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University plans to make safe sex coin-operated

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A new vending machine in Faunce House will soon cater to students’ late-night cravings for more than just the munchies.

In the next two weeks, a vending machine containing condoms, dental dams, lube and latex gloves will be installed in the gender-neutral bathroom on the second floor of Faunce in order to provide students with 24-hour access to contraception, Health Educator Naomi Ninneman said. Condoms (both lubed and unlubed) and latex gloves will cost 10 cents, lube will be 25 cents and flavored dental dams will be available for 50 cents, Ninneman said.

The “safer sex” machine is a pilot program started by Health Education, a branch of Health Services, to encourage safe sexual activity on campus, Ninneman said. “Our general approach is risk reduction and trying to give students the resources they need to be safe and healthy,” she said.

Ninneman said Health Education wanted to provide a private option for all students, including those living off-campus. Privacy was also a major consideration: The gender-neutral bathroom on the second floor of Faunce is a single-use facility with a lock on the door.

Condoms are currently available at Health Services for 15 cents each, but Health Services closes at 5 p.m. Many RCs also place condoms in envelopes outside their doors, but in both cases students often take them without paying, said Ninneman. And Elijah Shelton, a member of the RPL program, said the RCs often run out.

Some students said they expected the vending machine to be successful, but others were less confident. Christian Aguiar ’10 said he thought the pilot project would be “pretty successful.” Although students can get condoms at Health Services, he said, for students on Pembroke campus, Faunce is “a bit less of a walk.”

Emily Geldwert ’09 expressed surprise at the decision to put the vending machine in Faunce, and said she wasn’t sure if students would use it. “It’s something that I personally wouldn’t use,” said Geldwert. “I find it to be a private matter.”

Gina Sato ’10 said she believes students will make use of the machine, and is not concerned about a lack of privacy. “It’s just in the bathroom. It’s not out in public next to the soda machines,” she said. “Judging by the culture of our campus, it will be pretty successful.”

Brown is not the only university to make condoms available in vending machines. Boston University recently added condoms to 12 residence hall vending machines around campus – right next to snacks and candies. According to David Zamojski, assistant dean of students and director of residence life at BU, the condoms come in packs of two and cost $2.50.

Some BU students are displeased with the high price of the condoms, according to BU’s campus newspaper, the Daily Free Press. Junior Emily Pallotta said buying condoms in the same place you purchase snacks “kind of degrades the whole concept” of sex.

The “safer sex” machine is currently in transit and will arrive on the Brown campus sometime in the next few weeks. Health Education plans to advertise its presence on campus with table slips and Morning Mail announcements.

Depending on the pilot program’s success, more “safer sex” machines may pop up around campus as the semester goes on. Ninneman said she has high hopes. “Our question isn’t: Is it going to be something students use? We’re expecting students to use it.”

Still, Ninneman said the new machine is intended to promote safer sex, not to promote sexual activity. “Most studies around condom distribution suggest that it doesn’t … lead to increased sexual activity,” she said.

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