Every so often, just when I think I've seen it all, I bear witness to something so painfully tone deaf that it renders me speechless. It happened when someone from Labour gave the thumbs-up to a team of MPs touring round constituencies in a bright pink minibus with the slogan 'Woman to Woman' in a bid to attract female voters. It happened when Pepsi, at a time when Black Lives Matter protests were dominating headlines, thought it would be a stroke of genius to portray a protest march in which reality star Kendall Jenner playfully diffuses tensions by handing a carbonated drink to a police officer.
But neither of these holds a candle to the latest marketing fail that has dumbstruck people across the world, making them smack their palms off their foreheads and sigh: 'What in the fresh hell?'.
Argentinian contraceptive and sex toy company, Tulipán, has proudly released the world's first 'consent condom'. The product's unique design means that it can only be accessed if four separate hands press on the sides of the packet simultaneously. While it isn't up for commercial sale yet, packets are being handed out in bars across Buenos Aires and advertised on social media with the hashtag 'PlacerConsentido', 'Permitted Pleasure', with the aim of promoting consensual and safe sex.
If you are between the ages of alive and dead, I imagine you're capable of seeing the flawed logic in this. For one, the premise of the consent condom discounts the possibility of someone having their friend help open the packet beforehand, it doesn't take into consideration that someone could be coerced into opening the packet, and it seems to overlook the very real likelihood that anybody who is capable of sexual assault or rape probably isn't perusing the aisles for condoms in the first place.
On top of its logistical shortcomings, the four-handed condom also completely misrepresents the framework of consent, presenting it as a kind of ironclad, all-encompassing contract as opposed to something that is negotiable and, most importantly, revocable.
To be honest, I'm beyond jaded with the plethora of well-intentioned but completely misguided products available today trying to sell me my right to not be assaulted. We have consent apps designed to be used by both parties as a way of 'checking in' to a sexual encounter; we have rape-drug detecting nail polish; bracelets that can be tugged by the wearer to release a foul smell and deter potential attackers; 'anti-rape' pants that can't be ripped; there is even a Bluetooth-enabled sticker which you can attach to your bra that automatically calls five emergency contacts if it's removed by force.
Products like these are technological excrement that are less concerned with preventing rape and more concerned with preventing rape allegations
. They not only put the onus for protecting yourself from sexual violence on women, but ultimately fail to recognise the nuance and subjectivity of consent. They are lazy, uneducated attempts to hop on the #metoo bandwagon while totally mischaracterising what that movement aims to achieve.
Yet for all its criticisms, Tulipán seems quite chuffed with the online response to its latest invention which, if you haven't seen, has been brutal. Joaquin Campinas, creative director of the advertising company who helped launch the product, has even said that they 'are very happy with everything that was generated around this initiative', adding that the aim of the campaign was primarily to raise awareness and promote debate about consent. But if the people at Tulipán expect me to believe that they were trolling us all along and the consent condom was never intended to be more than an awareness-raising tool, then they're as out of touch as their product suggests.
Unfortunately, ignorant people don't tend to realise when they're being ignorant. In a similar vein, racist people tend not to identify as racist and homophobic people tend to preface offensive statements with, 'I've got nothing against being gay, but…'. So when a company purports to be promoting consent while simultaneously misrepresenting what that means, I don't find it comically ironic, I find it scary.
Mr Campinas might be happy with the debate that his product has generated, but the fact that we even need a debate about consent in the first place serves only to me as a depressing reminder of how far we have to go. I've had more conversations with my friends than I ever should have in which we've admitted to saying no once, twice, three times, and were dismissed as though we were playing 'hard to get', or like our voices didn't matter at all. So my apologies if I don't share Mr Campinas's enthusiasm for the debate. It's hard to find my voice time after time when people like him keep rendering me speechless.