Even as Ranveer Singh grooves to Durex India’s Do the Rex ad and urges a nation of young lovers to enjoy safe sex, an unknown face frantically calls her friend up to tell her that she has had unsafe sex in an i-pill advertisement. As Singh dances with a host of skimpily clad young women after a steamy bedroom scene, the traditionally-clad woman calls up a female friend in the dead of the night. While Singh panders to human pleasures, the woman in the morning-after scene panics. Do we see a clear divide with pleasure on one side and responsibility on the other? Perhaps so.
Durex India's Do the Rex advertsement starring Ranveer Singh
The male condom is a preventive measure but iPill is an Emergency Contraceptive Pill, and not a substitute for regular contraceptive pills. It is also understandable that sex is an act of pleasure and an unplanned pregnancy a matter of concern but barring a few odd advertisements like a Moods ad where a young woman playfully asks her partner to get some flavoured condoms, it is the men who are the protagonists of condom ads. More often than not, these ads are about “giving her all the pleasure” and “satisfying her desires” and the setting of these advertisements is the stereotypical dimly lit bedroom and a seductress to complement the man who is clearly possesses the agency; he is the actor.
Even as we portray the man as the actor, it would be only fair to mention that women too feature in most of these advertisements, if not as active agents, at least as seductresses. Ironically, most Manforce (note the name) advertisements feature only women, especially in their print copies, with Sunny Leone being the latest USP just like Pooja Bedi was for Kamasutra in the 1990s. Kohinoor, too, urges both men and women to “ignite the passion”. So, where do these women, from the seductress to the coy one to the sex symbol, suddenly disappear when the magnitude of unsafe sex strikes the morning-after? And where do the men, in all their avatars, go?
Whose is the pleasure and who bears the brunt? If we have consenting adults on one side, is there no consent about sharing responsibility? Most ads for emergency contraceptives feed into the taboos around sex and put the burden of dealing with the aftermath of unsafe sex on the woman who is inevitably an unconfident, hassled woman while ads for condoms posit the men at the other end of the spectrum - that of pleasure, sometimes shared, but mostly the prerogative of men and it is only a particular kind of woman who can partake in this pleasure.
One of iPill's advertisements
While not much can be said about the context of the use of contraceptives in reality vis-à-vis in advertisements, it is a known fact that buying a contraceptive pill or a condom is a matter of great embarrassment for women, and often, even for men. Moreover, women are known to be treating the pill as a regular contraceptive measure rather than an emergency one.
The overall narrative, emerging from the differences in advertisements it would appear that a man is free to Do the Rex (with euphemistic lyrics) with multiple women but a woman is not free to call the man in the morning in case of an emergency.