Roundups Sexual Health

This Week in Sex: Do It for Denmark, But Don’t Charge It to Your Credit Card

Martha Kempner

This week, a travel company launches a racy and playful ad asking Danes to get pregnant for their country, a credit card processing company refuses to work with an online condom retailer, and the STD app Hula comes under fire.

This Week in Sex is a weekly summary of news and research related to sexual behavior, sexuality education, contraception, STIs, and more.

Do It for Denmark

“Close your eyes and think of England” was apparently given as advice to Victorian-era women about how to “get through” intercourse with their husbands, which they were obligated to do but supposedly wouldn’t want or enjoy. Today, a travel company in Denmark has an idea that is better but no less patriotic: It wants couples to “Do It for Denmark.”

Of course, there’s a little catch—they’d like you not just to do it but to get pregnant in the process. You see, Denmark, which has been rated one of the happiest countries on the planet, is facing its lowest birth rate in decades, with just ten babies born to every 1,000 women in 2013. (For comparison, the birth rate in the United Sates, which is also at its lowest ever, is 62 babies to every 1,000 women.)

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In a new ad campaign that is making a global splash, travel company Spies Rejser notes that the government does not know how to fix this problem but suggests that it does. Using statistics of unknown origin, the campaign says that Danes have 46 percent more sex while on vacation and that 10 percent of Danish children are conceived on holiday. So it is asking young Danish couples to take a vacation, have a lot of sex, and return home knocked up.

In case people need more convincing, the company has added some incentives. Couples get a discount on their trip if they take it when the woman is ovulating, which is their most fertile time of the month. Plus, couples who can prove that they conceived on a trip can enter to win three years of free baby stuff and a family-oriented vacation once the kid is born.

Don’t worry, though; the ad is not just for heterosexual couples of reproductive age. Over pictures of an older couple, a gay couple, and some intertwining body parts, the ad notes, “But what if you already did your duty. Or what if your chances of conceiving a child are not so high? Well look at it this way: It’s not just about winning. All the fun is in the participation.”

When they put it that way, maybe we should all do it for Denmark!

Hula App Under Fire

Hula is a free app available for iPhones and Androids that helps people locate sexually transmitted disease (STD) testing services and then translates the results into easily understandable language, storing them so users can share their status with potential partners. Public health experts have expressed mixed feelings about the app; while they are pleased that it encourages STD testing and helps people find services in their area, some worry about the privacy issues involved in letting an app store medical information. Others have pointed out that sharing negative test results may give partners a false sense of security. The results are time-stamped so users can’t lie about when they were last tested, but even recent results could be inaccurate if a person has had unprotected sex since he or she was tested.

The newest round of criticism against the app, however, is not about how it works or whether it is a good way for couples to communicate about STDs; it is about the application’s name. Three young people from Hawaii have started a petition, which argues that using the word Hula, and in particular the tagline “because it gets you lei’d,” is culturally insensitive. In their petition for a name change, the authors say it perpetuates negative images of Native Hawaiians: “The hula girl stereotype not only reduces Hawaiian women to purely sexual play things, but it presents the idea that the embodiment of Hawai’i and its culture is childlike and primitive.”

After providing a history of how Native Hawaiians have struggled to keep their culture alive, the petition notes, “In addition to the implied appropriation of a cultural practice that means so much to Native Hawaiians, the use of our culture in regards to STD awareness seems distasteful … [because] the arrival of Europeans exposed Native Hawaiians to foreign diseases such as gonorrhea and syphilis, which consequently caused death and infertility.”

The CEO of the company, Ramin Bastani, has replied saying that he was glad to learn so much about the culture and promising to stop using the tagline. Bastani told the Associated Press, “We didn’t realize that it was offensive. We removed any connection to it.” He has no plans, however, to change the name of the app. Noting that they’re a small company that isn’t making any money yet, Bastani said, “We want to do the right thing. Changing the name, for us, doesn’t make sense.”

Credit Card Processing Platform Refuses to Work With Condom Company

Start-up condom company Lovability learned this week that Chase Paymentech would not handle its credit card transactions because processing sales for “adult-oriented products” on the platform is prohibited.

Retailers who want to accept payment by credit card—whether online or in brick-and-mortar stores—need to enter agreements with one or more processing platforms. For a fee, the processors make sure the buyer’s credit card is billed and the retailer is paid. Paymentech, which is run by JPMorgan Chase, is one of the largest processing platforms, having handled over 29 billion transactions in 2012 alone.

Lovability’s founder, Tiffany Gaines, who started the company as a way to discreetly sell condoms to women, said a representative told her on the phone that they would not work with her because doing so posed a “reputation risk” to the company. In an email to the company, Gaines argued, “There is nothing ‘naughty’ about my company’s mission of empowering women to take responsibility for their sexual health. Also, if condoms were taken out of the ‘adult’ category, perhaps more teenage women would feel comfortable being prepared with them. This would prevent the 300,000+ unwanted teenage pregnancies that happen in America each year.”

Gaines is, of course, right. Condoms should not be considered an “adult-oriented” product, especially if doing so makes them harder to obtain. Condoms are a hugely important tool in the public health battle against sexually transmitted diseases and unintended pregnancy, and it is important that they be readily available to both adolescents and adults.

We also can’t help but think that Paymentech’s decision was a bit arbitrary. Condoms are available in drug stores and mass market retailers like Target and Walmart. In fact, actual adult-oriented items like vibrators are also found in such stores as well. Does Paymentech refuse to serve them?

Finally, we have wonder whether such a rule is good business. Grabstats tells us that $3,075.64 is spent on porn every second, and we’re sure only a fraction of that could possibly be done in cash. Just think of all the transactions fees Paymentech is missing out on.

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