Gemma Styles: Emoji Sex Education Is Taking Over
"Sexual health is still something of a hush topic."
Hospitals in New York have started a new campaign to advertise their sexual health services online, using emoji pictures along with the caption "Need someone to talk to about 'it'?" Featuring birds and bees as well as (of course) the eggplant - aubergine for us Brits - the ads have launched on social media to try and encourage young people to use the services and start talking about... it. It being sex, we assume.
The adverts have attracted some criticism, with some labelling them "patronising" in their avoidance of outright discussion of sex - if you want people to talk about their sexual health, should you really be avoiding mentioning it? If there wasn't such a stigma around it then we wouldn't need to hint about penises using cartoon vegetables!
It's fine to want to keep your private matters private, but a lot of the unwillingness to discuss sexual health comes from shame and stigma attached to the subject. For women especially, enjoyment of sex and discussion of the issues is still somewhat frowned upon - just think back to when Love Island’s Zara was stripped of her Miss GB title a few weeks ago for hooking up with one of the guys on the show. Fact of the matter is though, right now people generally aren't super keen to chat and more of us need to be educated - something that's a lot easier if we can actually go and talk to someone without wanting the ground to swallow us whole.
Personally, I think this is advertising done well! It works for the audience it's aimed at, is kind of funny, not offensive as far as I can tell - why not use emoji to make people look twice at a poster? When I saw the adverts I first imagined that the birds and bees one was trying to make a boob reference somehow? I think it's just because I saw the eggplant/penis one first - but might show it's actually harder than you'd think to combine modern communication with old timey references to creatures doing it... In any case it caught my attention. Innuendos in the form of our favourite tiny pictures are less intimidating than a vaguely smiley nurse inviting you to discuss your bits and pieces.
Sexual health is still something of a hush topic. It's understandable - for most people, intimate health and relationships aren't something to be discussed over dinner or with strangers down the pub - but when it comes to health, especially, we do need to be able to talk about what's going on in our pants. Nobody is suggesting that we all start a daily breakfast conversation on the subject... but this doesn't mean it's anything to be ashamed of or that you shouldn't talk about it if you have any questions or concerns. Really, feel free to spend as much time talking about your hoo ha as you like - but for most of us this time is 'as little as possible'.
While you'll have your own opinion on the adverts, I can't see anything wrong with them - getting young people engaged, if only to make them aware of the health services available, is a good move. By speaking in their own vernacular, the NYC hospitals are just trying to make themselves appear approachable when it comes to matters of the trousers.