Barry Saunders

Saunders: If you’re gonna hook up, be safe about it

Two of the reasons teens give for not using condoms is that having one makes them appear too eager to have sex or that going to get one breaks the mood.
Two of the reasons teens give for not using condoms is that having one makes them appear too eager to have sex or that going to get one breaks the mood. AP

Twenty-six years had passed since I’d last spoken to my friend, the inventor, and when I called Wednesday it was not to catch up on old times.

We did that, sure, but the main reason for the call was to find out how her condom-delivery business was going. Oh yeah: and to offer her a business opportunity with me.

In the N&O last week was a story about the increase in reported syphilis cases in Orange, Durham and Wake counties, and how much of the increase is related to people hooking up online. Sue Lynn Ledford, Wake County’s public health division director, was quoted as saying that many of the people seeking treatment acknowledged that they’d hooked up with strangers they’d met on various websites that facilitate casual encounters.

That’s what led me to call my friend, Brothella Quick, with an opportunity for us to make a killing by, ironically, saving lives.

Quick, a health-care worker, gained notoriety in the 1980s by inventing PUG-C – Pocketed Undergarment for Condoms. Yes, she is the one who came up with the idea for stylish undergarments for males and females that contained a pocket in which one could stick condoms.

A surefire hit, right? Seemed like it. A survey several years ago concluded that two of the reasons teens give for not using condoms is that having one makes them appear too eager to have sex or that going to get one breaks the mood. (Just wait until they find out what going to get baby formula at 3 a.m. does to the mood.)

PUG-C seemed tailor-made to quash both of those objections:

Girl: Why do you have that? What makes you think I’m that kind of girl?

Boy: What, this old thing? Oh, it came with the drawers.

Her surefire hit was doused by the wet blanket of prudishness in 1980s America. This was the era, remember, when President Reagan scarcely acknowledged that AIDS existed.

“I wasn’t able to get it to the mass market. They said it was too controversial at the time,” Quick told me. “The stores said they couldn’t give me any shelf space because they had contracted with companies such as Fruit of the Loom, Maidenform. ... People are always asking me about it, saying I was premature and that I should come out with it again.”

When she said she still has about 1,000 pairs still around, I asked if there was a way to update her idea for the millennial generation.

Why not, I suggested, turn those undergarments with the condom pocket into over garments for Smartphones with condom pockets?

That way, when some millennial finds something he or she likes on Tinder, Grindr, Blendr or Thrinder and swipes right, they don’t have to worry about braving the unforgiving glare of the fluorescent lights in the 24-hour drug store, trudging into a truck-stop restroom or asking their roommate to let them use that lucky condom he’s had since middle school band camp.

With the new Pocketed Over Garment Condom, wherever you are, there it is. Because, really, when was the last time you went anywhere without your smartphone?

See?

Quick said she came up with her original idea – the patent has since expired – because when she as a health-care professional mentioned condoms to kids, “they’d start giggling and acting silly.” “Then, I met kids who were at least 13 who had a child,” she said, and one of the main reasons they gave for not using protection was because it wasn’t readily available.

“The college kids were my best sales reps. They sold a lot of them. I couldn’t get them into public schools because they said that we were promoting sex. I told them sex doesn’t need ‘promoting,’” she said. “‘Safe sex’ needs promoting.”

The prophylactic fallacy that access to condoms will lead to sex was discredited quite thoroughly by my teenaged self: I carried one of those bad boys – purchased for a quarter from the machine in Quick’s Grill’s bathroom – for five years and never once came close to unwrapping it.

Moralists will invariably conclude – as some did when HIV was first discovered – that the increase in STDs is divine retribution for the moral laxity of the so-called hookup generation.

Blow it out yer ear. Young people were hooking up long before Tinder, Grindr or even the smartphone were invented. They just called them chariot races, sock hops or discos back then.

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