One of my favorite Flickr feeds is the Vintage Advertising Pool, in which one often finds some rather amazing stuff. This morning, for instance, something extra special came across the electronic transom:
This one’s British, a Health Education Council ad from 1977, and it is…well, it’s actually kind of refreshing. In addition to being just a bit clever (if missionary), it is also even-handed and practical in ways that its contemporary American relations often aren’t. It is also noticeably free of the great shibboleth of abortion politicking (and its attendant slut-shaming and woman-controlling strains) that has so thoroughly corrupted US public discourse on human sexuality as to make really useful stuff like this nearly impossible to print.
What do I like so much about this ad?
1. The burden of contraception is (appropriately) placed on both parties. Men are responsible for themselves. Women are responsible for themselves. This is quite a difference from most US discussions of the subject, which (either subtly or overtly) tend to put the burden on women to make sure that men are responsible. Indeed, that double burden is precisely what such discussions seem to assume constitutes women’s responsibility. Men are too horny/stupid/whatever to handle this stuff, and shouldn’t be expected to do so, poor silly erect babies — or so we’re told. Personally, I respect men more than that, and believe them capable of being responsible for themselves. Clearly, this opinion was shared by the Health Education Council.
2. The emphasis on wise prevention rather than shame and avoidance — including access to free contraception! Go, 1977 Britain! Meanwhile, in the United States in 2011, politicians and public crusaders who characterize themselves as pro-life, responsible, etc. are trying to do everything they can to undermine and close Planned Parenthood, restrict access to reproductive health services (including contraception), and generally seem to want everyone married and reproducing but not otherwise having sex, ever (except for those poor stupid/horny/irresponsible men, who need viagra at all times to ensure that they are in fact stupid, horny, and irresponsible whenever the need arises (hurhur)).
3. The clear-headedness — free contraception, wise advice on prevention, all available to couples whether they are married or not! Here is an attitude toward sex that does not presume that doing it outside of a narrow notion of religiously defined marital relations is automatically so irresponsible that no participant in it could possibly be expected to use or deserve wise advice and assistance relative to contraception. Huzzah!
4. Contraception is visibly treated as a health and responsibility issue (which it is), rather than a matter of corporate profit.
Why the hell can’t we still have messages like this in our public discourse? I’m tempted to print this thing out and post it at random in places around town.