A major public debate erupted over the “Weka Condom Mpangoni” advert, a safe sex campaign by NACC ( National Aids Control Council) that was deemed to endorse infidelity. I am actually surprised that an advert that pretty much stated that it was okay to sleep around as long as one used a condom, lasted this long. From my own analysis, the ad had run for a good month before the moral police could say, “What the hell?” This advert was a sequel of the original ‘Wacha mpango wa kando’ series that featured a patronizing Jimmy Gathu, admonishing unfaithful married persons whilst tabulating the hidden costs of infidelity. The ad was criticized as being unrealistic and it was parodied quite a bit. Promoting safe sex in Kenya is always going to be a challenge because in all matters to do with sex, denial is the society’s default position.
The “Weka condom Mpangoni” ( roughly translates to, include a condom in your extra marital affairs) message highlights the vulnerability of married couples to HIV & AIDS. A recent report from NACC revealed that married couples are so vulnerable, the risk is three times that of prostitutes. Unlike single persons who are more accustomed to condom usage, frustrated married partners are most likely to skip the inconvenience of sourcing rubbers out of habit and fear of social scorn.
The advert is progressive in many ways because the target is married women. The previous limitation of the safe sex campaigns was the assumption that women are always in a position to negotiate condom use. Unfortunately, prevailing stereotypes do not make it that easy for a married woman to stash condoms and oddly many women still believe availing condoms is the man’s job. Therefore, presenting a scenario where average market women discuss condom use says loudly that it is okay to place your sexual health before your social reputation. Condoms are now part and parcel of a healthy sex life, a fact that married couples engaging in high risk sexual behaviour and in serious need of prophylactic cover remain in denial about.
Since abstinence and fidelity are a universal challenge, we might as well address the big fat elephant in the room. Why does sex seem to be happening everywhere but in the matrimonial bed? People cheat because the grass always looks greener across the fence and it becomes more apparent after marriage. In the same way, one notices sleeker cars on the road as soon as they acquire a new model. That shouldn’t be an issue. Attraction to other people is normal even in a happy marriage. Sexual frustrations in long term relationships are the norm rather than the exception. What this society needs is to get over the notion that one single person will fulfill all our sexual and emotional needs. It will save us so much heartache. The human instincts and the expectations of modern living are not compatible. Typically sexual desires will always be at conflict with what’s considered acceptable behaviour.
But if this lambasted ad tells us one thing, it is that more and more women are out there playing the field with no apologies to make and men are the game. Therefore, the onus is on the attached husband to start to place some initiative in his sexual performance and begin to pay more attention to his woman’s sexual and emotional needs. Female sexual repression is no longer a virtue in these liberal times and society is unable to police female desire. The reality is that what women want these days, they tend to get and they do not require a man’s permission.