Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Mapping Intercourse. . . Literally. . .

People like me who live in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania hear the jokes and the questions all the time. Yes, there are some towns here with some funny names. They're the kind of names that evoke chuckles from folks who don't live with the familiarity that we have. Of course, the most famous of all those little town names is Intercourse. Yep. We've got a town named Intercourse. In fact, there's an entire shelf of tacky "I Love Intercourse (Pa.)" souveniers at the Harrisburg International Airport. I'm sure that people who don't believe it's true search for Intercourse on the map. And, they'll find it.

Now, Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest is "mapping Intercourse" in a different way. It seems that during National Condom Week (sorry. . . I didn't realize there was such a thing), the group distributed 55,000 condoms throughout western Washington state. Nothing unusual there. Planned Parenthood has been distributing condoms for years. In fact, I wrote about my visit to a Planned Parenthood clinic back in the late 1980s. I walked out with a bag full of condoms that I had scooped out of basket in the lobby. It was all part of a little fact-finding trip. These 55,000 condoms, however, were a bit different. The packaging featured a QR code that users would scan with their smartphones that would send them to a website. A website? What website?

Well, here's a link to the website in question. The site is called "Where Did You Wear It?" and it features the web address wheredidyouwearit.com. It gets even more interesting and creative. Condom users are asked to answer a short battery of questions that establish some of the "whos" and "wheres" of the sexual encounter. . . which then is translated into a dot marking the location on a map. As of today, the map extends across the entire U.S. with dots that can be filtered to see who is doing what and where they are doing it.

The questions? Well, you can see for yourself on the "Where Did You Wear It?" website. But here's a short rundown. After filling in a blank with the approximate address, visitors are asked to choose their own gender from "guy," "girl," and "trans." They are to assign a gender to their partner (same three choices), and then they are to give their age. Then, it gets very interesting with a complete the sentence: "My relationship is. . . " A drop-down menu offers a variety of answers from "all about love" to "what relationship?" The words monogomous, married, and committed aren't anywhere to be seen. The survey is complete after respondent answer three more questions with drop-down options. The questions ask for reasons why a condom was worn, how good the safe sex was, and where the condom was worn (beach, hot tube, etc). The media coordinator from Planned Parenthood says the thinking behind the site is to "create some fun around making responsible decisions."

What's most troubling about this whole thing is that it reveals our basic understandings, motivations, and presuppositions about sex and sexuality. In Genesis 3:6 God's good and perfect plan comes undone because we decided we had a better way of doing things. That undoing includes the wonderful gift of our sexuality. How wonderful it would be if there were cultural artifacts and institutions pointing the way to sexual flourishing and Shalom. Sadly, those realities are diminishing and disappearing.

It's time to put Intercourse and everything else wonderful about our sexuality on a map that sends us all in the right direction. Why? Because we're really, really lost.


akenney24 said...

Thanks so much for writing about these things. I'm a YoungLife leader and as a dive deeper into the world of my high school friends I have learned that their views and actions on sex and relationships is sooo very messed up. I don't know what to do other than try to speak God's truth into their lives. And honestly, I don't know how to do that well in this world they live in...but reading blogs like this and at least knowing others see the problem and are talking about it is refreshing. Hoping we can all work together to help this generation see and learn what real love is...just don't know how to do it at this point.

Joel Jackson said...

Maybe we should develop a church product that has a QR code that celebrates when couples get married and have maintained their virginity until the honeymoon. We could distribute it to churches worldwide and have a similar website that has a map of the world on it. When a couple scans the code they can enter the date of their marriage and declare how they honored one another and God through their act of absitence until marriage.

Gregory said...

It is very discouraging because being a youth leader myself, there is very little I feel able to do about the generations feelings about sexuality. Its no longer "cool" to wait for marriage, to be abstinent, or to even think of sex as only apart of marriage. The culture is soaked in sex and we cannot get rid of those messages that flow through them like blood. In many cases love, itself, doesn't really mean much more than sex. What we offer is nonsense to unbelievers, so what hope do we have of changing the world? I think the only thing we can really do is remember that its not our job to change kids, it is Jesus' job.

Ali said...

It is so sad to me to see how casual sex has gotten. kids don't even realize that there is so much more than just physical risks that come with sex..

I work with a great group of teens and young adults on a blog and the girls have really embraced sexual purity in their writing..


Michael Grasso said...

Walt, great write up. I too do not live far from that area. Keep up the great work on the Blog, I love reading your post.