the social media technology of QR codes with its National Condom Week campaign to promote safe sex practices for college students and young adults.

PPGNW set up WhereDidYouWearIt.com, a website that allows people to “check-in” the location of their safe sex encounter with their smartphones. The QR-coded condoms are available at any Planned Parenthood location.

Nathan Engebretson, new media coordinator for PPGNW, said the project was created while brainstorming ideas for National Condom Week, which is observed annually during the week of Valentine’s Day.

“We were thinking of how to add our voice to the larger conversation about not only normalizing and encouraging condom use, but really giving people an opportunity to celebrate and be proud of their healthy decisions and responsible behavior,” he said.

Putting QR codes on the condoms was also intended to spread the word about the project, Engebretson said. After only a month, there have been more than 8,000 check-ins on the site from nearly all 50 states, six continents and about 170 countries. In Ithaca, there have been five check-ins as of Tuesday.

Casey Martinson, public affairs director at Planned Parenthood of the Southern Finger Lakes, said PPSFL is supportive of the project and shares the national organization’s goals.

“We hope that all the attention being generated in the media and social media will bring people’s attention to the importance of safe sex in our area as well,” she said.

While people of all ages may use the site to check in their behavior, most of the check-ins have been from people in their 20s. Engebretson said they were happy to see this pattern of response because college students and 20-somethings were their main targets.

“They’re the people who are already using social media, and they’re really comfortable with this channel of communication, so it seems like a natural fit,” he said.

Freshman Kristina King, a member of IC VOX: Voices for Planned Parenthood, said she doesn’t think the check-in site will be much more widely used, however, because she believes young people view sex as a private matter.

“Sometimes people overestimate how into sharing our generation is,” she said. “We will share a lot about ourselves, but I’m not sure that sex is one of those things that people are willing to post about publicly, even in a more anonymous form.”

King said the initiative is a worthy cause, but may be lost in today’s culture where condoms aren’t always viewed as a necessary preventative measure.

“The unfortunate thing about our environment in regards to sex is that safe sex isn’t considered cool,” she said. “The focus is set on the actual act of sex itself without any regard for the consequences or aftermath.”

Engebretson said Planned Parenthood took an unconventional approach to normalizing the use of condoms because the typical tactic of scaring people into using them simply isn’t working anymore.

“It’s an alternative that gives people an opportunity to be proud of their responsible behavior,” he said. “That’s just as cool, if not cooler, than the QR codes and technology.”